Saturday night’s contest between Hawaii and New Mexico State was technically Hawaii’s fourth home game of the season, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, this game was Hawaii’s first opportunity to play in front of the home fans since the 2019 Hawaii Bowl against Brigham Young. The Warriors reunited with the home fans on an evening where the program honored the late great Colt Brennan. Hawaii did Colt right Saturday evening, winning a shootout.
As kickoff approached, it was clear star quarterback Chevan Cordeiro and star running back Dae Dae Hunter would miss this game. There is hope both players will return next week against Utah State, but at this point that’s only speculation. That meant it was the Brayden Schager and Dedrick Parson show.
The Warriors and Aggies traded field goals early on, but Hawaii broke the end zone deadlock late in the first quarter by mauling their way right through the Aggie defense. Running back Dedrick Parson was a menace all evening, rushing for 161 yards and three touchdowns, while adding 54 receiving yards. Monster evening.
In the early second quarter, star defensive back Khoury Bethley jumped a pass thrown by New Mexico State quarterback Jonah Johnson and took it 79-yards to the hale. Just like that, a promising offensive drive for the Aggies was flipped into points for the Warriors. Hawaii led 17-3.
On the ensuing drive, NMSU punted, and Hawaii drove the ball 74-yards on 12-plays and punched it in with Dedrick Parson again to make the score 24-3, and frankly it appeared as if Hawaii might win in a rout. New Mexico State, to their credit, was far from finished. On the next drive, the Aggies pushed the ball to the NMSU 44, and then running back Juwaun Price took a handoff off left tackle 56-yards to the house. The Aggies also tacked on a field goal before halftime. Hawaii led 24-13 at the break. In control, but not the beat down we appeared to be headed toward.
Halftime at Clarence T.C. Ching Complex was an emotional scene, as the Warriors honored the late Colt Brennan, who passed away with past summer. Hawaii unexpectedly retired the #15 for good, with Brennan’s family present. Incredible scene.
The Rainbow Warriors opened the second half with the ball, and immediately drove the ball into Aggie territory, but quarterback Brayden Schager was blindsided by the Aggies’ Chris Ojoh, leading to a fumble recovered by the Aggies. From there, Jonah Johnson joined Dedrick Parson in the baller category on the evening. Johnson led a drive and ultimately punched it in himself from 1-yard out to close the score to 24-20. Hawaii’s three touchdown lead had evaporated.
Hawaii retaliated with a field goal on the next drive to make the score 27-20, but Jonah Johnson and co. continued to move the ball with ease on offense. Portland State game vibes. The Warriors started strong defensively, but caved in the second half. Juwaun Price victimized the Warrior defense again, this time from 46-yards out. With 1:30 remaining in the third quarter, the Aggies were looking to spoil a special evening at Manoa.
Hawaii, however, slammed the door shut after going level on the scoreboard. The next offensive play? C’mon, you already know. Calvin Turner Jr. time. I’m not sure what Turner’s 40 yard dash time is, but I’ve never seen someone track him down in these situations.
Credit New Mexico State, despite being 1-6 coming into the evening, their team didn’t quit. Johnson once again scrambled his way into Hawaii territory. It was there where Hawaii’s defense, which struggled on the night, did what Todd Graham defenses do: force turnovers. This time, linebacker Darius Muasau would take a Johnson pass 75-yards in the other direction. Credit defensive tackle Justus Tavai for putting Johnson off balance.
With that score, the Warriors led 41-27 and ultimately slammed the door shut with that touchdown. Both teams would add another touchdown each, with Dedrick Parson putting on the finishing touches.
On an emotional evening where Hawaii honored its greatest player ever and welcomed back the home fans, Hawaii defeated New Mexico State 48-34. The defense conceded 485 total yards and 34 points, but did come up big with two defensive touchdowns. Quarterback Brayden Schager put together an efficient performance, finishing 25/29 for 219 yards. Dedrick Parson and Calvin Turner Jr. the difference makers on offense. Also credit to defensive back Solo Turner, who had some key tackles in the second half.
Hawaii turns their attention to the mainland, where they’ll face 1st-place in the Mountain Division Utah State. Kickoff is 9 a.m. HT (for real) and will be available on Spectrum Sports.