Paced by confident quarterback, UH comes back for Week 0 win

Amazingly, the event exceeded expectations. With such a buildup and months of anticipation, I felt the chances for a letdown were quite high. But throughout the contest, the contrast in styles kept the result in doubt.

No, I’m not talking about the fight. Chances are none of those sentences will have applied to Mayweather-McGregor. (Although, the Cubs are defending World Series champs, Donald Trump is president of the United States and the Patriots came back from 28-3 to win the Super Bowl, so I guess nothing should surprise me anymore.)

The University of Hawaii completed a 14-point second-half comeback to win its season opener, 38-35, Saturday against UMass. The Rainbow Warriors, traveling across the country during this disappointingly named “Week 0” matchup, showed a potent offense and some clutch character traits to start the year 1-0.

Last season, Hawaii was the team that held off a late Minutemen rally for a 46-40 win. This time, Dru Brown found Metuisela ‘Unga with a 7-yard touch pass to the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score with just 48 seconds to play.

As was to be expected, the offenses were ahead of the defenses in this early-season encounter. But nobody found themselves ahead of the defense more than UH wide receiver John Ursua. The sophomore from Kailua Kona was uncoverable in the UMass secondary, torching them for 272 yards on 12 receptions, including an 85-yard touchdown scamper.

Brown was terrific and proved to have really taken on the leadership role that is required since his naming as a team captain. He finished the day with 391 yards on 25 for 38 passing, four touchdowns (one rushing) and one interception. Brown was comfortable and calm, both in and out of the pocket.

It’s easy to overanalyze the first game and try to draw more from it than what’s logically warranted. After all, UMass was only a 2-10 team last season and is trying to rebuild the program from the ground up. But this was a good win for the Rainbow Warriors. Not only did their offensive playmakers show they have progressed well since last season, but they did so after the Minutemen had taken control with a pair of early third-quarter touchdowns for a 28-14 lead.

Nick Rolovich’s squad didn’t panic one bit, putting together a concise eight-play, 72-yard drive to halt the UMass momentum. The offensive play calling was really good throughout the day, catching the secondary with some mismatches and getting the ball in space to guys who can make the most of it.

Keeping in mind that it’s just one game against a mediocre opponent, I was very impressed with Brown. When he got UH on the board with a 29-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead, there was no exuberance. He barely acknowledged the score before heading back towards the sideline. This isn’t some anti-celebration stance from me, it’s more that it showed an expectation of success. It was the very first touchdown of the season on a great read and run, but it was business as usual for Dru Brown.

I think there’s a true sense of belief within the UH locker room. They need to be better defensively, they need to cut down the penalties, they need to utilize Diocemy Saint Juste a little bit more in space. But the quarterback seems to be setting an expectation that they should be successful, and that’s a great sign for what’s to come.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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