HONOLULU — During the post-game Zoom press conference, University of Hawai‘i coach Todd Graham emphasized the difference in the 40-32 loss to Boise State Saturday was the play of the Rainbow Warriors’ special teams.
Broncos’ kickoff and punt return specialist Avery Williams totaled 192 return yards, including a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 8:18 left in the third quarter to give his team a 26-9 lead.
“Williams’ kickoff return for a touchdown was the difference in the game,” Graham said in his post-game press conference. “All week we emphasized stopping No. 26, but for whatever reason, we couldn’t get it done tonight.”
Before Williams’ third-quarter touchdown run created a significant point separation, Boise State started to swing the balance of momentum in their favor in the second quarter.
Hawai‘i’s field-goal kicker Matt Shipley opened the scoring by kicking a field goal in the first quarter to give the Rainbow Warriors a 3-0 lead with 4:36 left in the first quarter.
Hawai‘i’s field goal was answered by Jonah Dalmas’s 32-yard field goal to conclude the scoring with 1:18 left in the first quarter before the Broncos took control of the game.
With 10:09 left to play in the second quarter, Dalmas connected on a 42-yard field goal kick to give the Broncos a 6-3 lead.
With 5:12 left in the half, Broncos’ quarterback Hank Bachmeier connected with Khalil Shakir on a 38-yard touchdown pass.
After an unsuccessful Rainbow Warriors’ possession, wide receiver CT Thomas connected with Shakir for his second touchdown, giving the Broncos a 19-9 halftime advantage.
The Rainbow Warriors’ offense started to build momentum off the strength of running back Calvin Turner’s 1-yard plunge into the end zone with 11:09 remaining in the third, narrowing the deficit to 26-9.
Broncos’ running back Andrew Van Buren made the score 33-9 after an 11-yard touchdown run with 8:18 left in the third quarter.
Calvin Turner tried to help keep the Warriors in the game, hauling in a 36-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Chevan Cordeiro with 2:41 left in the third quarter to narrow the deficit to 33-17 after a successful two-point conversion.
The Broncos’ Van Buren would answer again with an 11-yard touchdown run with 3:38 left in the third quarter to give them a 40-17 lead.
Fourth-quarter surge falls short
With 9:56 left in the fourth quarter, the Rainbow Warriors began to mount a comeback.
Behind the multiple talents of Turner, the Rainbow Warriors scored again with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Cordeiro that narrowed the Broncos’ lead to 40-24 after another successful two-point conversion with 9:56 left in the game.
With 4:52 left in the fourth quarter, Cordeiro connected with Jared Smart on a 3-yard touchdown pass, and another successful two-point conversion attempt made the score 40-32.
Broncos wide receiver Khalili Shakir was one of the main difference-makers in the game.
Shakir caught 11 balls for 130 yards and scored on two touchdowns, with his longest a 38-yard grab.
Playing on a shortened field because of one of Williams’ kick returns put Boise State’s offense in a position to connect with him quickly.
The two Broncos’ possessions in which Shakir scored touchdowns took 37 seconds and 2:58 seconds of possession time.
“We gave up too many cheap touchdowns on our kicking game and defense,” Graham said in the post-game press conference.
“I do think our guys gained some confidence, and we grew up a lot. But it’s the little things that are hurting us, and we have to execute a game plan on special teams,” Graham said. “We played very well, and our guys made some big-time plays.”
Hawai‘i host undefeated Nevada at 6 p.m. Saturday at Aloha Stadium. Once again, no fans are allowed to attend.
“We are going to have to go back to work,” Graham said. “We are going to have to figure out how to beat Nevada.”
Jason Blasco, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.