The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors were primed to earn their first Mountain West conference win Saturday night, but the Lobos pulled off a stunning fourth quarter comeback to best Hawaii 28-27.
With a 27-21 lead, Hawaii got the ball back with 8:27 left in the fourth quarter. The UH offense gave the Lobos defense a heavy dose of the rushing attack as they marched down to the UNM 5 yard line, running the ball on 11 out of 12 plays. This set up a 22-yard field goal opportunity for Hawaii’s Rigoberto Sanchez, who had already cashed in career best kicks from 49 yards and 47 yards earlier in the game. With 2:14 remaining, a field goal here would give the Rainbow Warriors a two-possession lead, but Sanchez missed the chip shot, leaving the door open for a dramatic Lobos comeback. It appeared that UH would get another shot at the field goal try as a flag was thrown for leaping over the center, but after a conference between the officials, the flag was waved off.
New Mexico’s triple option offense had been anemic in its previous three drives in the fourth quarter, prompting a strategic change. Instead of Lamar Jordan under center, the Lobos turned to Austin Apodoca to lead the comeback. Apodoca possesses a better passing skill set, as the Lobos ditched their normal triple option scheme and opted to run an aerial spread offense instead. Apodoca complete 4-of-5 on the game-winning drive, as he found Dameon Gamblin for a 28-yard TD strike, tying the game up at 27. The ensuing extra point was good putting the Lobos up 28-27 with 55 seconds left to play.
The Rainbow Warriors only hope was to march down the field and get into field goal range for a chance for Sanchez to redeem himself. However, after earning one first down, on third down Ikaika Woolsey was intercepted by Lee Crosby. Crosby earned his second pick of the game, while icing the Lobos victory.
Despite having a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver, Hawaii remains winless in Mountain West play. Paul Harris got into the end zone twice on 127 yards on 24 carries. Woosley made his first start of the season and slung it for 195 yards on 13 of 25 passing with 1 TD and 2 interceptions. Woosley’s main target was freshman slot receiver Dylan Collie, who hauled in 7 passes for a career high 113 yards along with 1 TD. Don Bailey’s offense racked up 415 yards of total offense, 220 of those yards coming via the run, outrushing the 11th ranked Lobos attack.
Defensive end Kennedy Tulimasealii had an outstanding game as he disrupted the Lobos triple option rushing attack. Tulimasealii finished with 7 tackles, 2 of them for loss along with a forced fumble and fumble recovery. However, Hawaii’s defense could not stop the Lobos’ new look spread attack offense late in the fourth quarter.
The Rainbow Warriors fall to (2-5), facing an 0-3 MW record with Nevada as their second consecutive road opponent next Saturday in Reno. The Wolf Pack (3-4) are 1-2 in MW play after falling to Wyoming (1-6, 1-2 MW) in Laramie on Saturday, 28-21.