The University of Hawaii held on to defeat Colorado State 43-34 in today’s Mountain West Conference football opener for both teams played in Fort Collins, Colo. It was the first time Hawaii has won there since 1988.
Despite the Rainbow Warriors being 14-point underdogs, quarterback Cole McDonald had a phenomenal day, completing 26 of 37 passes for 418 yards and three touchdowns. His top two targets were Cedric Byrd and John Ursua, who combined to catch 18 passes for 304 yards and three scores.
Colorado State quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels countered with five touchdown passes of his own, but time ran out on the Rams, who trailed 37-7 in the third.
A big fumble by Hawaii to start the final quarter was just what the doctor ordered for CSU, recovering it at its own 42 with about 13 minutes left in the game. But a holding penalty killed momentum for the Rams as Hawaii took over after the punt at its own 25 with 12:24 left.
The Warriors moved out to near midfield before being forced to punt. It was another good one by Stan Gaudion that was downed on the CSU 1 with about nine minutes remaining. He pinned the Rams back at their own 3 in the first half.
That didn’t bother the Rams, as they completed a 37-yard pass from Carta-Samuels to Olabisi Johnson.
Three plays later, the Rams completed a 26-yard touchdown pass to Preston Williams. Wyatt Bryan added the PAT to make it 37-27 with 8:15 left in the game. The four-play drive of 99 yards took barely a minute off the clock as the Rams found themselves right back in the game. The UH defense suddenly couldn’t cover anybody, as all four pass plays were completed along the way.
Hawaii scored 30 unanswered points in one stretch to build a 37-7 advantage. Now, the Rams had scored 20 unanswered to get right back in the game. The Warriors took over at their own 25 with about eight minutes left.
Not to be outdone, McDonald completed a 50-yard pass to Ursua, who had an incredible game. A pass interference by the Rams gave the Warriors a first down at the 10. It set up a 30-yard field goal by Ryan Meskell to make it 40-27 with 6:42 left.
Colorado State continued to move the ball effectively through the air, but a pass interference call on the Rams put them at third-and-25 from the UH 44. A holding penalty on UH gave the Rams new life at the 34, but still facing third down and 15.
No problem, two plays later the Rams scored again on a 9-yard touchdown from Carta-Samuels to Izzy Matthews and Bryan made the PAT to make it 40-34 with 4:42 left.
Hawaii took over at its own 25 and didn’t take long to drive into Rams territory on a combination of run and pass. A completion from McDonald to Ursua gave UH a big first down and then McDonald ran free down the sideline to get up a first down at the CSU 23. The scamper eventually set up the game-winning field goal of 35 yards with 44 seconds left by Meskell.
Colorado State got the ball first to start the second half and promptly began on its own 9 because of a penalty on the kickoff return. Flags were flying on both sides of the football with CSU eventually facing a first-and-20 from its own 24 that led to a punt with UH getting a first down from its own 25 to start the second half.
Hawaii picked up right where it left off, moving the ball into CSU territory with a variety of quick run and pass plays that left the Rams grasping at air. Facing a second-and-10 from the CSU 41, McDonald raced around the left side for 14 yards and a first down.
A false-start, something UH struggled with for parts of the game, pushed the Warriors back 5 yards. No matter, McDonald rolled right and tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Ursua, his second score of the game. Meskell added the PAT to make it 30-7 with 8:48 left in the quarter.
CSU took over at its own 18 to start its second drive of the quarter and quickly moved into UH territory with a pair of good pass plays by Carta-Samuels totaling 33 yards. The Rams then converted on fourth down with a 17-yard completion from Carta-Samuels to tight end Brenden Fulton to set up a field-goal attempt of 48 yards by Wyatt Bryan that he missed wide right.
Hawaii took over at its own 30 to start its second drive of the half and quickly struck with a 55-yard touchdown pass from McDonald to a wide open Byrd as Meskell hit the PAT to make it 37-7 with 3:35 left in the quarter. The home crowd started leaving at this point.
But Colorado State made them come back and sit down with a 69-yard completion to Williams to set up his 7-yard reception for a score as he beat Eugene Ford on the play. It was the second touchdown of the game against Ford, who also had a pick in the second quarter. Bryan added the PAT to cut UH’s lead to 37-14 with 2:20 left in the period.
The Hawaii offense picked up a first down, but had to punt just before the end of the quarter. It was only the second punt of the game for UH as Colorado State took over at its own 27 and struck quickly with a 58-yard touchdown pass from Carta-Samuels to Olabisi Johnson, who beat Ford on the play. The try for 2 failed, making it 37-20 with 8 seconds left in the quarter.
Hawaii did more of the same in the second quarter, scoring another touchdown on its third series of the game to extend the advantage to 16-7 on a 12—yard touchdown run by McDonald. A try for 2 failed as UH held a nine-point lead with 11:32 left in the half. The 10-play, 67-yard drive began on an interception by Eugene Ford. who gave up a touchdown in the first quarter.
The Hawaii defense forced a punt, giving UH the ball at its own 20 to start its fourth drive of the game. And once again, the Warriors moved the ball down the field with a nice blend of run and pass. The mix of run-and-shoot and read-option kept the Rams off-guard throughout the first half.
After a timeout by UH, the Warriors faced a key third-and-4 from its own 39, but misfired leading to its first punt that pushed the Rams back to their own 3 with 3:46 left in the period. Gaudion was credited with a 56-yard punt on the play.
The defense forced a three-and-out with UH taking over at the CSU 46.
Quickly McDonald struck with a trio of pass plays that made it first-and-10 at the 15. Three plays later, McDonald scored on a 6-yard scamper as Meskell added the PAT to make it 23-7 UH with 28 seconds left in the half.
The Rams moved quickly down the field to set up a 45-yard field goal by Bryan, but he missed it wide left to end the half.
Hawaii’s first play of the 2018 season was a delay of game. But from that inauspicious start, the Warriors went 80 yards on 10 plays to do something they didn’t do all of last year, score on their opening drive.
The key toss was a 26-yard completion from McDonald to Marcus Armstrong-Brown that went another 15 on a roughing-the-passer-penalty to make it first-and-10 at the CSU 29. Seven snaps later, McDonald converted a fourth-and-goal from the 4 with a touchdown pass to Ursua. Meskell hit the PAT to make it 7-0 UH with 10:02 left in the quarter.
Colorado State overcame several penalties to score on its opening series as well on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Carta-Samuels to Olabisi Johnson, who abused Ford trying to cover on the play. It ended a 14-play, 85-yard drive where Colorado State converted several third downs along the way.Wyatt Bryan added the PAT to make it 7-7 with 5:26 left in the period.
Hawaii proved the first drive was no fluke with another nice drive that mixed run and pass to set up another big fourth-and-goal call by the coaching staff, this time from the 3. Both teams called timeouts prior to two different snaps, before Hawaii opted for the field goal. Meskell hit the 21-yarder to give UH a 10-7 advantage with 1:18 left in the first.
Hawaii’s offense generated 137 yards on 18 plays in the opening period. McDonald hit six of seven passes for 74 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 31 yards on three carries. Hawaii didn’t score on its opening possession of any game last year.
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