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.