After two games, Hawaii’s offense has generated 1,139 yards and UH has scored 102 total points in victories at Colorado State and, tonight, its home-opener against Navy, 59-41.
Those are some numbers that might even spin the head of business major Cole McDonald, who says, “I like accounting.”
McDonald is also the UH quarterback who completed 30-of-41 passes for 428 yards and six touchdowns tonight. It was a sweet encore for McDonald and the Warriors after their season-opening conference road win against the Rams last week.
There’s no doubting the excitement is back, as one of the most robust crowds (29,702) in recent history for a UH game at Aloha Stadium soaked it all in. There weren’t many early exits for this one (especially since Navy battled back and made a game of it in the third quarter).
The last time the Warriors won their first two against FBS competition was 2007 — the year of the undefeated regular season and the Sugar Bowl appearance.
No one is predicting (at least very loudly) that this team will match the feats of Colt Brennan and crew.
But, win or lose, this team won’t be boring.
It was obvious from his first practice at Manoa that McDonald has natural gifts. But who knew he — and the entire resurrected run-and-shoot — would be this polished, this potent so soon?
“I think it’s his hard work,” coach Nick Rolovich said. “It’s his desire. … He’s either worrying about his hair or doing football (or) taking some tough classes in his tough major. Not much besides football, school and his sweet hair that he cares about.
“Nothing flusters him. Sometimes he makes me angry because I think he could be better than he was.”
As McDonald says, the run-and-shoot is “something you can’t build overnight.”
For much of tonight’s game, the Warriors offense made it look easy.
“You can’t stop us. That’s just our mentality,” McDonald said of the run-and-shoot’s effectiveness. “We have weapons that can make moves and make plays.”
Slot receivers Cedric Byrd (11 catches, 90 yards, 2 touchdowns) and John Ursua (10-167-2) tore up the heart of the Navy pass defense, and JoJo Ward did the same on the outside (6-161-2).
As they did on the road against CSU, the Warriors jumped out fast. This time UH went up 28-0 and withstood a Navy comeback that cut the deficit to 10 points midway through the third quarter.
The Warriors regained the momentum, and McDonald threw three of his six touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. McDonald, a second-stringer last year who didn’t play much behind Dru Brown, now has nine touchdown passes with no interceptions in his first two starts.
Rolovich acknowledges that there’s still a lot of work to do for the entire team. (Although one huge area of improvement is penalties: just 1 for 5 yards.)
“The worst thing we can do right now is think we’ve arrived,” said Rolovich. UH also started last season at 2-0, but won just one more game the rest of the season and finished 3-9.
Also, he was offensive coordinator of the last team before that which won its first two games.
In 2009, the Warriors beat Central Arkansas 25-20 at home and then knocked off Washington State, 38-20, in Seattle. But UH lost its next six and finished the season 6-7. That team was hurt by a season-ending injury to quarterback Greg Alexander — who had just begun to master the run-and-shoot.
Staying healthy and depth will be big keys for this young team. But, for now at least, the Rainbow Warriors have returned. They’re scoring plenty of points, and they’re winning.
“This team is very unselfish, and they’re doing it for a bigger cause (than themselves),” Rolovich said.
Ursua pointed out that this was his first home game since he tore an ACL early last season.
“That means the world to us,” he said of the fans’ support. “At Colorado State we were feeding off each other, but it was kind of hard. Here, running out of that helmet, we do it for the state.”