Better late than never. The 2022 Hawaii Warriors struggles are well-documented at this point. Head coach Timmy Chang was dealt a bad hand when he arrived back at Manoa, and it’s played out that way through half the season. Hawaii showed progress in San Diego, nearly upsetting the Aztecs as 23.5-point underdogs. Vegas considered that a fluke, making the Warriors a 6-point home underdog to Nevada. Hawaii’s running game felt otherwise, coming to life behind three Dedrick Parson rushing touchdowns as the Warriors defeated the Wolf Pack 31-16.
Hawaii carried over the offensive success from last week into Saturday evening, scoring on the opening drove. The 9-play, 75-yard touchdown drive was capped off by running back Dedrick Parson. Confidence is building, maybe the Warriors are improving after all?
Nevada, who came into this game with a familiar story to Hawaii fans, a roster ravaged by the transfer portal, responded impressively with a 16-play, 75-yard scoring drive that consumed over 7 minutes of game time. Tied 7-7 with time dwindling in the first quarter, Hawaii didn’t quite need 16-plays to respond to Nevada’s score. For the second straight game, quarterback Brayden Schager found wide receiver Zion Bowens for a 48-yard touchdown. My goodness, the Warriors have missed Bowens and are glad he’s back.
Two drives later, Schager threw an ill-advised ball that was intercepted by Nevada. The Wolf Pack turned the charitable field position into three points. Brayden Schager continues to improve, he’s going to be a good player, but he does occasionally make some youthful mistakes.
A mistake by Chuuky Hines on the ensuing kickoff meant the Warriors started off with terrible field position inside their own 10-yard line. Fear not, it merely offered an opportunity to show off the improvement this offense has made. Schager shined on the 9-play, 94-yard scoring drive that ended with another Dedrick Parson touchdown. Hawaii led 21-13 at the break. Well, I should note: Hawaii added an unexpected play before the end of the half. Don’t see this every day.
The third quarter developed slowly for both teams, Nevada adding a field goal in the late third quarter to bring the score to 21-16. The story from there was all about Hawaii’s defense showing growth and the offense establishing the run game. Hawaii rushed for 223 yards on Saturday evening, while holding Nevada’s potent rushing attack to only 89 total yards. Peter Manuma (who played with a heavy heart) and Ezra Evaimalo showing up on the stat sheet gave glimpses of hope going forward, young talents thriving on defense. Freshman wide receiver Nicholas Cenacle had two catches for 42 receiving yards. All over the field, Hawaii’s young players are starting to make an impact.
Dedrick Parson would score once more, finishing with 136 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. #31 is a solid candidate to win Mountain West offensive player of the week. Backup running back Tylan Hines had 70 rushing yards on 12 carries. Hugely positive signs for the offense that the running game is showing some consistency.
Hawaii’s defense slammed the door shut the rest of the way, leading the way to Hawaii defeating Nevada 31-16 to pick up Timmy Chang’s first win against an FBS opponent, against the school he coached for, of all teams. Hawaii moves to 2-5 (1-1) on the season.
After weeks of doom and gloom, Hawaii appears to have four winnable games on the remaining schedule, including this upcoming weekend in Ft. Collins. Hawaii will play Colorado State at 10 a.m. HT Saturday, hosted by Spectrum Sports.