SEATTLE >> For the Hawaii football team, it was one of those days when the only suspense came on the coin toss.
It was a day when after their first seven offensive plays, the Rainbow Warriors were down 21-0, a deficit that eventually would swell to 38-0 with 3 minutes, 27 seconds left before the halftime show.
And it was a long-sleeved day when the Warriors, after opening the season with consecutive victories against Pac-12 opponents, would suffer a 52-20 loss to 23rd-ranked Washington.
“I don’t think we’re ready for the Rose Bowl,” UH coach Nick Rolovich said.
The UH week began when burly running back Dayton Furuta underwent ankle surgery and ended in a three-interception setback against a team that entered without a takeaway in its first two games.
The Warriors did cobble a 20-point run to make it a three-possession game — 38-20 with 1:56 left in the third quarter — but the chase proved to be too exhausting. The Warriors missed two long field-goal attempts, lost a starting safety to a high-hit ejection, and gave up 7.9 yards per play.
Washington’s Jacob Eason, a Georgia transfer who once was regarded as the nation’s top prep player in 2015, was 18-for-25 with three touchdown passes and no picks. His lone sack came when he was chased out of bounds on a scramble.
Third-string running back Richard Newton ran for three touchdowns after taking the direct snap as the wildcat.
Myles Bryant, who rotated between nickelback and safety in the Huskies’ five-player secondary, intercepted UH’s Cole McDonald two times and sacked Chevan Cordeiro on a blitz.
In rating the coarse grit, Rolovich said, “I would put that in the fairly rough side. Against a good football team, that’s not how you want to start. But Coach Pete” — Washington coach Chris Petersen — “had his guys ready. We knew it would be a challenge. I would have liked to have seen us get to the fourth quarter and make it a game. But it got out of hand pretty early.”
The Warriors won the coin toss and, following the plan, decided to defer. The intent was to score late in the second quarter, then receive the kickoff to start the second half. Cue the chase scene. “We were down too much before that really mattered,” Rolovich said.
The Huskies took only 76 seconds to take a 7-0 lead when Eason connected with tight end Hunter Bryant on a 47-yard scoring pass. On the preceding play, UH strong safety Khoury Bethley tackled wideout Aaron Fuller. It was an official in the referees’ booth who questioned whether Bethley’s hit should be considered targeting. After a review, targeting was ruled, leading to a 15-yard penalty and Bethley’s ejection.
“I thought I led with my shoulder,” Bethley said after the game. “They made that (targeting) decision. It is what it is.”
On the Warriors’ second play of their first possession, Bryant sneaked in front of slotback Cedric Byrd to intercept McDonald’s pass. The Huskies drove 42 yards for a touchdown, with backup running back Sean McGrew sprinting 22 yards into the end zone.
The Warriors’ ensuing drive lasted five plays, leading to a punt and setting up another Huskies touchdown. Puka Nacua, a true freshman, found a puka in the defense to haul a 28-yard scoring pass from Eason.
Chevan Cordeiro then was handed the keys to the Warriors’ run-and-shoot offense. “They wanted to see if Chevan could spark something up,” McDonald said.
But Cordeiro faced the same obstacles as McDonald: An aggressive push from a defensive front that alternated between three and four linemen, and a congested secondary. To contain the deep threat, the Huskies often would align Bryant, Cameron Williams or both up to 25 yards from the line of scrimmage.
“We came out slow,” McDonald said. “We shot ourselves in the foot.”
A UH drive was short-circuited in the second quarter after McDonald fired a pass to wideout JoJo Ward. On the tackle, Bryant stole the ball from Ward on what was ruled an interception. “I thought (the officials) were going to call me down because my knee was down,” Ward said. “I had the ball. I had the catch. But from the back, (Bryant) took the ball.”
That turnover led to Peyton Henry’s 23-yard field goal for a 38-0 lead. Henry, who struggled with his aim last season, has converted all 20 of his kicks this season — six field goals and 14 point-after boots.
Despite the deficit, Byrd said: “I had no doubts in the team. We’re capable of coming back from anything. I told everybody, ‘Don’t put your head down. We’re still in the game.’ ”
Miles Reed scored touchdowns to end the first half and start the second, with the latter punctuated with a somersault.
“Nothing new, really,” Reed said of the improvisation. “Just adding to the arsenal and getting into the end zone any way possible.”
Byrd’s 4-yard scoring reception closed the Warriors to 38-20. McDonald was caught a yard short on the 2-point conversion.
But the Huskies, who were held scoreless in the third quarter, delivered the parting shots with Newton’s two touchdown runs in the final period.
The wildcat runs were part of the Huskies’ illusion act. They called for double motions with the tight ends, jet sweeps and empty sets.
“A lot of smoke and mirrors,” UH defensive coordinator Corey Batoon said. “And when you’re playing a lot of guys who haven’t had a lot of experience out there, it makes it a little tougher. Hat’s off to them. They executed. They took advantage of the situations that we were in with our numbers. We’ve got to execute better.”