Hawaii’s trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico presented a rare opportunity to pick up a road victory. On paper, at least, the Warriors floated between being a 1-point underdog and favorite. A toss-up. Not the usual case for a program that historically struggles on the road. Add in the fact that it was unseasonably warm at University Stadium, and one could not blame Hawaii fans for feeling like they had a decent chance to win this game. After all, the Lobos were riding an insane 20-game losing streak at home. You read that correctly.
Instead, Hawaii football endured what can be characterized as one of the worst losses in program history. No exaggeration, Hawaii was thoroughly dominated by a New Mexico program that’s struggled mightily under head coach Danny Gonzales. New Mexico beat Hawaii 42-21, a scoreline that flatters the Warriors.
Disastrous first half
The 2023 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are used to slow starts. The first quarter in particular has been a miserable experience this fall, and Saturday’s game in Albuquerque was no different. Hawaii received the ball to open the game and immediately went three-and-out, meaning the Warriors are now 0-7 this season when it comes to scoring on opening drives. The script for these opening drives is going straight to VHS (do the youths know what a VHS is?).
On the other side of the ball, Hawaii’s defense quite simply could not have played worse. New Mexico’s offense is improved this season, but still struggling to an extent. Hawaii conceded touchdowns on New Mexico’s first four drives as Lobos quarterback Dylan Hopkins picked the defense apart, 14/17, 146 passing yards and two touchdown passes.
Hawaii’s offense did manage to add two scoring drives in the first half, one resulting in a Steven McBride touchdown, the other a strike to wide receiver Pofele Ashlock to keep Hawaii in striking defense. Nonetheless, it was a shocking first half performance from the Hawaii defense as the Lobos led 28-14 at the break.
Second half wasn’t much better
New Mexico was coming off a blowout loss to San Jose State in which the Lobos performed admirably through one half, only to watch that effort be undone by a 38-0 blitzing in the second half from the Spartans. That was the hope Hawaii was clinging to, that the Lobos would falter after the break again.
That did not happen. A 12-play, 75-yard opening scoring drive capped off by a 17-yard strike from Dylan Hopkins to Jeremiah Hixon pushed the score to 35-14 and the Lobos didn’t look back. Hawaii turned the ball over on downs twice and quarterback Brayden Schager tossed three interceptions in the second half. Hawaii would lose 42-14 in the most shocking result to date in the Chang era.
This is rock bottom
I’ve personally preached patience with Timmy Chang and this Hawaii football program and will continue to do so. Recruiting is pointing upward with some intriguing talent, but the honeymoon is over for Timmy Chang and his staff. Let’s be real: blowout losses on the mainland are not an unusual tale for Hawaii football. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. Such is life when travel is so difficult.
This, however, was different. To be completely dismantled by a New Mexico football program that by all accounts is right next to Hawaii in the MWC cellar, in a game where Hawaii was a slight favorite at times during the week, is a wakeup call for all involved on Hawaii’s sideline. Timmy Chang’s winless record away from home continues in shocking fashion.
Hat tip to New Mexico. It’s been a rough ride for Danny Gonzales and his program. This victory will surely sooth the soul. For Hawaii, though, the honeymoon is over for Timmy Chang and company. Nobody is getting fired, not even close (although maybe a few assistants should feel nervous), but the feel-good hero come home story for Chang has been shelved in favor of a narrative that things don’t seem to be improving more than halfway through year #2.
On paper, New Mexico was Hawaii’s easiest remaining opponent. This is rock bottom and Hawaii needs to respond positively or this season could spiral out of control.
Hawaii will host San Jose State next Saturday, October 28th at 6 pm HST.