The University of Hawai’i football team used a strong start to propel themselves to a 35-16 Homecoming win over Central Arkansas Saturday at Aloha Stadium. The Rainbow Warriors improved to 3-1 on the year.
UH raced out to a 28-0 lead after a quarter-and-half of action and maintained a double-digit lead from then on. Hawai’i extended its win streak versus FCS opponents to 17 dating back to 2001 and won its third straight Homecoming Game.
The Warriors turned the ball over four times in the game including on the game’s opening series but responded with a defensive touchdown followed by three offensive scores to stake a four-touchdown lead. However, the Bears (3-1) responded by scoring the next 16 points to pull within 12 early in the fourth quarter.
“That’s the worst feeing I’ve ever been in a locker room with a win. And I don’t know why it is. And I hope I didn’t cause it. They’re happy we got a win but it really wasn’t a very excited locker room. It was almost somber and I don’t know what to say about it to be honest with you,” said head coach Nick Rolovich following the game.
UH put the icing on the cake with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Cole McDonald to freshman Lincoln Victor with 3:27 remaining. McDonald finished with 300 yards passing and four touchdowns to four different receivers. Jared Smart had a career-high eight receptions for 121 yards and a score.
Hawai’i got on the board first when safety Kai Kaneshiro, who made his first career start, snagged a deflected pass mid-air and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown. It was UH’s first defensive touchdown in 18 games and sparked a defensive effort which allowed only 189 yards passing to UCA, well below the Bears’ average of 351.3 per game.
Central Arkansas cut the lead to 28-16 early in the fourth quarter on a 23-yard run by Carlos Blackman, who fueled the Bears offense with 147 yards on the ground. Blackman also threw a 4-yard pass in the second quarter.
After scoring on three consecutive offensive possessions in the first half, the Warriors offense stalled on their next five, three by turnovers. Leading 28-16 in the fourth quarter, McDonald directed a 12-play, 89-yard drive that sealed the victory. McDonald completed 7-of-8 passes on that drive including two completions to Victor, who made his first collegiate appearance. Victor finished with three catches for 33 yards and a touchdown.
Although the Warriors start their season with three wins in four games, with two of those victories coming over Pac-12 opponents in Arizona and Oregon State, the minus-12 turnover ratio that ranks last in the nation does cause reason for an unsatisfied feeling for UH.
“I think they all know we could have played better and made more plays. Because I think they all know what’s coming up in conferences is really. Every week ’til we end this thing is going to be a real challenge. Yah I heard this quote sometime along my journey in this game. You have to learn when you win and this is as good of an example of being critical and adressing these issues as I’ve probably been a part of,” added Rolovich.
The Warriors next open up Mountain West play on the road, facing Nevada (3-1) on Saturday, Sept. 28. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT/4:30 p.m. HT and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.