Saturday brought more than just another Rainbow Warrior game. It brought a possible new start for some and an ending for others. With Senior Night on the horizon, the team put forth it's best effort in more than two months.
Finally a start for the whole team to get excited over, combined with an ending that rewarded the players for their hard work.
The 'Bows got over the hump and ended their nine game losing streak with a 28-26 win over the Louisiana at Monroe Warhawks.
The start of the game began with two punts but a fumble on the second punt return by Junior Williams got Hawaii rolling. Then Paul Harris put the offense on his back and ran six straight times for 50 yards in for a touchdown. The Rainbow Warriors scored first making the score 7-0.
The Warhawks would immediately respond with a scoring drive of their own. Led by Earnest Carrington and Ben Luckett who accounted for 29 passing yards and 32 rushing yards respectively. Once in the red zone, the 'Bows were stout defensively and held ULM out of the end zone with key pressures from their defensive line. They would convert on their field goal try making things 7-3.
UH would punt one more time before the period ended after an inconsistent drive.
Another defensive battle would ensue with three consecutive punts to start the second quarter. Ikaika Woolsey and Paul Harris would get things going for Hawaii on the ground. In the end Woolsey would scramble and take it in the end zone for 6 from 8 yards out - the score now 14-3.
The 'Bows would make another stop on defense and get right back on offense. Offensive Coordinator Don Bailey would not veer from the game plan and continued to feed the beast, Harris. Ultimately Woolsey would hit Harold Moleni for the score but Harris would account for 44 yards out of the 56 totaled on the drive. The Rainbow Warriors now lead 21-3.
The Warhawks would not go the half without finding the end zone once. Earnest Carrington led an 8 play, 74 yard drive for a touchdown. Xavier Brown would be the man to haul in the first touchdown catch for ULM. Carrington totaled 39 yards through the air but were helped by Hawaii's 27 penalty yards.
The Warhawks would cut into the home team's lead making the score 21-10 and that is how the half would end. Throughout the half the 'Bows were in the Warhawk backfield totaling 2 sacks, 4 hurries and 3 tackles for loss. It would appear the change from Tom Mason to Abraham Elimimian is paying dividends early.
The Rainbow Warriors would get right back on the saddle after the short break scoring on their first drive led by Paul Harris again. He totaled 39 yards on the ground but it was a 6 yard run from Ikaika Woolsey that would get the 'Bows on the board again. They would now lead 28-10.
ULM would score 10 points on their next two drives, displaying Earnest Carrington's full skill set. He would throw for 93 yards and 42 yards on the ground. Marcus Green brought in 54 yards and Ajalen Holley for 32 yards; including the catch that got the Warhawks 6.
With the visitors cutting into the lead making things 28-20, Hawaii looked to get things going again offensively. It would be the defense that would be the star for the rest of the game however.
The 'Bows would force two punts and ended a scoring drive on fourth down. In a game that they had the lead, the defense finally was able to get stops putting down thoughts of doubt.
With the game nearly in hand, it would be the offense that made things more interesting. Throughout the whole fourth quarter their efforts to run out the clock crashed and burned. This time a very untimely botched snap on third and long would give the Warhawks a chance to tie the game.
The snap would sail through the backfield and into the end zone with Lorenzo Jackson making the recovery. With the score now 28-26, the defense would need to make a stop on the two-point conversion to keep the team's lead intact.
They would do just that and the whole stadium went nuts for clutch stand.
With the way the Hawaii offense was performing the Warhawks decided to put the game in the hands of their defense. This would prove to be a wrong choice as the Rainbow Warrior offense would get things in gear to close out the game. It would not go without excitement as it took a key completion between Woolsey and Makoa Camanse-Stevens to extend the drive on third down. From there Ryan Tuiasoa would take over and run out the clock for the home team.
Paul Harris would end the game with 172 yards on 27 carries for 1 touchdown. Local boy, Ryan Tuiasoa would finish the game with 53 yards on 14 carries, which included key runs to close out the game. Ikaika Woolsey had a good game totaling 116 yards with 1 touchdown, completing 8 of 16 passes.
Jalen Rogers led the team with 3 pass breakups and Marrell Jackson with 9 tackles (6 solo). David Manoa led the line with 1.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and 1 hurry.
With stat lines like that, you'd expect that this game was a good one to watch and it was. For what seemed the first time this season, the whole team played at a high level for the whole game. All three phases supported each other and I don't think there was a better example than the last few minutes of the game.
Last but not least, since it was Senior Night, I would like to congratulate the seniors and this team on finishing strong. It was outstanding to see the team come out like this for the last game and give their leaders a fond memory to take into their future endeavors. I wish the seniors good luck and I hope to see the underclassmen back for the 2016 season under Nick Rolovich.
There is still much to cover in the offseason and stay with us as we explore this program's future with Nick Rolovich and beyond.