McDonald, defense help lift ‘Bows over UNLV to secure bowl berth

McDonald, defense help lift ‘Bows over UNLV to secure bowl berth
Quarterback Cole McDonald celebrates after beating UNLV on Saturday. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the first time in more than a decade, dice have rolled the Hawaii football team’s way in Sin City.

In front of thousands of Warrior faithful at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday afternoon, quarterback Cole McDonald rushed for a pair of touchdowns and cornerback Cortez Davis returned an interception for a score to help Hawaii beat UNLV, 21-7.

It was Hawaii’s first win in Las Vegas since the 2007 season. More importantly ― for the members of this year’s squad, at least ― the win secured a bowl berth for the third time in four seasons under head coach Nick Rolovich.

Things were dicey at the start; Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, who started the contest after a strong performance last week against San Jose State, threw a pair of first half interceptions and was replaced by McDonald, the team’s starter for much of the season, on the first drive of the second quarter.

Hawaii also lost a fumble in the first quarter and turned the ball over on downs to UNLV after a failed fourth down conversion in what essentially amounted to a four-turnover first quarter.

But Hawaii’s defense, for the first time in weeks, appeared to have been the 'Bows strong suit on Saturday. UNLV’s only touchdown came on a 31-yard touchdown pass after a Cordeiro interception, and the Rebels were held 235 yards of offense and just 13 first downs.

McDonald led the Rainbow Warriors down the field on his first possession, but a fourth down play from the Rebels’ three yard line was unsuccessful. He converted his first rushing touchdown of the game on the team’s next drive, a 10-play, 90-yard possession that ended in a one-yard score.

The 43-yard interception return by Davis came with just over a minute and a half to go in the third quarter, and McDonald’s two-yard touchdown run with 11:31 to play in the game was the contest’s final score.

Because Hawaii can still mathematically win the Mountain West conference, the 'Bows were not immediately invited to this year’s SoFi Hawaii Bowl. But if or when the Rainbow Warriors receive one, they already have an opponent lined up: BYU accepted an invitation to play in the game after their victory Saturday.

The Rainbow Warriors return home to Aloha Stadium next week to host San Diego State in what has effectively become a championship game for the Mountain West Conference’s West Division.

The winner would likely go on to play Boise State for the overall Mountain West Conference championship.

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