The University of Hawai‘i football team’s dream conference run ended with a blowout at the hands of Mountain West Conference Champion Boise State. Failing to make key plays when it counted, racking up penalties, and once again losing the turnover battle, the Rainbow Warriors (9-5, 5-4 MWC) let a promising start to the game waste away in a 31-10 bashing by the Broncos.
After taking the early lead with a field goal on its first possession, with the defense keeping Boise State in check, one mistake led to another as Hawai‘i gave up 31 unanswered points, with 28 coming in the second and third quarters alone. The ‘Bows would go on to score just one touchdown the rest of the way, giving them a season-low output of 10 points, surpassing its former season low of 14 in a winning effort over San Diego State.
Perhaps the result of an aggressive offensive game plan, the team went 4-12 on third down conversions, Hawai‘i also went 2-5 on fourth down conversions, two of which came within the 5-yard line, taking important points off the board. At one point, the ‘Bows accepted an offsides penalty on a successful field goal conversion, instead sending the offense out to try for a fourth down conversion from one yard out. The gamble backfired, as redshirt junior quarterback Cole McDonald was stuffed on the goal line, costing Hawai‘i three points it had already earned. The ‘Bows ultimately failed to score on three red zone possessions, which funnily enough would have given them enough points to tie the game up.
The overall sloppy performance was reflected in a flurry of silly mistake, as Hawai‘i racked up 9 penalties, costing them 61 yards. On the flip side, Boise State put in a disciplined performance with just 3 penalties for 21 yards. The offensive unit in particular was a problem, taking credit for 8 out of 9 penalties. The offensive line was responsible for 7 penalties, with one holding call and a whopping 6 false starts (senior receiver Jason-Matthew Sharsh picked up another false start call). The troubles didn’t end there for the offensive line. The unit gave up three sacks on the day, with two of them directly ended crucial drives.
Despite the offensive line struggles, redshirt sophomore Miles Reed shone through the rainy Boise weather as one of the few offensive bright spots for the ‘Bows. Reed continued his strong stretch of play since taking over the team’s bell cow roll, finishing with 87 yards on 12 carries. His 25-yard carry in the second quarter was the longest for ball carrier from either side. Reed also scored the team’s only touchdown of the day.
Redshirt senior kicker Ryan Meskell, who scored the only other UH points with a 47-yard field goal on the team’s opening possession, also continued his recent strong performance. After a shaky start to the season, Meskell has now hit 7 of his last 8 field goal attempts.
For the first time since week 4 of the season, Cole McDonald both started and played every offensive snap of the game. Cordeiro’s lingering injury from the regular season finale will be something to keep an eye on, but McDonald put in a nearly clean performance. McDonald finished the game with 241 yards on 20-36 passing. However, he did toss one interception, while coughing up the football on a big hit as the pocket around him collapsed. The ‘Bows did not record a passing touchdown, just the second time that has happened this season. It also marks the first time Hawai‘i has failed to record a passing touchdown in multiple games in a single season since 2017.
Catching the ball for McDonald, the receiving core had another solid game. Three ‘Bows receivers finished with over 60 receiving yards. Jason-Matthew Sharsh led the way with 74 yards on 7 receptions. Junior Jared Smart wasn’t far behind with 72 yards on 4 receptions. His 46-yard reception in the third quarter was the longest for either side. Rounding out the group, senior JoJo Ward finished with 69 yards on 3 receptions, including a 45-yarder that came close to surpassing Smart.
Despite the scoreboard, the defensive unit put in a solid performance, holding Boise State to 364 yards, nearly 100 less than their per game average. The squad also finished with a takeaway, as redshirt freshman Kai Kaneshiro picked off BSU quarterback Jaylon Henderson for his third interception of the season. Senior safetly Ikem Okeke led the team with 9 total tackles, while sophomore defensive back Khoury Bethley finished with a team-best 4 solo tackles.
Hawai‘i will need to put the disappointment of the loss behind them quickly, as the season did not end here in Boise tonight. The ‘Bows’ nine regular season wins meant that they had qualified for a bowl game, the specifics of which have yet to be announced. The Rainbow Warriors are expected to host rivals BYU at the Aloha Stadium for the SoFi Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24.