HONOLULU— In a game that the University of Hawai’i football team never trailed, it took a missed two-point conversion from Louisiana Monroe for the Rainbow Warriors to scratch out a 28-26 victory, Saturday night at Hawaiian Airlines Field at Aloha Stadium.
UH snapped a nine-game losing streak giving the departing 23 seniors a final victory in their college career. The victory was also the first under interim head coach Chris Naeole. Nevada offensive coordinator and former Rainbow Warrior player and assistant Nick Rolovich will be officially named UH’s new head coach on Monday.
Leading 28-20 late in the fourth quarter, the Warriors botched a shotgun snap which ULM’s Lorenzo Jackson recovered in the endzone. With a chance to tie, the Warhawks were unable to convert the ensuing 2-point conversion as the ball slipped through the hands of a receiver. The touchdown capped a 16-point turnaround after the Warriors took a 28-10 lead early in the second half.
UH running back Paul Harris continued his run of stellar play rushing for 166 yards and a touchdown before leaving with an injury in the third quarter. For Harris it was his fourth consecutive 100-yard game tying a school record last set in 1979. It is marked the first time since 2010 a UH rusher eclipsed 1,000 yards.
In the first half, the UH front seven was able to get continuous pressure, finding themselves in the ULM backfield, while Warhawks quarterback Earnest Carrington found himself on the turf multiple times. Hawai’i held the Warhawks to 163 total yards in the first half while generating four sacks and six pass breakups in the game. Senior defensive backs Marrell Jackson and Ne’Quan Phillips led the team with nine total tackles each.
Quarterback Ikaika Woolsey threw for 116 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 36 yards and two more scores. Woolsey found senior tight end Harold Moleni for his first touchdown of the year and wide receiver Makoa Camanse-Stevens for the other.
UH took advantage of an early fumble on a ULM punt return to notch the first score of the game. Taking over at midfield Harris gained all 50 of the team’s yards, eventually punching it in from 12-yards out, making the score 7-0 early in the first quarter.
Woolsey would follow Harris’ lead and rush for his own touchdown, this one an 8-yard score, pushing the ‘Bows lead to 14-3 with 6:04 remaining in the first half. ULM would answer with a 30-yard field goal and a late touchdown strike to wide receiver Xavier Brown with only 24 seconds remaining in the half, cutting the deficit to 21-10 at halftime.
Harris and the UH ground game continued to be fruitful early in the second half as they drove the ball down the field for a quick score. The drive spanned just over three minutes with Woolsey scoring his second rushing touchdown of the game, this time a 6-yard score.
The game capped a frustrating season for the Warriors, who started 2-1 before dropping nine straight, including all eight Mountain West contests. UH finished with double-digit losses for just the fourth time in school history and saw its head coach removed with a month left in the season.