Hawaii tops Utah State 49-36 to snap losing streak
HONOLULU (AP) – Hawaii’s potent ground attack caught Utah State off guard, and it also surprised Warriors coach Greg McMackin a little.
Bryant Moniz threw four touchdowns and Leon Wright-Jackson ran for a career-best 167 yards and three scores to help Hawaii snap a six-game losing streak with a 49-36 victory over Utah State on Saturday night.
Greg Salas had 10 catches for 187 yards and two TDs for the Warriors (3-6, 1-5 Western Athletic Conference), who were in the midst of their longest losing streak since going 0-12 in 1998. The last time Hawaii tasted victory was Sept. 12 at Washington State.
Alex Green added 110 yards rushing on 10 carries, giving pass-heavy Hawaii its first pair of 100-yard rushers since Johnny Macon (141) and Brett Washington (106) in 1995.
McMackin was unaware that his team had more yards rushing (360) than passing (337).
“Is that what we did?” McMackin said. “It hasn’t happened here. Other places maybe, but not here.”
The Warriors planned to run the ball about 20 times, but ended up with 37 carries.
Aggies coach Gary Anderson said Hawaii probably wasn’t expecting to run until they watched his team on film.
“As the game went on they ran the ball really well, and I’m sure they shifted gears as the game went on,” he said.
Wright-Jackson, who had just 190 yards rushing and one TD total in the first eight games, nearly doubled his previous career mark of 66 yards in the first half alone.
“We’re explosive. It’s about us believing in each other,” he said. “We’ve been practicing and getting better and better. … We know we got the talent, and we just got to put it together.”
The senior finally had the breakout game Hawaii fans had long been expecting. He was one of the nation’s top prep prospects and spent a year at Nebraska before coming to Hawaii, where he has struggled with injuries and fitting into Hawaii’s run-and-shoot offense.
“I can get 40 carries or I can get three,” he said. “I just want to win.”
McMackin said the difference in Wright-Jackson is that he’s “healthy and happy and good things are happening to him.”
Wright-Jackson’s 5-yard TD run in the final minutes of the third quarter pushed Hawaii’s lead back to 21. On third-and-9 from Hawaii 36, Moniz hit Salas for a 59-yard gain, setting up the final scoring run. Wright-Jackson also had scoring runs of 1 and 7 yards.
The loss was the 12th straight on the road for the Aggies (2-7, 1-4), who awakened in the second half with 29 points, but had no answer for Hawaii’s air-and-ground attack.
“They dominated us on both sides of the ball so they won,” Anderson said.
The 49-point, 697-yard outburst was the best this year for Hawaii, which earned its first WAC win of the season. The win also relieves a little pressure, for now, from McMackin. He has been the target of frustrated Hawaii fans.
“I’m not smiling yet,” McMackin said. “Relief is what it is. I haven’t had many years where I have been in that situation, and I’m not a very good loser. We’ve had some unfortunate situations, but you can never make excuses.”
Moniz was 21 of 37 for 337 yards, earning his first victory in four starts.
Salas hauled in a 10-yard TD pass from Moniz that gave the Warriors a 35-7 lead with 2 1/2 minutes left in the first half. The score capped a six-play, 94-yard drive that included a career-best 62-yard run by Wright-Jackson, who had 114 yards rushing on eight carries at halftime.
The Warriors got the ball by stopping the Aggies on fourth-and-1 from the Hawaii 5.
Michael Smith took a shovel pass from Diondre Borel and sprinted 31 yards for a score to open the fourth quarter, cutting Hawaii’s lead to two touchdowns. But the Aggies wouldn’t score again until Borel’s 1-yard TD run with about a minute left.
Utah State scored on its first two possessions of the second half to cut Hawaii’s lead to two touchdowns. Robert Turbin powered 3 yards for the score to open the half, followed by a 16-yard TD pass from Borel to Jeremy Mitchell.
Borel was under heavy pressure all night. He finished 25 of 38 for 344 yards and two TDs and two interceptions. Utah State was held to just 102 yards on the ground.