BYU recovered from two straight losses, including last week’s debacle against Utah State, with a commanding 49-23 Homecoming win against the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. This win marks the 10th straight game Hawaii has lost to BYU in LaVell Edwards Stadium.
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake announced just hours before the game that true freshman Zach Wilson had secured the starting quarterback position over senior Tanner Mangum. Wilson’s start makes him the youngest player to ever start as quarterback in the history of Cougar football. Junior Cole McDonald started at quarterback for Hawaii for his sixth start of the season.
Another shift in the lineup was seen at the running back position, with freshman Lopini Katoa leading the running backs over senior Squally Canada for his second start of the season.
BYU started a total of six freshmen on offense in the opening drive of the game, including Wilson, Katoa, Gunner Romney, Brady Christensen, Keanu Saleapaga and James Empey.
Following a 12-play drive on BYU’s opening possession, Wilson handed the football to Katoa for a 12-yard run into the end zone. This brought Katoa’s freshman season touchdown count up to five, tying him with Canada for the team high in touchdowns.
After another five-play drive by Hawaii, BYU took over possession of the ball with four minutes left in the quarter. On the seventh play of the drive, Wilson had a 23-yard run into the end zone.
The second quarter opened up with a BYU possession, but, after a pass from Wilson, was intercepted by Hawaii defensive back Rojesterman Farris II, taking over on their 37-yard line. BYU held the Rainbow Warriors to just 17 yards before taking back the football. With 7:24 left in the half, senior Matt Hadley scored his first career touchdown on a 21-yard run.
Isaiah Kaufusi had high numbers during the game, with seven tackles, five of those being solo tackles, and recorded his first career sack and adding a pass break up. On one of Hawaii’s final drives of the half, Kaufusi helped hold the Rainbow Warriors to field goal range. Hawaii kicker Ryan Meskell completed the 33-yard field goal to bring the score to 21-3.
Dylan Collie, former Hawaii captain and current BYU wide receiver, completed his first reception of the game with three minutes left in the half for a 10-yard gain. BYU was later unable to convert the fourth down, and Hawaii took over possession.
Before the half, Dallin Holker brought his first career touchdown to the scoreboard, extending the Cougars’ lead to 28-3 at the half.
BYU opened the second half with the possession but went three and out to the Rainbow Warriors. Hawaii took over the ball, and a personal foul by Trajan Pili took them to BYU’s 28-yard line.
A seven-yard run by the Hawaii quarterback set the Rainbow Warriors up for a touchdown drive. Running back Dayton Furata took the ball to the house for a touchdown after a physical 52-yard drive.
After a muffed punt return led to a fumble recovery, Riley Burt took over at running back for the Cougars. Burt ran the ball on all five plays of the drive, finishing with his first touchdown of the season.
Following a drive totaling nine plays for 69 yards, the Rainbow Warriors answered back with a touchdown run by Furata, bringing Hawaii’s point count up to 17.
With pressure from Hawaii’s defense building, Wilson started the fourth and final quarter switching between his pass game and the run game. After a holding penalty pushed the Cougars back to their own 24, Aleva Hifo got the Cougars their sixth touchdown of the night.
A high pass to the Rainbow Warriors corner by McDonald connected with receiver John Ursua for his ninth reception of the night, resulting in another Hawaii touchdown. The Rainbow Warriors would go on to fail an attempted two-point conversion.
After one more touchdown from Romney, the game ended with a score of 49-23, with BYU racking up a total of 280 rushing yards.
Katoa finished his start at running back with 83 total yards. Other running back standouts included Hadley with a long run of 39 yards and Riley Burt who added a touchdown of his own.
Through the air, Wilson had an impressive first game. He threw 16 completions for 194 yards and three touchdowns while having just one interception in his first career start.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity, and I’m just trying to make the most of it,” Wilson said. “Everyone knows a quarterback can’t be successful without a good line or good receivers or a good scheme, so I think everything’s in place.”
BYU’s defense held Hawaii to just 63 yards rushing. Notable players included Corbin Kaufusi, who had two sacks and eight solo tackles, and Sione Takitaki, who finished with six tackles.
The Cougars scored in every quarter of the game against Hawaii, which they haven’t done since their monumental win against Wisconsin early in the season.
“We made things happen,” Collie said. “This team has a lot of potential, and we’re just going to keep going up and up.”
When asked what made the game so different from the devastating loss against Utah State, Sitake kept it simple.
“A lot of guys contributed to the win, obviously it wasn’t perfect,” Sitake said. “Going into bye week, it makes me feel good about ourselves. We just got over our slump of not playing our style of football.”