HONOLULU – The University of Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors football team lost a heartbreaker to UNLV, 41-38, in Mountain West play on homecoming weekend in front of a season-high 31,281 Saturday on Hawaiian Tel FCU Field at Aloha Stadium.
For Hawai’i, the loss extended its streak of homecoming defeats to five. The win for UNLV also snapped a seven-game streak in the series where the home team had won.
After a back-and-forth contest, Rainbow Warriors (3-4, 2-1 MW) appeared to catch a couple of breaks in the fourth quarter only to watch the Rebels close the gap and eventually secure the victory with a 28-yard field goal by Evan Pantels with 49 seconds left.
First, after an apparent UNLV fumble recovery, Marcus Kemp alertly touched his fumbled ball while his own feet were out of bounds, allowing Hawai’i to retain possession after review. Running back Paul Harris punched in a score two plays later to give the Warriors a 38-31 lead. UNLV (3-4, 2-1 MW), however, would answer quickly to tie the game with a touchdown on its ensuing drive on a 34-yard touchdown run by Lexington Thomas.
Later, UNLV’s Darius Mouton scooped up a Dru Brown fumble – the only turnover of the game – and his apparent touchdown return was called back due to penalty. The Rebels still managed to march down field setting up Pantels’ game-winning field goal.
Offensively, Brown finished the night going 17-for-32 with two touchdowns. Kemp caught six passes for a career-high 126 yards and surpassed 2,000-yard career mark. Harris led the team with 94 yards rushing and 254 all-purpose yards while Diocemy Saint Juste chipped in with 81 yards on the ground and caught his first career receiving touchdown in the fourth quarter.
After holding each of the previous two opponents to 17 points, the Hawai’i defense surrendered 536 yards of total offense. Jahlani Tavai led the Rainbow Warriors with a career-high 14 tackles.
Neither team could shake free of the other through the first three quarters. UNLV struck first with a touchdown pass from Dalton Sneed before Saint Juste’s 55-yard scamper set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Steven Lakalaka.
The teams exchanged blows for the remainder of the half, each scoring two touchdowns in the second quarter to go into halftime tied at 21-21. The Warriors’ scores came via a two-yard Dakota Torrestouchdown grab—his first career touchdown catch—and a plunge of equal distance from Lakalaka, for his second touchdown of the game.
Both defenses settled in as the scoring slowed in the third quarter. The Rebels got on the scoreboard with a 24-yard field goal before Warrior kicker Rigoberto Sanchez answered with an 18-yarder of his own. With the make, Sanchez moved to a perfect 6-for-6 on field goal attempts this season.
UH freshman Kaimana Padello blocked a punt late in the third quarter, which led to Saint Juste’s score to start the fourth quarter. The touchdown gave Hawai’i its first lead in the second half and the marked first time the UH offense led in total yardage since the opening quarter. Neither lead would hold as a resilient Rebel squad would not go away. UNLV tied the game on the subsequent possession on David Greene’s 1-yard run, his second touchdown of the game.
The Rainbow Warriors will be back in action in a Mountain West contest at Air Force on Saturday, Oct. 22. Kickoff is set for 12:00 p.m. MT/8:00 a.m. HT at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo.