An uneven football game filled with weird vibes should have been expected. After all, it was a surprise this game was even being played. At the beginning of the week, it appeared that if any Mountain West contest would be canceled, it would be Hawaii vs. Boise State. The Broncos had seen a rise in positive COVID-19 cases in consecutive weeks. Instead, the Broncos managed to see their positive case numbers decrease for the Hawaii game, while three other Mountain West games were unexpectedly called off in the preceding days. Go figure. Boise State arrived in Honolulu at 8:42 HT the day before the contest to make double sure their COVID-19 positive case numbers were in check. Whatever the case, it was game on.
On paper, Hawaii-Boise State appeared to be a contest between two strong offenses with two leaky defenses. That’s not how the first half played out. Both teams struggled to find any rhythm early on, trading punts until Hawaii scored on a 15-play, 76-yard drive that ended in a Matthew Shipley field goal. 3-0 Warriors with 4:36 remaining in the first quarter.
Boise State would counter with a field goal of their own from freshman kicker Jonah Dalmas. The score would remain 3-3 after the first quarter, and would continue to be a slog through much of the first half, neither team finding much success on offense. After adding another field goal earlier to make the score 6-3, Boise State would shatter the defensive stalemate with a 38-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Khalil Shakir. The extra point failed, but despite a strong defensive effort Hawaii was down 12-3. Boise State wasn’t done, scoring again on the following drive and in the blink of an eye Hawaii was down 19-3 at halftime despite seemingly corralling Boise State’s offense better than some past Hawaii teams had.
There were similarities to the 2019 Mountain West Championship game: defensive stalemate for much of the first half, until a brief lapse in concentration by Hawaii saw Boise State tack on two late touchdowns. Frustration was the word at halftime, as Hawaii’s offense once again failed to capitalize on the strong play from the defense.
Hawaii exited the locker room with the right vibe and immediately scored on the opening drive of the third quarter, a 1-yard touchdown from Calvin Turner, who just might be Hawaii’s best player? The two-point conversion failed, Broncos still led 19-9.
On the next kickoff, Boise State’s return team squashed the positive momentum Hawaii created out of halftime. Head Coach Todd Graham stressed not allowing Boise State kick returner Avery Williams to be a factor in this game, but his special teamers did not heed that warning. Williams took the kickoff 99-yards to the end zone to boost Boise State’s lead to 26-9. Hawaii’s offense quickly flamed out, giving Boise State the ball back in good field position. Boise State then scored on an 11-yard run from running back Andrew Van Buren, who played in place of injured star running back George Holani, and well here we go again. Boise State led 33-9 midway through the third quarter and it appeared another Boise State beatdown over Hawaii was in the making.
Hawaii, however, didn’t quit. Later in the quarter, emerging star Calvin Turner showed off his shine again with a 36-yard touchdown reception. Where did Turner come from? He has been a huge bright spot for this team.
Next drive, Boise State seemingly slammed the door shut with another 11-yard touchdown run from Andrew Van Buren, capping off a 79-yard drive on a quick 5-plays. At 40-17, the third quarter ended with Boise State cruising to another comfortable victory over Hawaii.
Or so we thought.
I mentioned in the preview for this game, this series has been severely one-sided since Hawaii beat Boise State in 2007. In the 8 games since, the closest margin of loss for Hawaii is 20 points. Closest. In 2020, however, the Warriors fought on.
The first points of the fourth quarter came from Hawaii, on the back of...come on, you already know who. Calvin Turner. Hawaii converted the two-point try, and at 40-24 Hawaii wasn’t totally out of the game.
A little over five minutes later, Hawaii scored on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Chevan Cordeiro to Jared Smart, cashing in on a 12-play, 64-yard drive. Once again, the two-point conversion was successful. Hold the phone! The score read Boise State 40-32 with 4:52 remaining the game. Hawaii still had a chance.
Unfortunately, Boise State had seen enough. On 3rd-and-5 from the Boise State 30, Hawaii agonizingly close to forcing another chance for the Hawaii offense, Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier found Khalil Shakir for a 32-yard gain. Few plays later, Bachmeier ran for 5-yards to convert another 3rd-and-5, icing the game. That sentence was quick and short, the replay to determine if Bachmeier had converted or not, definitely wasn’t. It appeared to be the correct call, and Boise State kneeled out the rest of the game. Hawaii rallied late, but lost 40-32 to Boise State.
There are no moral victories for a Hawaii football team one year removed from a 10-win season and a division championship. That said, as I noted above, the streak is over. Hawaii finally played Boise State relatively close, ending the long run of 20+ point wins for the Broncos. There was good and bad from both the Hawaii offense and defense, but the special teams just killed them Saturday evening. The circumstances were odd once again (no fans for Hawaii, Boise State flying late and with key players out due to COVID), but Hawaii made some progress this week. Alas, this loss probably eliminates any hope of Hawaii returning to the Mountain West championship game this season.
NEXT UP: Nevada comes to town. Can Hawaii spoil the Wolf Pack’s undefeated season again?