The University of Hawaii defeated BYU 38-34 at the SoFi Hawaii Bowl Honolulu on Dec. 24, 2019.
The visiting BYU football team captains presented the UH football team captains with leis before the coin toss, which BYU won.
There were early frustrations on offense for both teams. BYU’s first possession saw quarterback Zach Wilson unable to complete many passes.
Eventually UH built up steam with receptions by wide receivers JoJo Ward and Jared Smart. UH quarterback Cole McDonald completed a pass from the 10-yard line to Smart for the first touchdown of the game.
Before the end of the quarter, Hawaii had three receivers who had accumulated over 1000 yards this season: Cedric Byrd, Smart and Ward.
BYU’s first push was quickly squashed by an interception from Hawaii’s Khoury Bethley before McDonald completed a pass to Smart for another Hawaii touchdown.
BYU began to build up momentum with Wilson completing multiple first-down passes that resulted in BYU’s first touchdown being scored on a run by fellow BYU sophomore Lopini Katoa.
UH fired back with a 58-yard reception by Smart, ending the first quarter deep inside Cougar territory.
At the start of the second quarter, UH capitalized on the favorable position, with McDonald running it in. Due to controversy, though, it had to be done twice as the first touchdown was called back.
BYU’s ensuing drive started with a one-yard completion to Matt Bushman before the Cougars marched down the field. A one-yard run courtesy of Wilson brought BYU within one touchdown of the Rainbow Warriors, bringing the score to 21-14 UH.
Hawaii’s McDonald completed another 47-yard pass, but BYU’s defense managed to sack the Hawaii quarterback to regain some lost footing.
On the next play, BYU’s Zac Dawe was able to sack the Hawaii quarterback, and UH was forced to attempt a field goal. However, the ball was originally thought to be stripped then recovered by Dawe, which would have forced a turnover. The ruling on the field was overturned, and Hawaii converted on the field goal.
BYU wide receiver Micah Simon was able to complete BYU’s following drive with an 11-yard run before Jake Oldroyd converted the extra point to shrink the score gap to 24-21 UH.
The first penalty of the game would be given to UH on its following drive, a five-yard penalty on a false start by Darius Muasau.
UH scored once again with a completion to Jason-Matthew Sharsh to increase its lead to 31-21. Wilson was sacked by Derek Thomas for a three-yard loss after yet another penalty against UH, and BYU was forced to settle for a field goal in its response to the Hawaii touchdown after a series of unsuccessful passes, bringing the score to 31-24 UH.
BYU opened the third quarter strong with a push deep into UH territory and a touchdown carried through by Wilson. A successful conversion tied the score at 31-31.
After its third drive into UH territory, BYU nearly scored another touchdown but was stopped after Wilson was hit in the air in an attempt to jump over the defense, causing a fumble that was recovered by UH.
BYU forced a punt from UH to change possession of the ball, then pushed deep into Hawaii territory once again and the quarter ended with BYU approaching UH’s goal line.
BYU’s defense ramped up in the third quarter, which BYU senior Trajan Pili credited to a return to the game plan.
“We just went back to doing what we were supposed to be doing in the second half,” Pili said.
The start of the fourth quarter saw BYU take the lead for the first time after UH forced the Cougars to settle for a field goal. The score was 34-31 BYU.
The Warriors fought back with McDonald completing 46-yard pass to Ward. BYU’s defense held, forcing UH to make an unsuccessful field goal attempt and returning the ball to BYU’s hands.
BYU’s Tyler Allgeier made a 36-yard run on the ensuing drive, followed by a run by Wilson.
BYU was penalized for the first time in the game when Jackson McChesney was called for a false start. This call was followed up by yet another call against UH when Davis Cortez was penalized for pass interference.
After a turnover gave Hawaii possession of the ball, BYU’s defense held as sophomore Alema Pilimai cut through Hawaii’s offensive line to score a sack on the Warriors’ quarterback, which forced the Warriors to punt.
The Warrior defense kept the Cougars from gaining momentum, and BYU was forced to punt on its following drive.
McDonald completed two passes to Nick Mardner — a 48-yard pass followed by another for a touchdown, bringing the Warriors ahead once again with a score of 38-34. McDonald passed for 493 yards, the second-highest in the event’s history, only exceeded by former Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan’s 559 yards. McDonald passed nearly double Wilson’s 274 yards.
BYU’s hopes of coming back late in the quarter were ended after Bethley intercepted a pass by Wilson.
Though spirits were somber after the defeat, there were a few highlights of the game, including the longest ball carry of the game by BYU’s Aleva Hifo, who credited his team with his success.
“It had to do with the ten guys in front of me,” Hifo said.
Reflecting on the game, BYU football head coach Kalani Sitake said that it was the big plays that forced BYU to fall behind the opposition.
“The big plays were the issue, we missed a lot of big plays,” Sitake said. “I have to do a better job as a coach and make sure that the players can capitalize on those big plays.”
Sitake also had a few compliments for the victors. He said opposing quarterback McDonald was NFL-ready.