By: Tanner Haworth
The unnerved Matthew Shipley stared through the uprights with only two seconds left in the game, and punched in the field goal to give Hawaii their much-needed revenge over the New Mexico State Aggies Saturday night, 20-17.
Before Shipley could even explain what was going through his brain, the senior kicker thanked everyone from God, to his line and snapper. “I’m just doing my job,” Shipley said nonchalantly.
Shipley finished the night going two for three, scoring the first and last points for the ‘Bows and the only points in an ugly first half for the Rainbow Warriors. Going into the half, the ‘Bows only had 99 total yards compared to NMSU’s 257 in the first half. That lone field goal for UH came after JUCO transfer Sauce Williams forced and recovered a fumble and went for a 36-yard run.
But after going into the half down 17-3, both sides of the ball stepped up. Junior quarterback Brayden Schager finished the game with 245 passing yards and two touchdowns, one passing and one rushing. Local boy Koali Nishigaya replaced a struggling Greyson Morgan in the second half, and finished with four catches, 44 yards and the clutch 4-yard touchdown to tie up the game.
Freshman phenom Pofele Ashlock finished with the lion’s share of targets (12), receptions (7) and yards (77). It was clear the trio of him, Nishigaya and Kansas transfer Steven McBride (4-47) are favorite targets for Schager.
Sophomore running back Jordan Johnson broke out finishing with 79 total yards including multiple long catch-and-runs in the second half to extend multiple drives. And Sauce wasn’t the only lineman to break off a big run, as starting left tackle and Houston transfer Josh Atkins picked up a fumble for a 23-yard run.
The offense would finish the game scoring 17 unanswered in the second half, but assisting those points was a stout defense who made all the right adjustments in halftime.
After gashing the defense with 257 yards in the first half, the Aggies could only get 78 yards in the second. Another improvement was the lack of drive-extending penalties Hawaii football fans were starting to get familiar with from the first couple of games.
Sophomore safety Peter Manuma and senior linebacker Isaiah Tufaga led the team with six tackles each. The secondary for the ‘Bows played very well despite allowing two touchdowns on blown coverages from the linebackers, as Wyoming transfer Cam Stone returned to play with two tackles and a pass breakup. His fill-in, senior Jojo Forest, finished with four tackles, ½ for loss and two pass breakups as well.
Up next for the ‘Bows is the away trip to Las Vegas to take on UNLV in the Ninth Island Showdown. The ‘Bows currently hold the trophy, and will be playing in front of a crowd of Hawaii fans that will most likely outnumber the ones at home due to the destination.