Hawaii football is thinking big in 2019. While the Washington blasting was a reality check about whether Hawaii is a great team, the Rainbow Warriors appear to have as good a chance to win the West Division of the Mountain West as any of the other five teams. With a massive game against Nevada in Reno next week, head coach Nick Rolovich took a reserved approach to the homecoming game against Central Arkansas, sitting key players like offensive guard Solo Vaipulu, slotback Melquise Stovall, among other starters. The game plan appeared to be somewhat vanilla as well.
Hawaii started the game off on the wrong foot, fumbling the ball away (an increasingly concerning trend with this offense) on their first possession. Safety and promising talent Kai Kaneshiro rectified that early mistake by the offense by taking an interception 55-yards to the house to give Hawaii a 7-0 lead. Hawaii’s defense would hold the Bears offense, largely keeping UCA star offensive players Breylin Smith and Lujuan Winningham in check on the night. Cole McDonald would find JoJo Ward for a 5-yard touchdown on the next drive to give Hawaii a 14-0 lead at the end of one quarter.
In the early second quarter, Hawaii would retrieve the ball quickly and cash in on offense again, this time McDonald finds wide receiver Jared Smart for a 16-yard touchdown. Smart would have a career-high 121 receiving yards and a touchdown, giving the Warriors a much-needed reliable third option to star receiver Cedric Byrd and JoJo Ward. After another touchdown, this time Cedric Byrd getting involved, Hawaii would lead 28-0 and this one appeared to be on path to a steam-rolling.
Central Arkansas, to their credit, did not quit at any point during the game. A halfback pass from Sam Camargo would find running back Carlos Blackman in the end zone, cutting the lead to 28-6 after the extra point was missed. UCA would tack on a field goal in the dying seconds of the half to make it 28-9 Warriors, who didn’t appear to be in any mood to run up the score or reveal anything juicy tactically.
The third quarter was largely a bore fest, with Hawaii emphasizing the run and Central Arkansas failing on offense over and over. Still 28-9 heading into the fourth quarter, UCA would keep fans on their toes with a 23-yard touchdown run from Blackman. Blackman had 147 rushing yards on 17 carries, which will annoy Hawaii defensive coordinator Corey Batoon. Hawaii led 28-16, the Bears still within two touchdowns.
Another fumble from the Hawaii running back group would give the Bears life, but the Hawaii defense would quickly extinguish that belief by forcing the Bears offense off the field. An 11-yard touchdown pass from McDonald to former Washington state player of the year, Lincoln Victor would effectively end this contest. Victor is a name to remember in the future. Hawaii defeats Central Arkansas 35-16 on homecoming.
Truth be told, Hawaii could have run this team off the rock if they wanted to. Several starters sat the entire game, plenty of backups getting experience in the process. Hawaii only threw the ball 32 times, unusual for the run-and-shoot offense. It was clear UH was not in the mood for style points.
Hawaii moves to 3-1 going into Mountain West play, where they play Nevada in Reno. A pivotal game in the West Division race, the Warriors haven’t won in Reno since 2007.