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Bows blasted by Bruins in season opener

Rainbow Warriors started terribly in Pasadena and never recovered

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 28 Hawaii at UCLA Photo by Will Navarro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hawaii football is not unfamiliar with early season contests against Pac-12 opposition, in fact it’s a near annual occurrence. Sometimes, Hawaii spreads some magic across the turf and finds victory, others end in defeat. Hawaii’s Saturday afternoon clash with UCLA fell into the latter category.

Hawaii lost 44-10 to Chip Kelly’s UCLA Bruins, and frankly that score feels tame compared to how to game felt in the first half.

Hawaii started terribly. After going three-and-out on the opening possession, a special teams blunder gave the Bruins the football at the Hawaii 15 yard line. Matthew Shipley accidentally downed the ball at the 15 when receiving a low snap. Hawaii’s defense would hold the Bruins to a field goal after defensive back Cameron Lockridge made a touchdown-saving tackle on 2nd-and-10 of Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who believe it or not actually had a quiet evening despite the ugly score line.

That was the last sequence of positive play for Hawaii until the end of the first quarter. A Chevan Cordeiro interception and dominant rushing attack from UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet would be the catalysts to Hawaii being down 24-3 after one quarter. Hawaii’s offensive line failed to block the Bruins’ predictably aggressive front seven, and Cordeiro failed to find the hot reads. The offense looked disjointed for much of the game, the Warriors finished the day with only 26 rushing yards on 21 carries, far from the standard a rush-heavy Todd Graham attack expects.

UCLA would take a 31-3 lead into the halftime break, and things wouldn’t get much better in the second half. UCLA’s Thompson-Robinson would find Kazmeir Allen for a 44-yard touchdown to open the third quarter, and the Bruins’ special teams would block a punt for a touchdown. A comprehensively poor showing from the Warriors in all phases.

Hawaii would tack on a touchdown in the third quarter to make the score 44-10, notably against the Bruins’ reserves, but it was Cordeiro and the offense’s best drive of the day. The two teams would field backups the remainder of the game as Hawaii lost to the Bruins on a hot day at the Rose Bowl.

Needless to say, this was a disappointing result for Hawaii, but one difficult to glean too many takes from. The offense was surprisingly ineffective. Offensive coordinator Bo Graham was brand new in this role, but Hawaii returns an experienced quarterback, offensive line, and array of skill position players. The execution suggested otherwise.

Much is expected of the Warrior defense in 2021, but it was gashed for much of the afternoon. To be fair, while the Warriors have stymied pass-heavy offenses like Nevada, Houston, they’ve also struggled against run-heavy attacks like Wyoming, San Diego State, and now UCLA.

Collectively Hawaii will need to improve going forward, this was a bad performance but it’s too early to press the panic button. Truth is, UCLA has a roster filled with 5-star, 4-star level talent and it showed. The Warriors won’t see a team that physically-gifted the remainder of the season. Still, I think it’s fair to say fans expected better at the Rose Bowl.

Hawaii will return to Oahu to play against FCS opponent Portland State, a member of the Big Sky Conference, on September 4th at 6 p.m. HT at Clarence T.C. Ching Complex. It will be the Vikings’ first football game since 2019. Fans are, as of August 28th, not allowed to be in attendance due to COVID concerns.