(Photos by Andrew Lee / Hawaii Media Source)
By Kyle Galdeira
Cedric Byrd II caught 14 passes for 224 yards and four touchdowns to help the University of Hawai‘i football team knock off Pac-12 foe Arizona 45-38 at Aloha Stadium to kick off the 2019 college football season Saturday night.
The Rainbow Warriors (1-0) overcame six turnovers – four interceptions and two fumbles lost, which led to 28 points for the Wildcats (0-1) – and racked up 595 yards of total offense, but it was a key defensive stop that cemented the victory.
Trailing by a touchdown with 10 seconds to play at UH’s 31-yard line, Arizona’s senior dual-threat quarterback Khalil Tate scrambled down the right sideline, and cut back toward the post, but came up just a yard short of the endzone as Kalen Hicks and Manly Williams combined to bring him down as the clock expired. Tate led all players with 108 yards rushing on the evening, and added 361 yards and three scores through the air, but the effort was not enough as Hawai‘i defeated the Wildcats for the first time in six meetings.
“I think our defense did a good job, and I’m glad our fans got to experience that,” UH coach Nick Rolovich said. “I’m not sure what my heart rate was (during the exciting finish), but it was fun to be a part of. We were perfect in the red zone…good stuff.”
Hawai‘i quarterback Cole McDonald started off strong, and racked up 378 yards and four touchdowns through the air, but the junior gunslinger threw four interceptions before being removed in favor of redshirt-freshman Chevan Cordeiro late in the third quarter. The former Saint Louis School standout finished the game with 58 yards, including a perfectly timed 30-yard touchdown strike to Byrd that served as the winning touchdown; the receiver was the first player at the Football Bowl Subdivision level to notch four receiving touchdowns in the season-opening game since 1996.
“We were very inconsistent tonight in all three phases…for us to be a better, our level of consistency across the board needs to be better,” said Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin. “It takes all three phases for this to happen. (Byrd) is fast, really fast, he’s hard to tackle. They exploited us in some man-to-man (coverage) and ran right by us.”
Hicks ended up leading the Hawai‘i defense with nine tackles, while teammates Eugene Ford and Kana‘i Picanto picked up a sack apiece.
It was the first time since 2013 that Hawai‘i committed six turnovers, and first time since a 2006 matchup at Idaho that the Rainbow Warriors were victorious after coughing up the ball that many times.
A fired-up crowd of 20,572 sounded and felt more like 40,000 as they collectively stomped their feet and caused the aging stadium to bounce and sway. The teams combined for 1,134 yards of total offense.
UH, which won its fourth consecutive home opener under Rolovich, heads into a bye week before returning to Aloha Stadium on Saturday, September 7 to host Oregon State. The ‘Bows then hit the road a week later to wrap up their Pac-12 swing as they meet Washington in Seattle.