HONOLULU — The University of Hawai‘i Rainbow Warriors football team bounced back Saturday afternoon from its 31-7 loss to Wyoming with a 39-33 victory over New Mexico.
The victory over the Lobos marked Hawai‘i’s sixth-straight home-opening victory, dating back to 2016.
The victory also marks the longest win streak since the Rainbow Warriors moved into Aloha Stadium.
Before the Warriors eventually generated 500 yards of total offense for the second time in three games, Hawai‘i found themselves having to play in a come-from-behind role.
In the first half, the Warriors struggled to contain explosive Lobos’ wide out, Jordan Kress.
Kress finished the contest with 93 yards receiving and only three receptions, but two went for touchdowns in the first half.
Kress caught a 52-yard touchdown pass from Lobo quarterback Tevaka Tuioti in the first quarter to give New Mexico a 7-0 lead.
Kress, a 6-foot receiver from Loveland, Colorado, wasn’t done with his athletic showcase.
After Hawai‘i’s Chevan Cordeiro evened the score with a 5-yard touchdown run, Kress continued to apply pressure to a vulnerable Rainbows’ secondary.
After New Mexico increased its lead to 10-7 with a George Steinkamp field goal with 5:34 left in the first quarter, Tuioti would connect with Kress again.
With 4:10 left to go in the first quarter, Kress scored on a 29-yard pass from Tuioti to increase the Lobo’s lead to 17-7.
Steinkamp would later add to the Lobos’ lead by connecting on a 49-yard field goal with 14:50 in the second quarter to give them a commanding 20-7 lead.
Hawai‘i, a team whose offense struggled in the previous six quarters against Wyoming and New Mexico, began a comeback march in the second quarter.
Cordeiro, who hadn’t thrown a touchdown pass all season, connected with wide receiver Nick Mardner on a 42-yarder to narrow the deficit to 20-14.
The Rainbow Warriors looked to reclaim the momentum they lost because of Kress’s explosive first quarter.
Cordeiro, who struggled to find the open receiver in the first two games of the season, found Zion Bowens twice in the third quarter.
Early in the third quarter, Cordeiro connected on a 42-yard touchdown pass to Bowens to give the Rainbows a 21-20 lead with 13:05 remaining in the quarter.
Less than two minutes later, Cordeiro connected with Bowens again for a 40-yard touchdown grab that widened the lead to 28-20 with 11:55 left in the quarter.
The lead Hawai’i established would be short-lived, as the Lobos would take back the momentum they relinquished when Nathan Jones tightened the game with a 27-yard touchdown run to make the score 28-27 with 9:33 left in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Steinkamp kicked a field to give the Lobos back a slim 30-28 lead with 13:31 left to play in the game.
Then Calvin Turner, the transfer from Jacksonville State, made the most critical play in the game, a 64-yard touchdown catch with 12:19 left to go in the fourth quarter.
Hawai‘i kicker Matthew Shipley was able to secure the victory with a 41-yard field goal, and although Steinkamp narrowed the gap with a 42-yard field goal with 1:41 left, it wasn’t enough to overhaul the Warriors.
UH offense gets an airlift
The Hawai‘i pass offense, which struggled to put the ball in the end zone in its first two games, was reinvigorated by generating 500 yards of total offense.
The Rainbow Warriors’ passing attack produced 410 yards passing, and Cordeiro threw four touchdown passes in the victory over the Lobos.
Nick Mardner, Zion Bowens and Calvin Turner were on the receiving end of the TD tosses.
Mardner finished with six receptions for 147 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown reception, to lead the Rainbows in receiving.
Bowens finished with 82 yards, and his only two receptions of the game were touchdown catches.
Bring on the Aztecs
The Rainbow Warriors travel to play San Diego State Saturday, Nov. 14, at 11 a.m. PCT in San Diego.
Jason Blasco, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or email@example.com.