A little bit of this and a little bit of that led to the Hawaii football team’s frenetic comeback falling short in Saturday’s 40-32 loss to Boise State.
In an Aloha Stadium void of fans, the Rainbow Warriors came away empty despite scoring 15 unanswered points to close to a one-possession deficit and cliff-hanging drama settled by a series of camera angles.
The Broncos’ ninth victory in a row in this series was finalized on a quarterback’s scramble that left the replay official scrambling for a verdict. On third-and-5 from the UH 33, quarterback Hank Bachmeier was chased from the pass pocket. Bachmeier was knocked out of bounds at what the sideline official initially ruled was the 29, a yard short of the first-down marker.
As the Warriors prepared for either a short-yardage play or field-goal attempt, the appeal was submitted for review. After four minutes, it was decided Bachmeier crossed the sideline at the 28. A measurement showed the ball had reached the first down by the length of a can of Spam.
“I don’t make those calls,” UH head coach Todd Graham said. “It is what it is.”
The Broncos then aligned in victory formation — three times — as the clock wound down the final 110 seconds.
But for the Warriors, there were several pulled strings that unraveled in their third loss in five games of this abbreviated eight-week season. The Warriors dropped 10 passes, missed tackles, mis-read a trick play, and could not kick the ball away from Avery Williams.
After UH’s Calvin Turner scored the first of his three touchdowns on the second half’s opening drive, Matthew Shipley launched a 64-yard kickoff. Williams fielded the ball, faked a throwback to a teammate.
“I have the choice to either throw it or run it,” Williams said. “It depends on the look.”
Williams’ view was pay dirt. He broke for a 99-yard sprint to the end zone.
That boosted the Broncos’ advantage to 26-9 and stole the momentum.
“We’re a big spark team, a big energy team,” Williams said. “Anytime we get a chance to gain the momentum, it’s going to carry on and be better for our team.”
In practices this week, the Warriors worked on punting away from Williams, even if it meant sailing footballs out of bounds. Williams averaged 24 yards per punt return, including a 36-yarder, and nearly breaking away twice for touchdowns. Two of his returns set up Boise State touchdowns.
“The difference in the game was special teams,” Graham said. “Our game plan was not to punt the ball to the return guy, to (No.) 26 (Williams). We punted to him twice, and he almost ran it back for a touchdown twice. We gave them basically 21 points on special teams. … We’re trying to kick the ball out of bounds. We did that all week, and for some reason, we didn’t get it done tonight. We have to do a better job.”
It has been a difficult period for the Broncos, who have had to deal with injuries and pandemic-related circumstances. A week earlier, 14 players did not suit up — nine because of positive tests, five because of contact tracing. Bachmeier was making his third start — and second in a row after emerging from isolation. The Broncos brought 66 players on this trip, eight fewer than the maximum amount for a travel roster. The Broncos also were without their best running back, George Holani, who has missed the past 15 quarters because of an injury.
But the Broncos relied on their basics — a pounding running game that utilizes Andrew Van Buren (113 yards on 27 carries), wideouts on fly sweeps and three tough-blocking tight ends; Khalil Shakir’s versatility (11 catches for 130 yards), and trick plays. Near the end of the first half, wideout CT Thomas took a handoff, ran to his left, then lofted a 3-yard scoring pass to a wide open Shakir.
But the Warriors, behind quarterback Chevan Cordeiro and Turner, who scored 22 points — three touchdowns and two conversion runs — refused to fold.
A key situation came late in the third quarter. Van Buren appeared to fumble at the end of a 5-yard run to the UH 11. “That’s why I called timeout,” Graham said. “I thought the ball came out, and they had just blew the whistle. … I called timeout because I saw the ball come out on the replay (on the scoreboard).”
But the officials did rule that way, and Van Buren scored on an 11-yard run on the next play to make it 40-17.
For more Hawaii football, visit the Warrior Beat blog.