Diocemy Saint Juste

AP Images

Rainbow Warriors roll in Hawaii Bowl win over Middle Tennessee

Leave a comment

Being home for the holidays sounded pretty good for Hawaii, as few things could compare to having a bowl game win as a nice present under the tree.

The Rainbow Warriors continued their hot play down the stretch and used a couple of Middle Tennessee turnovers to capture a 52-35 Hawaii Bowl win in a wild one on Saturday night.

After the Blue Raiders jumped out to a 14-0 lead just a few minutes into the first quarter, the home team decided to wake up and join the postseason party, turning three first half takeaways into three touchdowns and come roaring into the lead. Quarterback Dru Brown threw for 274 yards and four scores on the night overall (and added another rushing) as the offense threw a little bit of everything at their opponents to keep them on their heels.

Warriors running back Diocemy Saint Juste also had one of his best outings in a Hawaii uniform, rushing for 170 yards on 25 carries and helping power the team over the 500 yards of total offense mark.

As good as the offense was though, it was the defense for the home team that really helped them regain momentum with a fumble recovery in the red zone and a pair of interceptions in the first half, one of which was returned for a 68-yard pick six.

Despite those issues holding onto the ball, MTSU was still able to move down the field fairly effectively. Quarterback Brent Stockstill returned to action for the first time in nearly two months since breaking his collar bone and would have had a pretty nice game if it weren’t for those turnovers, throwing for 432 yards and four touchdowns. Richie James was the target of most of his passes (nine catches for 175 yards, two scores) while I’Tavius Mathers was contained fairly well with just 57 yards on the ground.

But none of that trio could get the Blue Raiders over the hump after a big early hole. Although they threatened down the stretch, ultimately Hawaii had an answer at every turn to capture the program’s first bowl victory in a decade, dating back to a blowout win of Arizona State on this same date and game back in 2006.

That puts the Warriors back at .500 for the season and caps off an impressive turnaround for first-year head coach Nick Rolovich after the team had just seven wins the past two seasons combined coming into 2016.

Turnovers help Rainbow Warriors take halftime lead in the Hawaii Bowl

AP Images
Leave a comment

In the first few minutes of the Hawaii Bowl, Middle Tennessee was off to a dream start after spending their postseason vacation on the islands. Then the team got into the Christmas spirit and decided to start gifting their opponents points and turnovers.

As a result, Hawaii turned three turnovers into three scores and managed to storm back from an early deficit to take a 35-21 lead into halftime of their hometown bowl game.

Blue Raiders quarterback Brent Stockstill returned to action for the first time since early November when he suffered a broken collarbone, but had an up-and-down first two quarters. He finished with 255 yards and two touchdown passes when all was said and done but was also responsible for two interceptions and a fumble as he looked a tad rusty when the game speed started to pick up.

That first fumble set the Rainbow Warriors up in the red zone and signal-caller Dru Brown capitalized on it by needing just one play to find the end zone. Stockstill was intercepted the next drive and it didn’t take long before Steven Lakalaka punched it in to take advantage of another short field. Diocemy Saint Juste powered the next scoring drive that resulted in an touchdown and then the defense got on the board with a 68 yard pick-six to completely flip the momentum to the home team.

MTSU did get something going just before halftime but it’s pretty clear they’ll need to take care of the ball better if they want to dig themselves out of this deficit and head home from the islands with a victory. Given the fight that Hawaii showed in storming back however, it’s pretty clear there should be some late night fun set for the second half in Saturday’s only bowl game.