Hawaii falls short of its first Mountain West title in a 31-10 loss to Boise State

Boise State quarterback Jaylon Henderson, right, scrambled away from Hawaii defensive lineman Derek Thomas, left. Photo courtesy Associated Press.

Boise State made the plays the University of Hawaii couldn’t en route to a 31-10 victory to clinch the Mountain West Conference Championship football game before a boisterous Broncos crowd that has come to expect nothing less.

The Rainbow Warriors had their chances, but failed to convert two big fourth-down plays inside the Broncos 5 to fall to 9-5 for the season. They will likely play host to Brigham Young on Christmas Eve in the Hawaii Bowl. Boise State will either be in the Las Vegas Bowl as the MWC champ or in the Cotton Bowl in a New Year’s 6 game. The Broncos are 12-1 for the season; their lone loss at BYU.

Broncos quarterback Jaylon Henderson threw two scoring passes and ran for another. He completed 20 of 29 passes for 212 yards. Cole McDonald countered with a so-so act, completing 20 of 36 for 241 yards and one pick. He also fumbled once that led to a score.

The Broncos were led by running back George Holani with 67 yards on 16 carries. Wideout Khalil Shakir had seven catches for 89 yards and one score. He also had a rushing touchdown.

Miles Reed had 87 yards on 12 attempts for UH. Jared Smart had four catches for 72 yards in an anemic offensive performance by the Warriors. With the game already out of reach, Hawaii finally got a touchdown on a 21- yard run by Reed. Ryan Meskell hit the PAT to make it 31-10 with 12 minutes remaining.

Trailing 17-3 to begin the third quarter, Hawaii got the ball first in need of some points. Facing third-and-19, UH converted on a 46-yard pass play from McDonald to Smart at the Boise State 23. Hawaii eventually had another huge fourth-down call at the Boise State 5. McDonald missed a couple of chances prior to that snap and missed again on a failed pick play that the Broncos read perfectly. It was the second time UH failed to convert on a fourth-down play inside the 5 and that proved to be its undoing.

Later in the quarter the Broncos put it out of reach with the kind of statement-making drive championship teams produce down the stretch. The 11-play, 79-yard scoring march ended on a 4-yard run by Shakir, his second score of the game. The PAT by Eric Shase was true to make it 24-3 with 1:09 remaining in the quarter.

The Broncos scored again, this time off another McDonald turnover. He lost the ball on a sack, giving Boise State a first down at the UH 9. Two snaps later, Henderson scored from 5 yards out as Sachse hit the PAT to extend the lead to 31-3 with 18 seconds remaining in the quarter. It was the 30th turnover this season by the Warriors, tops in the nation.

Hawaii broke one of the main rules of football in the second quarter; never take points off the board. Meskell hit a chip shot from 26 yards to give UH a brief 6-3 advantage, but Boise was offside, giving UH a fourth-and-goal from the 1. Rolovich opted to go for it with McDonald who kept the ball on an inside run, but was stopped short. Although it appeared Boise was offside on the play, it was not called, leaving the score tied at 3.

It remained that way until Boise State put together a nice drive right before the half.

Thanks to a pick of a McDonald pass in the Broncos end zone, Boise State drove into UH territory to set up a fourth-and-4 call that turned the tide of the game. Henderson threw a perfect 36-yard touchdown pass to Shakir, who beat Kai Kaneshiro on the play. The PAT by Sachse was true to make it 10-3 with 1:03 remaining in the quarter.

And the Broncos weren’t done. The Boise defense forced a three-and-out, leaving just enough time for the Broncos to score again, this time on a 36-yard scoring strike from Henderson to John Hightower as Sachse hit the PAT to make it 17-3 with 15 ticks remaining in the half.

Hawaii struck first on a 47-yard field goal by Meskell with 6:44 remaining in the opening quarter. The Warriors forced a three-and-out on Boise’s opening series before driving into Bronco’s territory thanks in part to a key fourth-down conversion. The drive stalled, but the kick was good. Boise State drew even on a 34-yard field goal by Sachse with 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter on its second series of the game.