Hawaii beats Houston 28-14 in New Mexico Bowl

Sports

Hawaii players gather in the tunnel before the New Mexico Bowl NCAA college football game against Houston in Frisco, Texas, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Strasen)

The University of Hawaii football team closed its season with a 28-14 win over Houston at the New Mexico Bowl in Frisco, Texas.

In a game the Rainbow Warriors weren’t initially expecting to play in, the ‘Bows seized the day and proved to be the more physical team on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense, where they forced three turnovers and had nine tackles for loss.

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After Hawaii punted on the game’s opening possession, Penei Pavihi’s interception at the Houston 8 set up Chevan Cordeiro’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Dae Dae Hunter with 10:43 remaining in the first quarter.

Hawaii capitalized on another interception when Michael Washington picked off Tune at the Hawaii 25 and Cordeiro hit Calvin Turner for a 75-yard score on the very next play, extending the lead to 14-0 with 3:35 left in the first quarter.

The Rainbow Warriors stretched their lead to 21-0 with 8:05 left in the second quarter after Cordeiro’s 4-yard shovel pass to Jonah Laulu, who typically plays defensive tackle but was also lined up at tight end in multiple drives against Houston.

The Cougars, who were missing approximately 15 players due to a variety of reasons including opt-outs, were held to 87 yards of offense in the first half.

Houston got on the board with a methodical 17-play, 75-yard drive that took 7:21 off the clock to begin the second half, which ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Tune to Nathaniel Dell. After Hawaii had a three-and-out, the Cougars drove down the field and scored again on Christian Trahan’s 26-yard reception from Tune.

But on the ensuing kickoff, Turner once again gave the national ESPN audience a glimpse of his explosiveness, returning a 92-yard touchdown to give Hawaii a 28-14 lead with 3:29 left in the third quarter, which proved to be the final score of the game.

The ‘Bows seemingly sealed the game on Khoury Bethley’s fourth down sack on the Hawaii 39 with 3:26 remaining in the game. Bethley finished with 14 tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks, which were all game highs. Meanwhile, Mililani’s Darius Muasau was named the game’s defensive MVP after logging nine tackles, a sack and an interception.

Cordeiro completed 15 of his 23 passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 33 yards on the ground on eight carries. With 463 rushing yards for the 2020 season, he becomes Hawaii’s first quarterback to lead the team in rushing since Michael Carter in 1991.

Turner, meanwhile, finished with 60 rushing yards on 12 carries and 88 receiving yards on four catches to take home offensive MVP honors. He finishes his tantalizing 2020 season with 1,201 all-purpose yards. The senior is free to return for the 2021 season but has also received pro interest and could decide to enter the NFL Draft within a few weeks.

Tune completed 20 of his 38 passes for 216 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. After suffering an apparent injury, he was substituted in favor of Logan Holgorsen, the son of Houston coach Dana Holgorsen, who completed one of his five passes for 33 yards.

Hawaii coach Todd Graham closes the 2020 campaign with his 100th career win. The win also served as the program’s first mainland bowl win since the 1992 Holiday Bowl.

Hawaii is now 2-0 against Houston. The first matchup between the UH programs came in the 2003 Hawaii Bowl, a 54-48 victory for Hawaii.

Houston finishes the 2020 season at 3-5, while Hawaii improved to 5-4 to seal a winning season. Hawaii enters the offseason with some uncertainty on where it’ll play its home games for the next few seasons, as Aloha Stadium will not be able to host the Rainbow Warriors for the foreseeable future.

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