Sophomore Cole McDonald threw six touchdown passes to lead the University of Hawaii football team to a 59-41 win today over the Naval Academy before a boisterous Aloha Stadium crowd of 27,284.
The Rainbow Warriors are 2-0 for the second consecutive season. This was the Midshipmen’s first game of the year as they tried to deal with a trio of receivers who were open all night.
Cedric Byrd led the way with 11 receptions for 90 yards and two touchdowns. John Ursua had 10 catches for 167 yards and two scores. And JoJo Ward rounded out the prolific passing attack with six grabs for 161 yards and two touchdowns, including one for 75 yards. McDonald hit 30 of 41 passes for 428 yards and no interceptions. The Warriors finished with 522 yards of offense.
Hawaii kept things going on a drive that started in the third quarter and ended on a beautiful one-handed touchdown snag with 14:07 left in the fourth by Cedric Byrd. Ryan Meskell hit the PAT to give UH a commanding 45-28 lead over a game Navy squad. The seven-play drive went 71 yards and was the first score of the second half for the Warriors. McDonald had nice touch on that third-and-5 play.
Navy came out and picked up right where it left off, moving the ball easily on the ground to set up a first-and-10 at the UH 19. Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry did a little play-action and tossed a beautiful touchdown pass of 19 yards to Tre Walker, who held on the ball after getting leveled. Moehring hit the PAT to cut UH’s lead to 45-35 with 12:06 left. The Midshipmen needed only six plays to cover the 75 yards, putting the ball back into McDonald’s court.
After the kickoff, Hawaii took over at its own 22.
Two plays later, the Warriors were back in the end zone on a 75-yard touchdown pass from McDonald to a streaking Ward. He caught the pass in stride and went in untouched for the score. Meskell made the PAT to extend UH’s advantage to 52-35 with 11:05 left.
Both teams scored again in the latter half of the quarter. Hawaii went up 59-35 on a 9-yard touchdown pass from McDonald to Ursua and Meskell added the PAT to give UH a 24-point lead with 4:45 left.
Backup quarterback Zach Abey scored his fourth touchdown of the game on a 2-yard keeper with 1:59 left. The try for 2 failed.
Navy got the ball first to start the second half and put together a nice drive, all on the ground, and scored on a 2-yard run by Abey, his second touchdown of the game. Bennett Moehring added the PAT to make it 38-21 with 8:08 left in the third. The 75-yard drive took 12 plays.
Hawaii began its first drive of the second half from its own 22, And it took only three plays for Cole McDonald to make things interesting. Facing third down, Navy kept him in the pocket, and as he tried to scramble he lost the football and Navy pounced on it at the UH 9 to silence the crowd.
The first play went for 2 yards, setting up a second-and-goal from the 7. Navy called timeout prior to the snap on a hot and humid night at the stadium. Two plays later, Navy scored on a nice 7-yard touchdown run off a reverse by Abey. Moehring knocked through the PAT to cut UH’s lead to 38-28 with 6:35 left in the quarter.
Navy forced a solid three-and-out and took over at its own 34 right in the thick of it with 4:59 in the game. The Midshipmen made some nice adjustment on defense to get the Warriors off the field and the offense in a position to do some more damage.
But after yielding one first down, the UH defense held, giving the Warriors the ball at their own 29. An incompletion to start the drive didn’t look good, but McDonald finally found Ursua for 16 yards and the first first down of the second half for UH with a little over a minute left in the quarter.
The Hawaii defense made a huge stop as Navy went for it on fourth down to start the quarter and lost yardage on the play. Starting at Navy’s 40, Hawaii went only 6 yards on 3 snaps, setting up a big fourth-and-4. If Navy held, no harm, no foul on the failed fourth-down conversion.
But the Midshipmen did anything but, as McDonald dropped back and threw a 34-yard bomb to JoJo Ward for the score. Meskell converted the PAT to make it 21-0 UH with 13:18 left in the quarter.
After forcing another three-and-out, Hawaii went hard at the punter, blocking the kick and then returning it 19 yards for the score. Jeffery Keene blocked it and Maxwell Hendrie snagged it and went in untouched for the touchdown. Meskell made the PAT to give UH a commanding 28-0 advantage with 11:08 left in the period.
Navy finally got something going right up the gut with a 40-yard run by fullback Nelson Smith and a 15-yarder by Smith to get into the red zone for the first time. Smith converted a big third-down run to set up a 3-yard touchdown scamper by Abey. Moehring hit the PAT to make it 28-7 with 6:52 left in the half.
Hawaii wasted little time answering, going for it on fourth-and-1 at midfield and throwing a 50-yard touchdown pass from McDonald to a wide-open Ursua, who went untouched. The kick by Meskell was good to extend UH’s advantage to 35-7 with 4:17 left in the quarter.
Navy quickly responded with a 75-yard touchdown run by quarterback Perry on the keeper. After faking the handoff to the fullback, Perry went around the right side and outraced everyone to the end zone. Moehring made the PAT to cut UH’s advantage to 35-14 with 4:02 remaining in the half.
On the ensuing series, Hawaii moved the ball quickly into Navy’s territory, then converted a big third-down pass play of 38 yards from McDonald to Ursua. The play was reviewed, but after a five-minute look where it appeared the ball might have hit the turf, the officials let the play stand.
Three snaps later, UH converted another third down to set up first-and-goal from the 9 with 19 seconds left. Two incompletions led to another huge third down with eight seconds left, but a rush play by Freddy Holly picked up only 5 yards. That cleared the way for a 22-yard field goal by Meskell as time expired to make it 38-14 at the half.
Navy won the toss and elected to defer. That was fine with Hawaii. The Warriors didn’t score on their opening drive in any game last year, but broke that curse last week in the opener at Colorado State with a touchdown pass on fourth down. On this opening drive, the Warriors made it to the Midshipmen’s red zone, but a bad run call and a dropped pass led to a scamper by McDonald and a fourth-and-2 conversion on an option run by Fred Holly to set up first-and-goal from the 9.
Two plays later, McDonald hit a wide-open Byrd from 7 yards out. Meskell added the PAT to make it 7-0 with 9:12 left in the first quarter. And it didn’t stop with that 12-play, 75-yard drive. After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Warriors went on another long drive, this time a 10-play, 71-yard beauty that culminated with a 1-yard touchdown by Holly. Meskell made the PAT to give UH a 14-0 lead with 3:13 left in the quarter.