HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After a 43 year absence, the NFL ― well, the NFL preseason, anyway ― has come back to Aloha Stadium.
On a scorching-hot afternoon in Halawa, more than 49,000 sun-soaked fans watched the Dallas Cowboys top the Los Angeles Rams, the defending NFC Champions and the host team for the Hawaii outing.
The crowd was the largest to watch a football game at Aloha Stadium since the Pro Bowl’s last appearance there in 2016 ― but Saturday’s game a 14-10 ball game won by the Dallas Cowboys was no half-speed scrimmage, as the NFL’s all-star event has infamously become.
After a six-play game-opening drive for the Rams ended in a punt, Cowboys star quarterback Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense marched straight down the field, executing a 12-play, 97-yard drive that ended when rookie running back Tony Pollard scored on a 14-yard run off the right side.
“(Pollard) did a good job running the football,” said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. “When you play against Wade Phillips, he’s gonna do everything he can do stop the run on early downs. Tony is very poised. It kinda follows what we’ve seen in practice.”
Prescott ― who went 5-5 on the drive, for 64 yards ― did not return to the field after the opening drive.
“He’s played well in practice, played well in preseason games. That follows how (Prescott) prepares,” Garrett said.
The Rams’ starting quarterback played even fewer snaps than Prescott; Jared Goff was one of a handful of starters who didn’t even make the trip to Hawaii for the game, let alone make it to the field of play.
Instead, former Jaguars starter Blake Bortles played the entire first quarter, turning in an impressive outing of his own: 7-of-11 passing, for 62 yards and a seven-yard touchdown to wideout JoJo Natson to tie the game at 7.
A Greg Zuerlein field goal gave the Rams a 10-7 lead at the halfway point, though he missed a 52-yard attempt late in the half that would’ve further extended the lead.
Cowboys backup quarterback Cooper Rush threw an eight-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to retake the lead and provide the game’s final scoring play.
For the most part, the trip to Hawaii ― even if they left some of their star players back in Los Angeles ― was a sound experience for the Rams, who have made a concerted effort to team up with the Hawaii Tourism Authority in an effort to target Hawaii-based fans.
“What a great atmosphere and environment it was,” said Sean McVay, the Los Angeles Rams head coach. “The fans were awesome from start to finish. Being here in general has been a great experience for our organization.”
“We thought it was a fantastic couple days. The hospitality was off the charts,” he said. “So much fun to play here at Aloha Stadium. Think about all the great players who have played here, because they played the Pro Bowl here for so many years.”