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Cole McDonald rallies Hawaii to win over BYU in Hawaii Bowl

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald, right, holds the championship trophy after winning the 2019 SoFi Hawaii Bowl.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald, right, holds the championship trophy after winning the 2019 SoFi Hawaii Bowl.

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Hawaii wide receiver Jason-Matthew Sharsh gets around Brigham Young defensive back Hayden Livingston during the first half.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Hawaii wide receiver Jason-Matthew Sharsh gets around Brigham Young defensive back Hayden Livingston during the first half.

Perhaps playing in a Hawaii uniform for his final time, junior quarterback Cole McDonald completed a heart-stopping comeback with a 24-yard touchdown pass to freshman Nick Mardner as the Warriors secured a 38-34 victory over Brigham Young University to win the Hawaii Bowl.

The Cougars had a chance to win it, taking over at their own 22 with 1:12 left in the game, but the Warriors defense held as BYU quarterback Zach Wilson’s final pass was intercepted by Khoury Bethley with 25 seconds left at the UH 38 to seal the deal before an ecstatic Aloha Stadium crowd of 19,539. It was his second pick of the game.

McDonald hit 28 of 46 passes for 493 yards and four touchdowns. His top two targets were JoJo Ward, who caught seven for 159 yards, and Jared Smart, who pulled down another seven for 142 to lead an offensive attack that scored 31 points in the first half and only seven in the second.

But as well as those two proven products played, it was two completions on the final drive to the little-used Mardner that made the difference. The first went for 38 yards to convert a huge third-down play and the second for 24 to win the game. His two catches for 62 yards won’t crack the top receivers for the night, but his were the two that mattered most.

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BYU, in danger of being run out of town in the first half, rallied for a 34-31 lead in the second it just couldn’t hold, even with the defense forcing four consecutive three-and-outs in the second half. The Cougars finished the season 7-6, with the Warriors coming in with a 10-5 record.

Down 34-31 early in the fourth quarter, Hawaii finally got a first down in the second half on a 46-yard completion from McDonald to Ward to give UH the ball at BYU’s 26. Three snaps later, out came UH field-goal kicker Ryan Meskell, who missed a 40-yarder wide right to keep BYU up by three.

BYU place-kicker Jake Oldroyd had a chance to make that lead six for the Cougars, who drove into field-goal range on the ensuing series, but the kick was wide right, keeping the score at 34-31 with 9:03 remaining.

Hawaii put together a nice drive on the ensuing series, but faced a critical fourth-and-3 at the 46 that the Warriors converted into a first down on a 20-yard completion from McDonald to Jason-Matthew Sharsh. But BYU held, forcing a punt.

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