Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

Hawaii wide receiver Ammon Barker, left, runs with the football for a first down after catching a pass on a fake-punt play against Middle Tennessee during the third quarter of the Hawaii Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
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Rainbow Warriors roll in Hawaii Bowl win over Middle Tennessee

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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

Hawaii running back Paul Harris (6) returns the opening kickoff as Middle Tennessee safety Chris Brown (23) grabs him from behind during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game at the Hawaii Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
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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.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 24 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 29: Xavier Hines #27 of the Florida International Golden Panthers defense against I'Tavius Mathers #4 of the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders as h runs with the ball on October 29, 2016 at FIU Stadium in Miami, Florida. Middle Tennessee defeated Florida International 42-35. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 24 bowl menu, which, after a one-day reprieve, is back to just a lone game on Christmas Eve.  And this lone game will feature one of the three teams (Hawaii, say hello to 5-7 Mississippi State, North Texas) that failed to have at least a .500 record in the regular season but will still be bowling and will further the very valid argument that there are way, way, way too may bowl games.  Still.

WHO: Hawaii (6-7) vs. Middle Tennessee State (8-4)
WHAT: The 15th Hawaii Bowl
WHERE: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: There are 128 teams at the FBS level.  Middle Tennessee State was 101st in scoring defense (34.4 points per game) in 2016 while Hawaii was 115th (37.5 ppg).  Seven times in 12 games this season, the Rainbow Warriors gave up 40 or more points; the Blue Raiders did as much in six of their games.  The status of MTSU’s starting quarterback, Brent Stockstill, is somewhat up in the air because of a broken collarbone suffered in early November, and is leading to some books keeping this game off the board as the sophomore, and son of the head football coach, has yet to be officially ruled out of the game. UH will be appearing in its first bowl game since 2010 — the 2010 Hawaii Bowl — and is looking for its first bowl win since 2006 — the 2006 Hawaii Bowl.  MTSU, meanwhile, will be looking to snap a three-game bowl losing streak and trying to win its first postseason game since 2009.  If you’re into draft evaluations and are searching for NFL sleepers, you might want to tune in just to watch running back I’Tavius Mathers. The 5-11, 197-pound senior has rushed for 1,504 yards and 16 touchdowns this season for the Blue Raiders, and has averaged 6.8 yards per carry. The Ole Miss transfer is also second on the team with 62 receptions out of the backfield — tied for second amongst FBS backs — and has three touchdown catches for good measure.  One final fact that will in no way, shape or form affect the outcome of this game: Hawaii will become the first FBS team to begin its season outside of the United States (vs. Cal in Australia) and end it outside of the continental United States.  So they have that going for it, which is nice.
THE LINE: Hawaii, +6
THE PREDICTION: Middle Tennessee State 44, Hawaii 31

UNLV could be in play for transferring Arizona QB Anu Solomon

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 03:  Quarterback Anu Solomon #12 of the Arizona Wildcats throws a pass during the college football game against the Brigham Young Cougars at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cougars defeated the Wildcats 18-16. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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As it turns out, an injury-riddled season for Anu Solomon will turn out to be his last in the desert.

On Instagram Tuesday, the Arizona quarterback confirmed that he has decided to transfer out of the Wildcats football program. Solomon is expected to graduate from UA before he officially leaves the university, meaning he would be eligible to play immediately at another FBS program in 2017.

That would be his last season of eligibility.

I first want to take this opportunity to thank Arizona Football for making me the man I am today, especially Coach Rodriquez & the Rodriguez family, Greg Byrne, the entire administration and staff, and of course the die-hard fans for absolutely everything to make my past 4 years at The University of Arizona worthwhile and unforgettable. God has a plan for me. I’ve prayed for direction, patience, and knowledge to know when it comes, and it is with a heavy heart to announce that I am transferring from The University of Arizona. Through much adversity, I will never forget those who supported me, stuck by me, and believed in me; God, my family, my girlfriend, and close friends. From highs and lows, and the unlucky injuries I suffered from the past 2 seasons, I am blessed to have a fresh start at another program to finish out my senior year. Thank you Tucson, & GOD BLESS! At this time I will be focusing on spending the holiday season with my family and ask for privacy as we decide on the next step in my college career.

A photo posted by Anu Solomon (@anusolomon) on Dec 13, 2016 at 11:23am PST

UNLV has already been mentioned as a potential landing spot, with Solomon’s high school coach, Rob O’Dell, serving as the Rebels’ quarterbacks coach. Speculation is that Hawaii and possibly Cal could also be in play for the Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School product.

