There weren’t too many among the University of Hawaii faithful who believed the Rainbow Warriors were going to beat Arizona tonight in the desert heat of Tucson.
But what they were hoping for was that Nick Rolovich and Co. showed some improvement in all phases of the game as Hawaii enters Mountain West Conference play at home against Nevada two weekends from now.
As expected, the Arizona Wildcats made short work of the Warriors in a lopsided 47-28 nonconference victory that left Hawaii 1-3 for the season entering a much-needed bye week. Arizona moves to 2-1, but numerous injuries at key positions on both sides of the football could hinder their progress as they prepare for Pac-12 play next weekend.
Backup quarterback Brandon Dawkins had a career night as he rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another score in an impressive display that had the Arizona Stadium crowd rocking and rolling for most of the night. He had 118 yards rushing on 15 carries and completed 16 of 21 passes for 235 yards, including a 56-yard scoring pass to Shun Brown in the first half.
Fellow second-stringer J.J. Taylor filled in just as nicely at running back, as the true freshman rushed for 168 yards on 18 carries, including a 61-yarder for a touchdown after starter Nick Wilson went down early with a foot injury. He had only two carries for 3 yards., but it was a rare down moment for Arizona on this night.
After building a 34-7 halftime lead, Arizona picked up where it left off with a deliberate 12-play, 81-yard scoring drive to open the second half. It ended with a 27-yard field goal by Josh Pollack to extend Arizona’s lead to 37-7 with 9:32 left in the third quarter.
Hawaii sophomore quarterback Dru Brown started the second half in place of Ikaika Woolsey, who completed 11 of 25 passes for 117 yards. The senior starter had one touchdown and one pick. Brown countered by hitting 10 of 18 for 144 yards and was a key catalyst for Hawaii in the second half.
On the Warriors’ opening drive of the third quarter, Brown went 5-for-8 for 64 yards to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Steve Lakalaka. It ended a 13-play, 78-yard drive and Sanchez added the PAT to cut Arizona’s lead to 37-14 with 4:04 left in the quarter. It was Lakalaka’s third touchdown of the season. He had 63 yards on 16 carries to lead all UH rushers.
Hawaii attempted an onside kick, but it went out of bounds, giving Arizona the ball at its own 49. The Wildcats overcame a holding call on first down, as Taylor ran for a touchdown from 61 yards out. Pollack hit the PAT to make it 44-14 with 3:28 left in the quarter.
Not to be outdone, Hawaii scored on its second series of the half as well. The Warriors went 67 yards on 10 plays, with the final 6 coming on Lakalaka’s second touchdown of the game. Rigo Sanchez added the PAT to cut Arizona’s lead to 44-21 with 14:54 left in the game.
Arizona put together another good scoring drive against an overmatched UH defense, but had to settle for a 28-yard Pollack field goal to make it 47-21 with 10 minutes remaining.
But Brown wasn’t done yet for UH, as he started the next UH drive with a 37-yard completion to Marcus Kemp. It helped set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Brown, who walked into the end zone untouched for the score. Sanchez added the PAT to make it 47-28 with 4:25 left. The scoring drive went 74 yards on 12 plays to round out the scoring.
Arizona may have struggled somewhat in the first half of its first two games, but such was not the case tonight, as the Wildcats took a 34-7 advantage into intermission.
It began with plenty of offense in the opening quarter, as the two teams combined for 288 yards, with Arizona grabbing a 20-7 lead.
Hawaii managed a first down in the opening offensive series of the game, but a chop block put a stopper in that bottle. Facing a first-and-25, Woolsey was sacked for a 7-yard loss. Two plays later, the Warriors were forced to punt and Arizona took over at its own 12 for its first offensive set of the game.
It didn’t take long for the Wildcats to get in motion, with a 24-yard pass play from Dawkins to Wilson. Facing a third-and-5, Dawkins converted with a 23-yard pass play to Nate Phillips, who was wide open down the middle of the field.
Two plays after that at the UH 30, Arizona faced another third-and-5, and once again converted on a 6-yard keeper by Dawkins. It set up a 24-yard scamper for a touchdown by the Arizona quarterback, who went in untouched on the keeper around the right side.
Arizona failed on the 2-point conversation, but the Wildcats had a 6-0 lead with 9:13 left in the quarter. It was Dawkins’ third rushing touchdown of the season, as he was a key component in the eight-play, 88-yard drive.
Hawaii opened its second series at its own 15 and picked up its second first down of the game on an 11-yard completion from Woolsey to Collie, but failed to convert on a third-and-4 pass to Kemp.
After forcing UH to punt, the Wildcats began their second drive deep in their own territory at the 18. Wilson left the game with the apparent foot injury on Arizona’s scoring play. No matter. Taylor stepped in nicely with a 30-yard run as the large Arizona crowd roared its approval.
It set up Dawkins’ 14-yard scoring run around the right side once more. And again, he went in untouched to cap the six-play, 88-yard run. Pollack added the PAT to make it 13-0 Arizona with five minutes left in the period.
Hawaii turned it over on the ensuing offensive series on a deflected Woolsey pass that ended up in the hands of Flannigan Fowles at the UH 24. On the first offensive play, Tyrell Johnson ran it in for the score. Pollack hit the extra point to make it 20-0 with 4:44 left in the quarter.
Hawaii came back with a nifty nine-play, 81-yard scoring drive that included a 38-yard pitch-and-catch from Woolsey to John Ursua that set up a 15-yard scoring pass from that same combination. Sanchez added the PAT to make it 20-7 with 1:10 remaining.
After forcing Arizona to punt at the beginning of the quarter, Hawaii had a huge touchdown pass from Woolsey to Dylan Collie called back on a holding call against UH O-lineman Leo Koloamatangi. Later in the series, Hawaii faced a fourth-and-3 at the Arizona 41 but failed to convert.
The Hawaii defense forced a quick three-and-out and the Warriors set up shop at their own 20. Another bad penalty by Koloamatangi, this time a block below the waist, killed another potential drive, forcing Hawaii to punt once more as the game’s torrid first-quarter pace cooled considerably.
But Arizona heated things back up with a 56-yard touchdown pass from Dawkins to a wide-open Brown, who went into the end zone untouched for his first career score. Pollack added the PAT to make it 27-7 Wildcats with 7:17 left in the half.
After forcing a UH punt, Arizona quickly moved down the field for another score. The nine-play, 80-yard drive ended on a 6-yard touchdown run by Dawkins, who kept it around the left side and extended his arm to hit the pylon and get his third rushing touchdown of the game. Pollack added the PAT to make it 34-7 Arizona with 1:44 left in the half.