10 quick thoughts on Hawaii’s thrilling 45-38 win over Arizona.
Hawaii 45, Arizona 38
10. Arizona did just about everything wrong and STILL came within a yard of pulling it off. Khalil Tate had the lane wide open, he had the burst, he had the goal line, and he couldn’t get that one final yard to power into the end zone to potentially tie the game. Hawaii’s Manly Williams had a little to do with that after hustling down the field, but after all the issues throughout the game, Tate came ridiculously close to pulling off a miracle.
Give Hawaii credit for surviving, but this game was just as much about Arizona whiffing with a strange overall game plan – where was the consistent running game, and where was the pass rush? – as it was about Hawaii overcoming its own adversity to get it done.
9. Hawaii put up close to 600 yards. The defense didn’t allow a touchdown in the first or fourth quarters, and it survived a sloppy day from the offense to win. Hawaii turned it over six times, committed seven penalties, and beat a Pac-12 team.
8. Now what do you with the Hawaii quarterback situation? Cole McDonald completed 29-of-41 passes for 378 yards and four scores, but he threw four picks and almost got nailed for several more. He’s way too good not to keep getting his shot, and he’s way too erratic for the coaching staff to not go with Chevan Cordeiro.
7. Give Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich credit for halting the momentum change in the second half and making the switch when he needed to. McDonald was way too careless with the ball, in came Cordeiro, and the offense got more from the ground game and the O settled down. Cordeiro completed 5-of-7 passes for 58 yards with a brilliant touchdown pass, and he ran for 34 yards.
6. Arizona apparently didn’t watch the Hawaii Bowl. Louisiana Tech got into the backfield from the start, pounded on the Rainbow Warrior quarterbacks, and shut the offense down cold. The Wildcat three-man front didn’t do enough to bother either Hawaii QB, especially early on when McDonald was taking target practice.
5. Tate finished with 108 rushing yards, but most came on that one ill-fated final play. Forget the stats; he left a whole lot of yards on the table to keep from getting popped. That’s the smart move overall, but when the game needed to be settled down and the O needed to go on a big drive to give the D a break, the rushing attack wasn’t used enough …
4. It’s ridiculous that JJ Taylor got just 14 carries, coming up with 67 yards and a touchdown. Up until that final Tate run, Hawaii outgained the Wildcats – the Pac-12’s leading rushing team last season – on the ground.
3. Well hello, Cedric Byrd. Arizona couldn’t step up and stop the one guy it had to take out of the passing game. The Hawaii receiver always found the openings, started out hot, and he torched the Wildcats for 224 yards and four touchdowns on 14 catches.
2. How did Hawaii really do this? Time of possession. The offense might have been way too clunky, but it hit its third down plays – 5-of-10 – and Arizona didn’t, converting just 3-of-11 tries. Hawaii connected on 2-of-3 fourth down tries, and Arizona didn’t take enough chances until it was too late.
Hawaii had the ball for almost 38 minutes, it controlled the tempo and the game throughout, and it manhandled a Power Five program while dictating the action from the start. This might not have been pretty at times for the Rainbow Warriors, but they did just about everything possible to blow it, and they still pulled it off. Now they get more Pac-12 games against Oregon State and Washington, but at least they got one win.
1. This loss isn’t a killer for the Pac-12 – there are plenty of other chances to make up for it – but it’s an awful look for a league that could desperately use a hot start and a national buzz. Of course playing in Hawaii is always funky, but it’s the opening game of the year – it’s not like the Wildcats didn’t have time to prepare for what was coming – and there was nothing sharp or crisp about the gameplan that had to be changed up on the fly.
Arizona is the Power Five program with the talent and depth to have won this going away, and it played a bad all-around game with ten sloppy penalties and two turnovers.
Now, with Texas Tech up in a few weeks along with road games at USC, Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State – along with home dates against Utah and Washington – getting to six wins and bowl eligibility will likely be an uphill climb.