Hawaii wins the New Mexico Bowl. The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors beat the Houston Cougars in the New Mexico Bowl to the score of 28-14. Hawaii was an underdog in this game as they were projected to lose by seven. However, the team from Honolulu would not let this projection determine the outcome. The Rainbow Warriors looked more explosive than they have all season. Everything clicked for them in this game from offense to defense to special teams. Hawaii had everything working on all levels. Houston was the better team on paper, however, Hawaii just played with more heart. Read Hawaii Wins New Mexico Bowl to find out more on how the Rainbow Warriors pulled off the upset.
Hawaii Wins New Mexico Bowl
You heard that right. Hawaii pulled off the upset on the Houston Cougars. No expert could have predicted how good Hawaii would be on Thursday, but the Rainbow Warriors sure showed out. Hawaii has played a game in eight out of the last nine weeks and it showed that it has polished its game during that time. Hawaii continued to get better and gain momentum as the season was coming to an end. On the other side, Houston had not played a game since November 14th, more than a month had gone by since its matchup in the New Mexico Bowl. Houston also had about 16 players that decided to opt-out of the bowl game due to the coronavirus, NFL implications, and academic reasons which definitely played a role in this loss.
Hawaii came into the game with a different level of confidence than what Houston showed. The Rainbow Warriors were able to turn two first-quarter interceptions into 14 points. Hawaii intercepted a pass on Houston’s first drive and was immediately able to turn it into points after Chevan Cordeiro completed a three-yard touchdown pass to Dae Dae Hunter. Hawaii got another interception with just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter. Cordeiro would follow this interception with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Turner. This extended Hawaii’s lead to 14 points. Hawaii then went on to score again with just over eight minutes remaining in the second quarter. Cordeiro completed a four-yard shovel pass to Jonah Laulu which gave Hawaii the 21-0 lead at the break.
Houston started the second half with the ball and looked like a completely different team. Clayton Tune led Houston down the field on a 17-play, 75-yard drive that was capped with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Tune to Nathaniel Dell. The Cougars didn’t stop there. They immediately followed up their first score with another touchdown four minutes later. Tune completed a 26-yard touchdown pass to Christian Trahan. At this point, the score was 21-14. However, Hawaii’s Turner returned the following kickoff 92-yards for a touchdown to extend Hawaii’s lead to 14 points. This was the final score for either team for the remainder of the game.
Keys to Hawaii’s Win
Surprisingly Hawaii’s defense is what won the game. From the get-go, the Rainbow Warrior defense was unbreakable. In the first half, Houston could not buy a touchdown as Hawaii shutout the Cougars in the first half. Hawaii is more known for its offense and relying on Cordeiro, however, the defense put the Rainbow Warriors in situations to win the game. Hawaii forced three Houston interceptions, two of which resulted in seven points and if you win the turnover battle, you usually win the game.
The Rainbow Warriors’ special teams played a huge part in this game as well. Turner was able to swing the momentum back to Hawaii following that kickoff returned for a touchdown when the Cougars were mounting a comeback in the middle of the third quarter. All three aspects of Hawaii’s team were nearly perfect, and the special teams is what helped push them over the edge.
New Mexico Bowl MVP’s
It might seem like a cop-out to name an entire defense an MVP, however, they really helped Hawaii win the game. They held a Houston team that averages almost 33 points per game to just 14 points and created three turnovers that helped put the game out of reach. Houston also averaged 432.4 yards this season but was held to 307 on Thursday.
The next MVP award has to go to Cordeiro. He did not have to do much to win this game, but he did everything right in the process. Cordeiro completed 15 of his 23 passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns. He also recorded 33 yards rushing on eight carries including a 52-yard rush down the sideline. Cordeiro protected the ball and made life easy for his key players.
The final MVP award has to go to Turner. He contributed 252 total yards for the game, including 60 rushing yards, 88 receiving yards, and 104 return yards. He was a multi-use player all game and kept Houston on its toes. Turner also had one receiving touchdown and the kickoff return for a touchdown which ultimately put the game out of reach.