Hawaii and today’s opponent, Navy, don’t have the deepest history. UH leads the head-to-head series 2-1. But one of those three meetings — the first — possessed plenty of significance beyond the Maryland-based service academy’s ties with the islands’ strong military presence.
UH, under first-year coach June Jones, was in the process of putting together what was then the biggest turnaround season in NCAA football history.
This meeting with the Midshipmen at Aloha Stadium on Nov. 20, 1999, came after the Rainbow Warriors had already locked up a share of the WAC title and a bowl berth; in fact, UH accepted a formal invitation to the Jeep Oahu Bowl (to face Oregon State) before kickoff.
The crowd of 39,559 (what UH wouldn’t give for a get-together of that size today!) was in for another treat. The Rainbows delivered a 48-41 shootout victory over the Middies, as Manoa moved to 8-3 just a year removed from Fred VonAppen’s 0-12 debacle.
“We’re part of history, baby,” receiver Dwight Carter told the Honolulu Advertiser of the record-tying turnaround. “It’s in the books.”
This game — like today’s contest might be as well — was a true contrast of styles. Both teams racked up over 500 yards of offense, but Navy did it almost exclusively on the ground, with 451 yards rushing in its triple option. UH did it almost exclusively in the air; it had just 27 yards on the AstroTurf.
Senior quarterback Dan Robinson’s 26-yarder to Carter for one of his five passing touchdowns — Robinson ran for another — was the deciding score. Robinson went 37-for-63 for a then-school record 530 yards. Robinson passed Garrett Gabriel as the UH career passer with 5,784 yards to that point.
Carter, meanwhile, set records for career receptions (73) and career receiving yardage (1,149) in this game.
It looked like UH was in control in the third quarter, when Robinson hit Channon Harris for an 8-yard touchdown and a 41-27 lead.
But Navy, which had beat Cal in the 1996 Oahu Bowl just a few years prior, scored twice in a two-minute span off of two UH fumbles in the fourth quarter, tying it up at 41.
That set up Robinson’s heroics, as on third and 6, he tossed it up for Carter on a fade pattern to the left corner with 5:21 left.
“Who would think we’d throw the ball deep, when all we needed was a first down,” Harris said. “He goes for the 6. It’s gut-check time and he checked it right.”
Navy, under Charlie Weatherbie, finished 5-7 in 1999.
Here’s the full pages in the next day’s Honolulu Advertiser: