As the University of Hawai‘i football team prepares to take on Boise State in the Mountain West Conference Championship game, the Rainbow Warriors found a way to add some early hardware before the title bout. The MWC announced in a press release Wednesday morning that UH head coach Nick Rolovich had been selected as the Mountain West Coach of the Year.
After a 9-4 season, including 5-3 in conference play, Rolovich led the program to its first ever conference title game with a West Division-clinching win over San Diego State. He became the first coach in program history to win the award with the Mountain West, and just the seventh UH coach to win the award with any conference. June Jones was the last coach to accomplish the feat back in 2007. Jones holds three of the Rainbow Warriors’ coach of the year honors, with Bob Wagner owning two. Rolovich joins Dick Tomey with one apiece. Jones, Wagner and Tomey each earned the award with the WAC.
Meanwhile, the awards continued to roll in, with a record-number 11 ‘Bows named to the all-conference teams. Representing UH alone on the all-conference first team was senior receiver Cedric Byrd II. The Los Angeles native led the team in receptions with 91, and receiving yards with 1,049. He also found pay dirt with 10 receiving touchdowns. He ranked 12th in the country with an average of 7.0 receptions per game, making at least 4 receptions in each of the ‘Bows’ 13 regular season games.
The all-conference second team proved to be much more lucrative for Hawai’i. Redshirt junior quarterback Cole McDonald led a list of three ‘Bows offensive starters earning second team honors. Despite the team’s use of rotating quarterbacks to close the season, McDonald finished in the top 10 nationally for total offense, with 317.1 yards/game and 212 points responsible for. He led the conference in five categories, including completion percentage and passing efficiency.
Another of the pass catchers responsible for hauling in McDonald’s passes was named to the MWC second team. Senior receiver JoJo Ward finished with 55 receptions, good for 906 yards and a team-best 12 catches of at least 29 yards. The JC transfer from Waco, Texas led the team with 16.5 yards per reception. He also ranked 12th nationally with 11 receiving touchdowns on the year.
The final second team selection came in the form of one of McDonald’s protectors in the trenches. Sophomore tackle Ilm Manning. Manning was a mainstay on an offensive line that saw a flurry of injuries, starting every game of the season for the second consecutive year. Seeing action on more than 550 passing plays, the Glendale native has allowed only one sack while leading the team with 69 knockdowns.
On the other side of the ball, five UH defensive players garnered conference honorable mentions. Cornerback duo Rojesterman Farris II and Cortez Davis earned a place on the list by combining for 22 pass breakups on the season. The senior and the JC transfer each notched one interception, with both finding the endzone on those picks. Meanwhile, the team’s leading tackler, senior linebacker Solomon Matautia was named to the honorable mentions with 68 tackles, 2 interceptions, and a sack. Along the defensive line, 2018 second team selection Kaimana Padello was also named a 2019 honorable mention. Padello led the team with 3 sacks and 7 tackles before missing the final three games of the season with an injury. Padello was joined by UH’s d-line anchor Blessman Ta’ala, who finished with 18 tackles this season.
Rounding out the group, two offensive lineman were named honorable mentions. Junior center Taaga Tuulima, who was named the team’s offensive MVP on Sunday, allowed just two sacks despite playing in all but 20 snaps this season. Meanwhile, the team’s Most Improved Player for the 2019 season, junior Gene Pryor, was named to the list after starting all but one regular season game this year.