After weathering the early storm, the University of Hawai’i football team came back in the second half to pick up a win against their second straight Pac-12 opponent. Led by the best performance of senior receiver JoJo Ward's UH career, Hawai’i (2-0, 0-0 MWC) shut down the Oregon State Beavers (0-2) in the second half to take a 31-28 victory Saturday night at Aloha Stadium.
In the weeks leading up to the game, redshirt junior quarterback Cole McDonald promised to clean up his game. He was certainly able to do so this week, finishing the game with 421 passing yards with 4 touchdowns and only 1 interception. Meanwhile, Ward picked up where fellow receiver Cedric Byrd II left off two weeks ago, accumulating a career high 189 yards on 10 receptions and a school record-tying 4 receiving touchdowns.
For the second game in a row, the ‘Bows tried to start the game strong with a score, electing to receive after the Beavers won the toss and deferred. Things didn’t work out as expected however, despite an early 4th down conversion on a 11-yard carry by Miles Reed. Senior receiver Jason-Matthew Sharsh came open in the end zone, but a well-thrown ball from McDonald slipped through Sharsh’s outstretched arms. Redshirt senior kicker Ryan Meskell was sent out to attempt the 47-yard field goal, but the attempt sailed wide right. The Beavers showed no such reservation on their own drive, as running back Jermar Jefferson gashed the ‘Bows run defense to score the opening touchdown for Oregon State.
On the ensuing kickoff, junior transfer Melquise Stovall returned the ball 65-yards to put the ‘Bows in scoring position. The offense didn’t waste the opportunity, needing only two plays and 41 seconds to score the game tying touchdown. McDonald and Ward connected on both plays, with the second going 29 yards for the score. On the next OSU possession, the Rainbow Warriors fell back to old habits, allowing Beavers running back Artavis Pierce to take off for a 37-yard touchdown run. Trailing for the second time in the game, the ‘Bows failed to put another equalizer on the board as a McDonald pass was picked off after the receiver fell on his route.
The defense appeared to figure things out, seemingly holding the Beavers to a three and out. However, the drive was extended as the ‘Bows were called for a questionable defensive holding penalty. Oregon State capitalized on their second chance, driving the ball down the field. The drive was capped off by a touchdown on a well-thrown back-shoulder fade from Beavers quarterback Jake Luton to Isaiah Hodgins.
To begin the second quarter, McDonald had ample time to go through his progressions, finding three different receivers for 10+ yard gains. Junior Jared Smart was the first beneficiary with a 12-yard reception, followed by a 20-yard completion to Byrd. Ward put the cherry on top with a 35-yard reception in the endzone to cut the deficit to a single touchdown. Later in the quarter, the Beavers lead was again widened as Artavis Pierce cruised into the end zone untouched for a 25-yard touchdown run. Determined to closet the gap before halftime, the ‘Bows converted twice on fourth down on completions to Smart. With just twelve seconds left on the clock, McDonald found Ward for the duo’s third touchdown of the game.
Whatever adjustments defensive coordinator Corey Batoon made at halftime, it clearly worked. The Rainbow Warrior’s third quarter defensive rejuvenation was largely aided by the Beavers offense, as Oregon State saw their first two drives of the second half stall out on offensive penalties. The ‘Bows certainly didn’t waste the extra opportunities, taking off on a four play 80-yard drive. Stovall picked up his first UH catch with a 24-yard completion from McDonald, but it was Ward yet again picking up the 29-yard receiving touchdown to tie up the game at 28 apiece. The score was not the only thing Ward tied on the play, moving into a first place tie with Byrd, Chris Gant, Jason Rivers, Ryan Grice-Mullen and Chad Owens for the most single game receiving touchdowns with 4.
Surfing a wave of momentum, the ‘Bows defense held Oregon State to back-to-back three and outs. The Beavers lined up to attempt the fourth down conversion, but Luton faked out the Rainbow Warriors with a quick kick that was downed at the 2-yard line. Trapped on their own goal line, McDonald found a familiar face in Ward for a 43-yard completion that gave Hawai’i some breathing room. The long play sparked a string of ‘Bows completions, as McDonald connected with Smart and Stovall, and Ward again to lead the team down the field. The drive stalled as tensions boiled over onto the field. One offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalty later, Meskell jogged out to give Hawai’i its first lead of the game. It was not meant to be however, as Meskell sent the 27-yard wide left. On the next UH drive, Meskell had a chance to redeem himself, but again failed to put points on the board for the ‘Bows, sending a 48-yard attempt wide left.
After Hawai’i’s failed attempt to take the lead, the Beavers were fed up with the stalemate themselves. Facing a fourth and six, Oregon State dialed up a fake punt, hoping to surprise Hawai’i. The attempt backfired as the ball sailed out of bounds. Now in prime position to take the lead, the Rainbow Warriors used two plays to align the ball on the right hash mark before sending Meskell out once more. The third time proved to be the charm for him, as Meskell nailed the 28-yard field goal to seal the win for Hawai’i
With the win, the Rainbow Warriors have now won two games out of their three-game Pac-12 gauntlet, and are now guaranteed a winning record against the Power 5 conference this season. The win also avenged the 38-30 Hawai’i loss against Oregon State 2014, under then-head coach Norm Chow. The Rainbow Warriors will now head out on the road to take on their third consecutive Pac-12 opponent.
The ‘Bows head to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies at Husky Stadium on Sep. 14 at 1:30 p.m. HST.