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Road Warriors: Hawaii punts on style points in route to 45-31 victory over Lobos

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It really wasn’t that close, but the Warriors return to winning after brief losing skid

Air Force v Hawaii Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

While the New Mexico Lobos might not be known for their prowess on the gridiron, it had been a long time since Hawaii football won a game in Albuquerque. To be exact, the last time the Warriors won at New Mexico was 1987, a 41-31 victory for then first-year Hawaii head coach Bob Wagner.

Fast-forward to 2019, Hawaii entered this contest against the Lobos a rare double-digit road favorite. Hawaii wasted absolutely no time at all flexing their offensive power on their opening drive. On the second play from scrimmage, Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald kept the ball on the read option and sprinted 76-yards to the house, showing off a facet of his game not seen frequently enough.

The Lobos countered Hawaii’s quick score with a 4:26 drive that resulted in a field goal. After forcing the Hawaii offense to punt, a Warrior defense that has struggled in recent weeks, conceding an average of 57.5 points per game in the last two games, resumed making big plays. On 3rd-and-7, backup Lobos quarterback Tevaka Tuioti’s pass would deflect up in the air and Hawaii linebacker Solomon Matautia would grab the errant throw and score. Up 14-3, Hawaii was rolling.

New Mexico’s offense trotted back out onto the field, only to fail again albeit not via turnover. Hawaii’s offense took over and immediately waxed the Lobos, this time rarely-used wide receiver Kumoku Noa would take a Cole McDonald pass 54-yards for a touchdown. Lesser-known receivers like Noa will be called upon after emerging star receiver Melquise Stovall was kicked off the team earlier in the week. Hawaii led 21-3 going into the second quarter, clearly in control.

The Lobos offense was dominated by the Warrior defense in the first half. Hawaii held them to 3 points, the Lobos struggling to get anything going, but struggled particularly to throw the ball. A possible byproduct of starting quarterback Sheriron Jones being arrested earlier this week. Hawaii’s running game would surprisingly victimize the Lobos defense more than the passing game did, odd for the run-and-shoot offense. The Warriors rushed for 255 yards on the night, 140 of them from Cole McDonald. Hawaii rushed for two more touchdowns before halftime to lead 35-3 at the break. Blowout city.

Hawaii trotted out the starters to begin the third quarter, but up 32-points it was clear Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich wanted to preserve the health of his starters and give backups playing time. That produced results that harmed the egos of Hawaii fans fishing for a beat down. New Mexico running back Ahmari Davis, who rushed for 200 yards and two scores on homecoming day, scored a 67-yard touchdown. Up 35-10, the Warriors weren’t too impressed and proceeded to kill clock. A field goal put Hawaii up 38-10, and the Warriors held that score going into the fourth quarter.

Noted earlier, it was homecoming day for the Lobos (you wouldn’t know it looking at the attendance). Backup Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro found emerging star receiver Lincoln Victor with 9:16 remaining in the game to give the Warriors a 45-10 lead. New Mexico would lay down and die continue to fight for pride, to surprising success.

Down 35 with a little over half a quarter to work with, the Lobos refused to die and rallied off 21 unanswered points as the Hawaii reserves had nothing in mind but to kill the clock and see out the result. This annoyed Nick Rolovich, who reintroduced the starters. Quarterback Cole McDonald nearly threw an interception that would have made the 45-31 contest a little more interesting, but the Lobo defender dropped it.

The Lobos retained the ball and drove down the field, but an Ikem Okeke interception ended the comeback bid. Instead of taking a knee, Hawaii running back Miles Reed took a big hit on first down, and then Cole McDonald also took a shot that left him kneeling over on the sidelines (he appeared just fine after the game), then Hawaii took a knee. The Warriors largely dominated this game, but the Lobos to their credit weren’t interested in quitting. Hawaii won 45-31 over New Mexico, moving to 5-3 (2-2) on the season.

A massive home game against Fresno State awaits next week for the Warriors, who haven’t beaten the Bulldogs at Aloha Stadium since 2007.