HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A 45-31 victory over New Mexico at Albuquerque’s Dreamstyle Stadium nearly turned into a second half nightmare for the Rainbow Warriors.
Thankfully, the 'Bows ability to dash out to a quick lead Saturday helped stymie a furious Lobo comeback.
On just their second play from scrimmage, Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald kept the ball on a read option play and sprinted 75 yards for a touchdown, the longest run of his career.
And Hawaii’s run to start the game was far from over.
Just more than halfway through the first quarter, linebacker Solomon Matautia snatched a pass from New Mexico quarterback Tevaka Tuioti out of the air and galloped into the endzone from 14 yards out.
And in his first game wearing a University of Hawaii uniform in nearly two years, wide receiver Kumoku Noa made an emphatic return, catching a 54-yard touchdown pass on his first reception this season to help Hawaii end the first quarter with a 21-3 lead.
Two more touchdown runs in the second quarter ― by McDonald and running back Miles Reed, each from a yard out ― extended the Warrior lead to 35-3, the team’s best-ever halftime margin away from Aloha Stadium.
In the second half, however, New Mexico refused to quit. Lobos running back Ahmari Davis went nearly untouched on a 67-yard rush in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 35-10.
And that was when the real trouble started.
After a would-be insurance touchdown from Chevan Cordeiro to receiver Lincoln Victor, and a Ryan Meskell 24-yard field goal, the Lobos opened the fourth quarter by scoring 21 points in a span of less than five minutes to trim UH’s lead to 45-31.
Two of those touchdowns were scored against Hawaii’s second-string players, prompting Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich to send the 'Bows starting defensive unit back onto the field to prevent New Mexico slicing further into the lead.
The move proved wise, as starting safety Ikem Okeke intercepted a Tuioti pass late in the fourth quarter to seal the win for Hawaii.
The Rainbow Warriors return home to play Fresno State next Saturday.