A magical season opener for UH football
HONOLULU – In a Wild West shootout the University of Hawai'i football team held off Arizona, 45-38 to open the 2019 season Saturday at Aloha Stadium. UH senior defenders Kalen Hicks and Manly Williamsstopped Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate at the 1-yard line with time expiring to preserve the victory.
The game marked UH's first victory against Arizona in six tries and its first win over a Pac-12 opponent since the 2015 season-opener when the Rainbow Warriors (1-0) defeated Colorado.
UH never trailed in the game but had to overcome six turnovers and some tense moments, including the heart-stopping final play of the game in which the Wildcats drove 83 yards in 51 seconds.
Hawai'i got a monster game from receiver Cedric Byrd II, while the defense made key plays to ensure the victory. Byrd tied a school record with four receiving touchdowns while also setting career highs with 14 receptions and 224 yards. The senior's final touchdown, a 30-yarder from redshirt freshman Chevan Cordeiro with five minutes remaining, proved to be the game-winner.
Cordeiro, who has made a name for his late-game heroics, replaced starter Cole McDonald late in the 3rdquarter and directed UH on its final two scoring drives of the game. With the score tied at 35, Cordeiro led a game-long 10-play, 51-yard drive, culminating in a 34-yard Ryan Meskell field goal to put the Rainbow Warriors ahead 38-35.
Arizona threatened to take its first lead of the game with over 5 minutes remaining with a lengthy drive of its own. However, UH senior safety Ikem Okeke intervened when he intercepted a pass at the 3-yard drive and returned the ball just beyond midfield. On Hawai'i's ensuing possession, Cordeiro connected with Byrd on a 30-yard touchdown strike on 3rdand 14 – Byrd's fourth of the game – to put UH ahead 45-35.
The Wildcats responded with a field goal in just over a minute to produce what would be the final score. UH punted on the following possession before Arizona began the desperate final drive that reached the 1-yard line as time expired.
In all, offense reigned supreme as the teams amassed 1,100 yards of combined offense. McDonald went 29-of-41 for 378 yards and four touchdowns. The UH offense however was stymied with two lost fumbles and four McDonald interceptions – the last of which resulted in head coach Nick Rolovich's decision to replace McDonald with Cordeiro.
The game was truly a wild affair as UH held a 14-point lead on three occasions and a 10-point lead with five minutes left. While never taking the lead, Arizona capitalized by scoring 28 of its points off six UH turnovers. Tate would finish with 361 yards passing with three touchdowns and 108 yards rushing for the Wildcats.
The Warriors will have a bye next weekend before hosting Oregon State on Saturday, Sept. 7. Kickoff is set for 6:00 p.m. at Aloha Stadium.