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UH sophomore connection shows it can close it out

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Some will call it luck. Some will say the timer deserves the game ball. And some will remind us that UNLV is a very lousy football team.

But in the end it didn’t matter on senior night for the University of Hawaii. This time the Rainbow Warriors won one of those close ones, one of those games they’d made a habit of losing the past two years.

They were 2-9 in games decided by eight points or fewer since the start of last season. So many late-game stumbles led to the label of "not knowing how to win."

We still can’t call this a good team, not at 4-8. But that abundance of heart and being in position to make a decisive play finally paid off.

The Rainbow Warriors finally hit the flush on the river, finally sealed the deal.

Yes, that was the longest five seconds in the history of the world that left one tick on the clock for Ikaika Woolsey to find Marcus Kemp for the winning touchdown. Or, call it a debt finally paid in full for former Rainbow Thomas Henderson on the U.S. Olympic basketball team that got clocked out of the gold medal.

At any rate, UNLV can blame itself — if not for the penalties for running onto the field after its own apparent game-winning TD with 15 seconds left, UH would’ve never had the field position to complete its miracle.

Yeah, the Rainbow Warriors showed up late as a team for their own senior night, fell behind 14-0 early. But, as they have throughout four frustrating seasons, they stuck together. This time they made it happen at the end.

It’s fitting that it was sophomores Ikaika Woolsey and Marcus Kemp who hooked up for the winner. They’ve been the subjects of the most criticism this season.

Woolsey, the young quarterback, has often been erratic in his passing. Among the players, he has shouldered most of the responsibility, largely due to the position he plays.

When critics complained about dropped passes this year, it was most often Kemp. But he was tremendous against UNLV. In addition to the 20-yarder for the TD to win it, he made a one-handed circus catch after which his prone body rotated on the turf, nearly a complete rotation.

"I’ve never seen anything like that," Woolsey said, laughing.

And no one had seen this group pull one out at the end like that, either.

We’ve all seen it the other way around, often in recent years. Kemp remembered the one at UNLV last year, when the Rebels kicked a field goal at the end to decide it.

"It’s great to give them a heartbreak," Kemp said. "They broke our hearts last year with that field goal, so we owed them one."

Junior linebacker Julian Gener has spent most of the past two seasons on the sideline, injured, watching.

"It’s great to see those two guys do it," said Gener, who returned from a broken fibula in October to play against UNLV. "They’ve been growing up and maturing as players in starting roles this year. It’s not only a bit of a fairy-tale ending for our seniors, it’s something to build on for next week and for next year."

Woolsey has developed a thick skin, and he has helped Kemp do the same.

"He’s a quiet guy, so I had to stay in his ear and tell him to keep positive, forget about what people are saying. But I knew he’s a guy who would never give up."

And the seniors didn’t either. Handyman Scott Harding, who had a rare bad night with two turnovers on punt returns. Running back Joey Iosefa, who bulled his way to 219 rushing yards, ran for two TDs and passed for another.

If anyone on this team deserves a free pass, it’s Harding. And you certainly wouldn’t want to waste an effort like that of Iosefa.

The sophomores came through on the final play. It’s hard to say these back-to-back wins represent the turning of a corner … but it’s certainly better than the alternative.

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