UH football starts season strong

University of Hawai‘i wide receiver Cedric Byrd II scores one of his four touchdowns against Arizona –Leighland Tagawa

The University of Hawai‘i football team kicked off its 2019 season with three straight games against Pac-12 opponents Arizona, Oregon State and Washington as well as a game against FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) opponent Central Arkansas. 

The Warriors hosted Arizona at Aloha Stadium on Aug. 24 to open the season. The game was played in tribute to former UH head coach (1977-1986) Dick Tomey, who died in May. Tomey had also been the head coach at Arizona for 14 years (1987-2000).

The Warriors took an early 14-0 lead after the first quarter of play. The Wildcats managed to claw their way back into the contest, and it was a back and forth affair with each team retaking the lead.

With ten seconds left in the game, UH had a slim 45-38 lead with Arizona 31 yards away from the endzone. Wildcat quarterback Khalil Tate was looking to pass, didn’t see any open receivers, and then saw room to run. Tate burst past UH defenders but was tackled on the 1-yard line as time expired to give UH a dramatic victory. Cedric Byrd II lead the way with four touchdown catches for the Bows.

Two weeks later, the Warriors hosted Oregon State University at Aloha Stadium on Sept. 7. The Warriors had recent bad blood with the Beavers with some former UH coaches and a player joining the team from Corvallis. According to Bleacher Report and Hawai‘i News Now, some OSU recruiting mail was sent to current UH players in May 2018, prompting UH head coach Nick Rolovich to accuse the Beavers of trying to steal his players.

The game favored OSU early on with the Beavers leading 21-7 by the start of the second quarter. Both teams scored touchdowns to make it 28-14, but UH managed to score with 12 seconds left before halftime. UH quarterback Cole McDonald threw a 5-yard pass to JoJo Ward to make it a 28-21 game.

After halftime, the UH defense held the Beavers scoreless for the rest of the game. The Warriors tied the game up 28 all after McDonald found Ward in the endzone again from 29 yards out. Ward finished the game with a total of four receiving touchdowns.

UH finally took the lead with 2 minutes and 17 seconds left in regulation. After missing three field goals early in the game (including two misses in the fourth quarter), UH kicker Ryan Meskell connected on a 28-yard kick to give UH a 31-28 lead.

The game was still up for grabs when OSU drove all the way down to the UH 34-yard line. However, Beavers kicker Jordan Choukair missed his 52-yard attempt, and the Warriors won again in dramatic fashion.

The UH hype train hit a speed bump when the team traveled to take on the #23 ranked Washington Huskies on Sept. 14. Washington scored 38 straight points in the opening half to deflate any hopes of UH coming away with the victory. The Warriors managed to make a slight comeback by scoring 20 straight points themselves, but the Huskies scored two more times to ice the game at 52-20.

UH hosted FCS opponent Central Arkansas for homecoming on Sept. 21. The Warriors emulated what the Huskies did to them and scored 28 straight points in the first half.

Central Arkansas inched its way back into the contest by scoring two touchdowns and a field goal and only trailed 28-16 in the fourth quarter. However, the Warriors ended any hope of an upset when quarterback Cole McDonald found Lincoln Victor in the endzone with 3:27 left in the game to seal the victory for Hawai‘i.

The Warriors ended the non-conference schedule with an impressive 3-1 record and will now take on their Mountain West Conference opponents.

This season, the Warriors still travel to New Mexico (Oct. 26) and UNLV (Nov. 16). The Warriors have five home games left against Air Force (Oct. 19), Fresno State (Nov. 2), San Jose State (Nov. 9), San Diego State (Nov. 23), and Army (Nov. 30).

If UH wins at least four conference games, it will be eligible for a post-season bowl game (date and time to be determined).

The Rainbow Warriors are playing this season in honor of one of their teammates, linebacker Scheyenne Sanitoa, who tragically passed away on July 4.

To purchase tickets or for more information about the games, visit hawaiiathletics.com.

by Leighland Tagawa, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter