The danger facing the University of Hawaii on Saturday night was taking a big bite out of the Big Ten sandwich.
Last week, the Rainbow Warriors faced No. 1 Ohio State and next weekend travel to Wisconsin to play another nationally ranked opponent from one of the top conferences in the country.
At first, it appeared Hawaii was looking past the UC Davis Aggies, but the Warriors eventually pulled away in the second half to win 47-27 before an Aloha Stadium crowd of 22,738.
UH quarterback Max Wittek threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns and Paul Harris set a Warriors record with a 95-yard touchdown run en route to 147 yards on 11 carries.
The win raised Hawaii’s record to 2-1. UC Davis dropped to 0-3, despite producing 409 yards of offense against a UH defense that bent from time to time, but refused to break.
Hawaii had two receivers — Devan Stubblefield and Marcus Kemp — finish with more than 100 yards apiece for the first time since 2010. Both had scoring grabs as Stubblefield caught six passes for 108 yards and Kemp produced 119 yards on five receptions as Hawaii almost had 500 yards of total offense.
After building a three-point lead at intermission, UH scored 34 points in the second half. Harris took the second play of the second drive of the second half 95 yards for a touchdown for the longest rushing play in school history. Rigoberto Sanchez added the PAT to extend UH’s lead to 20-10 with 8:18 left in the third.
Hawaii added another touchdown on an efficient seven-play, 66-yard drive capped on a 1-yard run by Melvin Davis. Sanchez’s PAT was blocked, but Hawaii still extended the margin to 26-10 with 3:31 left in the third quarter. Wittek had a 28-yard completion to Stubblefield and then a 13-yarder to his new favorite target that set up the first and goal at the 1.
After forcing UC Davis to punt, Hawaii went back to work on another long scoring drive, this one 97 yards on nine plays. The last one was a 19-yard scoring strike from Wittek to Kemp as Sanchez added the PAT to make it 33-10 Hawaii with 13:02 left in the game.
UC Davis finally got into the scoring act in the second half on a 69-yard touchdown pass from UC Davis quarterback Ben Scott to wideout Chris Martin, who beat Jamal Mayo on the play. Brady Stewart added the PAT to cut UH’s margin to 33-17 with 10:52 left in the fourth quarter.
But Hawaii came right back with another score of it own, this time a 5-yard run by Davis that ended another 65-yard drive by the Rainbow Warriors. Sanchez made the PAT to give UH a 40-17 lead with 9:28 left in the game.
UH special teams got into the scoring act, blocking a punt by the Aggies Colby Wadman. Dejaun Butler got credit for the block and then picked it up at the 2 and carried it in for the score. Sanchez’s PAT made it 47-17 with 7:54 left in the game.
The Aggies added 10 more points on a 27-yard field goal by Stewart and a 14-yard scoring run by Joshua Kelly as Stewart added the PAT to round out the Davis attack.
Neither team did much on their opening drives of the game with Hawaii giving UC Davis excellent field position for its scoring opportunity set up on a muffed punt by Sanchez at the UH 31. The Aggies needed 10 plays to move to the UH 5-yard line where the drive stalled on an incomplete pass. Stewart came in to hit the field goal from 21 yards out to make it 3-0 UC Davis with 5:08 left in the first quarter.
The Aggies lead didn’t last long. Hawaii moved quickly down the field on the ensuing series, going 71 yards on nine plays before the drive stalled at the Aggies 10. Wittek completed three passes along the way, including one to Kemp for 27 yards to set up a 27-yard field goal by Sanchez. He hit it with 2:02 left in the opening quarter to make it 3-3.
Hawaii put together another long drive of 62 yards on 10 plays, but much like the first scoring opportunity, had to settle for a field goal. Kemp dropped what would have been a 33-yard touchdown pass that was in his hands, setting up Sanchez, who hit it from 46 yards out to make it 6-3 UH with 8:41 remaining in the second quarter.
UC Davis countered Hawaii’s scoring drive with one of its own, marching 75 yards on 12 plays taking nearly seven minutes off the clock in a fast-paced first half. The final play was an 8-yard touchdown pass from Scott to burly back Derrick Balieu as Stewart added the PAT to make it 10-6 Davis with 1:56 left in the half.
The Warriors added a little excitement of their own on the ensuing kickoff as Keelan Ewaliko returned it to the UC Davis 36. He originally went to the 2, but on the replay, it was clear he stepped out of bounds for a 65-yard return.
This time, Hawaii converted its good fortune into a 14-yard touchdown pass from Wittek to Stubblefield as Sanchez added the extra point to give UH a 13-10 advantage with 56 seconds left in the half. The first touchdown drive for UH was only four plays.