When Hawaii and Arizona meet to open the 2019 season today, they will honor the late Dick Tomey, a mutual former head coach of the programs.
In this season-opening edition of Hawaii Football Throwbacks, we’re fittingly heading back to 1977, Tomey’s first season coaching the Rainbow Warriors.
UH closed that Division I Independent season facing UA at the still-brand-new Aloha Stadium on Dec. 3. The Rainbows were surprisingly in contention for a winning season, having put together consecutive wins over Bowling Green State and South Carolina to reach 5-5 entering the finale.
Alas, UH lost 17-10, the closest of five all-time meetings between the programs that have all gone the way of the Wildcats heading into today.
Dearl Nelson took an option pitch for a 1-yard score with 10:33 remaining, capping a 65-yard drive and breaking a 10-all tie.
UH had drawn even on Gerald Green’s record 85-yard punt return touchdown to open the fourth quarter. Green’s record still stands in the UH books.
Wrote Honolulu Advertiser sportswriter Dick Fishback: “That was a thing of beauty as the junior scatback looked to his left, then cut back right to the sideline and scooted on untouched behind some tremendous downfield blocking.”
Quarterback Jeff Duva led UH offensively with 216 yards passing (13-for-24), but this was a game decided on the ground.
“We lost the game in the weight room last year,” Tomey said. “They were a big, strong and physical group. We just couldn’t block them consistently. It was a matter of superior strength.”
Arizona held UH to 67 yards on the ground while rolling up 325 rushing itself, led by Derriak Anderson’s 137 yards on 20 carries. It made up for the Wildcats missing their starting quarterback for the first half with a bruised back.
First-year UA coach Tony Mason finished 5-7 in Arizona’s final season as a WAC member; the Wildcats joined what became the Pac-10 the following season.
“We would have lost if we hadn’t have locked them up,” said Mason, who sequestered his team in a Waikiki hotel for a day and a half leading up to the game. “It’s a heckuva way to go out. But I’ll tell you, the curfew tonight is 4:30 p.m. tomorrow in the lobby … and that’s only because we’re going to a luau.”
He tossed a compliment the way of UH safety Pat Schmidt, who helped shut down the Wildcats’ passing attack.
“That Schmidt, I’d like to take him home with me,” Mason said.
You can read more about Arizona’s perspective of that game here.
Tomey became Arizona coach in 1987 after compiling a 63-46-3 record at Hawaii spanning 10 years. He lasted 14 years at Arizona, going 95–64–4 in Tucson.
Here’s the PDF of the front Sports page of the next day’s combined Honolulu Advertiser/Star-Bulletin.