Story By: Pointed Magazine Staff
Photo By: Sports Photos Direct
Going into the season the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors were given no more than a puncher’s chance in both of their first two games, but they came out swinging and the underdogs have landed two knockout punches against heavy favorites.
It’s only Sept. 2, but it feels like the biggest turnaround of college football in 2018 is happening in Hawaii.
It started with Head Coach Nick Rolovich, who like a fighter against the ropes, made sweeping changes as soon as possible following a disappointing 3-9 campaign last season. The majority of the coaching staff was overhauled and about 40 new players were brought in this offseason which can be the recipe for a rebuild but not often an instant turnaround.
But the biggest difference in 2018 is undoubtedly the offense’s return to the run-and-shoot offense, and the quarterback play of Cole McDonald. Plenty of teams try to air out the ball with young quarterbacks, and many see quick three-and-outs that put their defense in harm’s way quickly. But Hawaii’s offense seems to run as if it had never gone away from the signature scheme, and McDonald is running in like he has been doing it his whole career not a couple of months.
Just like Hawaii’s season-opening win at Colorado State, it was McDonald’s clutch third down play and Rolovich’s aggressiveness on fourth down that set the fighting tone. On fourth down with two yards to go, Rolovich kept the offense on the field and they rewarded his decision with a run by Fred Holly to keep the drive going and set up a 7-0 start for the Warriors.
A quick three-and-out by the UH defense was cashed in when McDonald completed a 16-yard pass on third-and-11. Hawaii was up 14-0 shortly after.
Fourth-and-four from the Navy 34-yard-line? No problem, just the right circumstances for McDonald to hit JoJo Ward for a touchdown pass and a quick 21-0 lead over the visiting Navy Midshipmen, who entered as two-touchdown favorites.
A 50-yard touchdown pass from McDonald to John Ursua also came on fourth-and-one, putting UH up 35-7.
In all, McDonald completed 30 of 41 passes for 428 yards, 6 touchdowns and zero interceptions. That makes 846 yards, 9 touchdowns and no interceptions in his first two starts along with 82 rushing yards and two more touchdowns on the ground.
Like Colorado State, Navy was able to storm back against the Hawaii defense and close the gap to 10, but Hawaii still capped an impressive 18-point win by a score of 59-41.
For perspective, this is a Navy program led by Ken Niumatalolo that is a machine at the group of five level, with winning seasons in nine of its last 10 seasons. They are constantly playing high-powered offenses in the AAC, but their worst loss margin of 2017 came by 10 points to undefeated UCF. Navy has only suffered losses of 18 or more points three times dating back to 2013.Over the next four weeks, Hawaii will play a Rice team that barely escaped with an FCS win in Week 0, a trip to Army (who fell 34-14 to Duke), an FCS program in Duquesne, and a trip to San Jose State (who lost to UC Davis in their season opener). If Hawaii keeps this up, they could be 6-0 heading into October. Just a month ago this same UH team was given an over/under of 3.5 wins.
Navy has it’s home opener is this Saturday at 3:30pm, September 8 vs a very tough Memphis Team.