For a few fleeting minutes, it appeared as though the University of Hawaii football team was up for the challenge.
But as the rest of its season opener against Vanderbilt unfolded, with the visitors unloading haymaker after haymaker, it became clear there’s still much work to be done in Manoa.
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In what was the 2022 season opener for both teams, as well as the official grand opening of the Timmy Chang era as UH’s new head coach, Vanderbilt, which went 2-10 in 2021, walked away a vicious 63-10 victor.
Hawaii scored the first touchdown of the game in the game’s opening drive. From there, it was all Commodores.
After a full offseason without naming a starter, it was sophomore Brayden Schager who earned the nod at quarterback for the Rainbow Warriors.
The Rainbow Warriors received to start the game, and began the game with a methodical but quick drive that went for 75 yards in eight plays, ending with Dedrick Parson’s 37-yard touchdown run on third-and-2 with 12:18 left in the first quarter.
After struggling to gain any traction on offense, Vanderbilt scored two touchdowns within 15 seconds of each other to close the first quarter with a bang. The first came on a 1-yard pass from Mike Wright to a wide open Will Sheppard. Then on the next play from scrimmage, linebacker Anfernee Orji scored on a 28-yard fumble return after a Parson fumble.
A 40-yard field goal by Matthew Shipley cut Hawaii’s deficit to 14-10 with 10:24 left in the second quarter, but the Commodores took a 21-10 lead with 6:01 left in the first half on a 1-yard option keeper from Wright.
Vanderbilt came out firing to start the second half, needing just three plays to extend its lead to 28-10 on Rocko Griffin’s 10-yard score with 14:04 left in the third.
Joey Yellen took the field as Hawaii’s quarterback, but the onslaught only worsened from there. Vanderbilt outscored Hawaii 35-0 in the third quarter, and added a 7-yard rushing score by Cooper Lutz with 3:37 remaining for the game’s final score.
Schager eventually reentered the game for Hawaii, finishing 18-for-35 with 161 yards, while Yellen completed 10 of his 20 pass attempts for 89 yards. Neither threw a touchdown or an interception. Jonah Panoke had a game-high 101 receiving yards on seven receptions.
Vanderbilt punished Hawaii on the ground to the tune of 404 yards, including 163 from Wright, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for an additional two.
Max Worship had a game-high seven tackles for Vanderbilt.
For Hawaii, Virdel Edwards and Leonard Lee each had a team-high six tackles. The Rainbow Warriors did not have a single sack or tackle for loss, while the Commodores had three and seven, respectively.
Next up for Hawaii is a home game against Western Kentucky on Sept. 3. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.