Solomon entered the 2016 season having started 25 of the previous 27 games. He made it 26-of-28 in the opener before an injury in practice leading into Week 2 knocked him out for the next six games. He returned from the knee issue and served as a backup to Brandon Dawkins for three consecutive games before starting the Nov. 19 loss to Oregon State. A foot injury in that game, however, kept him out of the Territorial Cup win over rival Arizona State the following week and effectively ended his UA career.

Arguably the highlight of the Wildcat portion of his playing career was winning the 2014 Pac-12 South championship.  Solomon also leaves as the fourth-most prolific passer in school history.

“We were sad to hear that Anu had decided to transfer,” athletic director Greg Byrne said during a radio interview by way of Tucson News Now. “We also understand that does happen. He’s had a lot of great moments here in our program; obviously, the highlight was winning the Pac-12 South and playing in the Fiesta Bowl.

“We wish him nothing but the best. We want great things to happen for him on the football field and off the football field as well.”

Behold: The full 2016-17 college football bowl schedule is here

LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 17: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals runs with the ball during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)
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The College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six lineups are set, but there’s much more to bowl season than the top line games. Running 40 games deep and stretching from Dec. 17 to Jan. 9, the 2016-17 bowl schedule came together Sunday afternoon, which we’ve compiled here for your viewing enjoyment.

Let’s dive right in.

Saturday, Dec. 17
Gildan New Mexico Bowl (2 p.m. ET, ESPN): UTSA vs. New Mexico
Las Vegas Bowl presented by Geico (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC): Houston vs. San Diego State
Raycom Media Camelia Bowl (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): Appalachian State vs. Toledo
AutoNation Cure Bowl (5:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network): Central Florida vs. Arkansas State
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): Lousiana-Lafayette vs. Southern Miss

Monday, Dec. 19
Miami Beach Bowl (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): Central Michigan vs. Tulsa

Tuesday, Dec. 20
Boca Raton Bowl (7 p.m. ET, ESPN): Memphis vs. Western Kentucky

Wednesday, Dec. 21
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): BYU vs. Wyoming

Thursday, Dec. 22
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (7 p.m. ET, ESPN): Idaho vs. Colorado State

Friday, Dec. 23
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl (1 p.m. ET, ESPN): Old Dominion vs. Eastern Michigan
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): Louisiana Tech vs. No. 25 Navy
Dollar General Bowl (8 p.m. ET, ESPN): Ohio vs. Troy

Saturday, Dec. 24
Hawai’i Bowl (8 p.m. ET, ESPN): Hawaii vs. Middle Tennessee

Monday, Dec. 26
St. Petersburg Bowl (11 a.m. ET, ESPN): Mississippi State vs. Miami (Ohio)
Quick Lane Bowl (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): Boston College vs. Maryland
Camping World Independence Bowl (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2): NC State vs. Vanderbilt

Tuesday, Dec. 27
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl (noon ET, ESPN): Army vs. North Texas
Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 24 Temple vs. Wake Forest
National Funding Holiday Bowl (7 p.m. ET, ESPN): Washington State vs. Minnesota
Motel 6 Cactus Bowl (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN): Boise State vs. Baylor

Wednesday, Dec. 28
New Era Pinstripe Bowl (2 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 23 Pittsburgh vs. Northwestern
Russell Athletic Bowl (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 16 West Virginia vs. Miami
Foster Farms Bowl (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX): Indiana vs. No. 19 Utah
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): Texas A&M vs. Kansas State

Thursday, Dec. 29
Birmingham Bowl (2 p.m. ET, ESPN): South Florida vs. South Carolina
Belk Bowl (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): Arkansas vs. No. 22 Virginia Tech
Valero Alamo Bowl (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 10 Colorado vs. No. 12 Oklahoma State

Friday, Dec. 30
AutoZone Liberty Bowl (noon ET, ESPN): TCU vs. Georgia
Hyundai Sun Bowl (2 p.m. ET, CBS): No. 18 Stanford vs. North Carolina
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 21 Tennessee vs. Nebraska
Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl (5:30 p.m. ET, Campus Insiders): South Alabama vs. Air Force
Capital One Orange Bowl (8 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 11 Florida State

Saturday, Dec. 31
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (11 a.m. ET, ABC): No. 20 LSU vs. No. 13 Louisville
TaxSlayer Bowl (11 a.m. ET, ESPN): Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky
CFP Semifinal at Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (3 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 4 Washington vs. No. 1 Alabama
CFP Semifinal at PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (7 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Clemson

Monday, Jan. 2
Outback Bowl (1 p.m. ET, ABC): No. 17 Florida vs. Iowa
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (1 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 15 Western Michigan vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual (5 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 9 USC vs. No. 5 Penn State
Allstate Sugar Bowl (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 14 Auburn vs. No. 7 Oklahoma

Monday, Jan. 9
College Football Playoff National Championship (8 p.m. ET, ESPN): ALA/WASH vs. CLEM/OSU