Different coach, same result.
With interim head coach Chris Naeole at the helm after the firing of Norm Chow, the Hawaii football team looked to get a win on the road vs. Nevada-Las Vegas in today’s Mountain West Conference game.
Not even close.
The Rebels won handily at chilly Sam Boyd Stadium, 41-21, to raise their overall record to 3-6 and MWC mark to 2-3. Hawaii dropped to 2-8 for the season and 0-6 in league play. The Rainbow Warriors play host to Fresno State in a week.
They can only hope the defense has a better day after yielding 547 total yards to the Rebels, including an 85-yard touchdown pass from UNLV quarterback Blake Decker to wideout Aaron Criswell and a 75-yarder to Devonte Boyd.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the Rebels had two running backs break the 100-yard mark. Keith Whitely carried it 21 times for 124 yards and the final score of the game. Lexington Thomas added 120 yards of his own on 17 carries and one score. And don’t forget Decker. With two busted-up shoulders, he completed 15 of 24 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns.
Hawaii tried to counter but couldn’t, thanks in part to three turnovers and a half-dozen dropped footballs, which continue to plague this program no matter who is under center or in the shotgun. UH quarterback Ikaika Woolsey had his moments in completing 16 of 33 passes for 187 yards and one pick. The key to his stat line is no touchdown passes.
UH running back Paul Harris had a mixed bag. The good news is he rushed for 190 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns. The bad news is he lost the football twice, the latter resulting in a field goal.
UNLV got the ball first after intermission with a seven-point lead and added to it with a methodical approach that took the first seven minutes of the second half off the clock. The Rebels went 72 yards on 15 plays before the drive stalled. It resulted in a 31-yard field goal by Nick Bornand to extend UNLV’s lead to 17-7 with 7:54 left in the third quarter.
Harris got the Warriors back in it on the ensuing offensive series with a 72-yard run that gave UH a first-and-goal at the 7. Harris rushed for 101 yards on 15 carries in the first half and a touchdown. Three plays later, big back Melvin Davis scored from 1 yard out. Rigo Sanchez added the PAT to cut UNLV’s lead to 17-14 with 5:56 left in the third.
Back came UNLV on its next offensive series, going 75 yards on one play. It was a nice pass from Decker to Boyd, who beat Nick Nelson badly. Bornand added the PAT to make it 24-14 UNLV with 5:44 remaining in the third.
Harris’ second fumble of the game gave UNLV the ball at the UH 14 early in the fourth quarter. The Rebels failed to score a touchdown, but Bornand did hit his second 31-yard field goal of the game to make it 27-14 UNLV with 13:47 left in the fourth quarter.
The Hawaii offense woke up thanks to wideout Makoa Camanse-Stevens, who caught a 63-yard pass from Woolsey and then a 7-yarder that set up a 3-yard scoring run by Davis. Sanchez hit the PAT to cut the UNLV lead to 27-21 with 11:46 remaining.
The Rebels came right back with a big drive of their own, making it a two-score game on a 3-yard touchdown run by Thomas. Bornand knocked through the PAT to make it 34-21 with 7:09 left in the game.
UNLV added one score late on a 7-yard touchdown run by Whitely. Bornand made the PAT to give UNLV a 41-21 lead with 2:10 remaining.
Early in the first half, Hawaii fans had little to cheer about after the Warriors went three-and-out on the opening offensive series of the afternoon. Such was not the case for the UNLV Rebels, as they scored on their opening drive, going 87 yards on eight plays in doing it.
UNLV running back Xzaviar Campbell scored from 3 yards out and Bornand added the PAT to make it 7-0 Rebels with 10:19 left in the first quarter.
Hawaii had two turnovers that led to no points later in the opening period and almost had a third in the shadow of its own goal line before stringing together three first downs to get into UNLV territory as the quarter ended.
Facing fourth-and-4 at the UNLV 35, Woolsey hit Dylan Collie for an apparent first down, but Collie dropped it, his second of the game, giving UNLV the ball.
The Warriors put together a scoring drive later in the second quarter, going 80 yards on seven plays to tie it at 7 with 7:04 left in the half. The big play was a 34-yard scoring run by Harris, with Sanchez adding the PAT to get UH back in the game.
On the ensuing offensive series, Decker was picked off by UH defensive back Jalen Rogers at the UH 49. But the offense could do nothing with it, as Collie dropped another pass on third down, his third of the game.
Hawaii backed up UNLV to its own 4. No matter, an 85-yard touchdown pass from Decker to Criswell took care of that. Bornand hit the PAT to make it 14-7 UNLV with 2:31 left in the half.