In a season that featured a mix of agonizing narrow defeats and blowout losses, Hawaii saved their best for Senior Night and put together a complete performance in a 31-25 victory over UNLV, the Warriors upsetting the Rebels as double-digit underdogs.
The Rebels started off the game fast, a combination of quarterback Doug Brumfield and running Aidan Robbins picking apart the Warrior defense. Hawaii would come up with a crucial stop on the goal line, one that would pay off dividends later in the game.
Hawaii carried over that momentum to their next drive, a balanced attack of Brayden Schager and Tylan Hines put the Warriors in position to score. Schager found wide receiver Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala in the endzone to cap off a 9-play, 80-yard scoring drive. Hawaii took the lead 7-3 midway through the first quarter.
The rest of the first half featured a theme too common for the Warriors this fall: the offense disappeared while the defense bent but didn’t break to keep the Warriors in the game. UNLV quarterback Doug Brumfield was as advertised, dodging would-be sacks all evening. The Rebels led 13-7 at half.
I was not present in the locker room at halftime. I don’t know if any inspiring speeches occurred at the break, but Hawaii came out in the second half playing with a purpose.
The offense put together a methodical 12-play, 84-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown for wide receiver/tight end Caleb Phillips. Schager was 16/27 for 207 passing yards and three touchdown passes on the evening, one of the better showings of his young career.
UNLV recaptured the lead in the late third quarter to move ahead 16-14. However, Hawaii’s offense turned a corner in this half and would not be denied. A 55-yard bomb from Schager to wide receiver Zion Bowens put the Warriors ahead. Schager had just missed Bowens a few attempts prior but connected when it mattered.
On the ensuing drive, Hawaii linebacker Logan Taylor hauled in a wicked interception on third down and suddenly the juice was flowing for the Warriors. Hawaii stalled in the redzone, tacking on a Matthew Shipley field goal to make the score 24-16.
On the next drive, UNLV’s surefire kicker missed a field goal would’ve cut into the lead. Possibly some cosmic karma for certain events that occurred at halftime...
All that said, it’s 2022 Hawaii football. You just know it’s never going to be easy. Just when it appeared Hawaii had all the momentum, Brayden Schager fumbled the ball and UNLV’s Elijah Shelton scored to cut the score to 24-22. Of course.
On the kickoff, UNLV tried to pull a fast one on Hawaii by blasting the ball straight at Hawaii’s Jordan Murray. Joke was on them; Murray caught it and immediately went down. With good field position and a chance to ice the game, a senior captain put the team on his back. Running back Dedrick Parson scored from 34 yards out.
UNLV attempted some desperate maneuvering in the final minutes, but it wasn’t enough. Hawaii defeated UNLV 31-25 on Senior Night, reclaiming the Island Showdown trophy. A tumultuous season, a tumultuous calendar year really concludes at Manoa with a well-deserved victory. Devastation for a UNLV team that was becoming a trendy conference pick, elation for a Hawaii program that sorely needed something positive.
We have one more game! Hawaii moved to 3-9 (2-5) with this victory and will take on San Jose State next Saturday at 12:30 pm PT. The storylines will be plenty for that one.