Believe it or not, the college football season is officially underway. Eight teams kicked off their 2018 seasons Saturday, including a future opponent for the Florida Gators. Colorado State, who the Gators will see Sept. 15, opened its season against Hawaii. Coming into the game, the Rams were 17 point favorites. It took the Rams close to the end of the third quarter to score 17 points, while Hawaii got close to the point total at the start of the second quarter. The Rainbow Warriors stormed out of the gates, launching an early all-out offensive assault on the Rams. Led by sophomore quarterback Cole McDonald, Hawaii upset the heavily favored Rams 43-34 in the season opener Saturday.
INSTANT HIGHLIGHTS: Enjoy highlights from the first game of the #MWFB season! @HawaiiFootball survives the comeback bid from @CSUFootball to start the season with a win #MWLateNight pic.twitter.com/aX57G6jBNz
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) August 26, 2018
Coming into the 2018 season, Colorado State had some turnover on the defensive side. The team brought back just five returning starters and John Jancek was hired from Kentucky as the team’s new defensive coordinator. The inexperience of the Rams defense was a perfect opportunity for Hawaii’s Cole McDonald. The sophomore got the start for Hawaii after beating out several transfers for the job. He showed why he won the job Saturday. McDonald led the team right down the field on the first drive of the season and capped it off with a four-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver John Ursua.
After getting a field goal on the team’s second drive, McDonald stroke again, but this time with his feet. He ran the ball for a 12-yard touchdown to give Hawaii the 16-7 lead. They went for two but failed. Two drives later, McDonald did it again, running the ball six-yards for his second rushing touchdown of the day with just seconds remaining in the half, giving the Rainbow Warriors a commanding 23-7 lead.
On the team’s first drive of the second half, McDonald connected with Ursua again from 12 yards out for the touchdown to make it a 30-7 game. After a Rams missed field goal, McDonald capped off the night with a 55-yard bomb to junior wide receiver Cedric Byrd, who got behind the lackadaisical defense, to give Hawaii a 37-7 lead.
McDonald finished the night 26-37, 514 total yards (418 passing and 96 rushing on nine attempts) and all five of the team’s touchdowns (three passing and two rushing).
Tough But Not Enough
Even though the Rams were down 30 points late in the third quarter, they were able to make things interesting late in the game. After the Rainbow Warriors went up 37-7, senior quarterback K.J. Carta-Samules connected sophomore receiver Preston Williams for a 69 yard gain, bringing them to the Hawaii six-yard line. The two would connect again just two plays later for a 7-yard touchdown completion. This cut the Hawaii lead to 23.
Rams junior nickel back Braylin Scott forced a fumble on Hawaii junior running back Dayton Furuta. The turnover gave the Rams the ball back. They would punt on the drive. On the next Rams’ possession, it took Carta-Samules just four passes of double-digit yardage to get the Rams back in the end zone. Carta-Samuels connected with Williams again for the 26-yard touchdown. The Rams were inching ever closer to the Rainbow Warriors, with the score now at 37-27.
Hawaii would extend its lead to 13 with a 30-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Ryan Meskell. The Rams marched right back down the field and scored a touchdown off a Carta-Samuels nine-yard touchdown pass to senior running back Izzy Mathews. Colorado State was now within a touchdown of retaking the lead with the score at 40-34 with 4:42 remaining.
The Rams tried to stop the Hawaii offense, but they were able to get into field goal range and put the game out of reach. A 35-yard field goal from Meskell sealed the win for Hawaii and halted the Colorado State comeback.
Even with all the scoring in this game, there was one play leaving the fans in shock. With 13:11 left in the second quarter, Hawaii was lined up in the shotgun with four wide and the running back next to the quarterback. With just five seconds left on the play clock, the entire offensive line jumps out of their stances except for the center. The official call from the referee was, “False start. Offense, everybody but the center.” It’s safe to say there was some miscommunication on the snap count on the play.
After the upset win, Hawaii will host Navy Saturday for the team’s home opener. The road for Colorado State doesn’t get any easier after its opening week loss. They’ll renew its rivalry with Colorado Friday. Then, they take on Arkansas at home Sept. 8 before coming to The Swamp to take on the Gators on Sept. 15.