Wyoming needed to cover 68 yards in 1 minute, 19 seconds in order to return to the mainland with some momentum.
If it felt like a lot to ask of an offense that’s struggled to get anything going all season, that’s because it was.
Wyoming’s last-ditch effort turned out to be one of its better drives of its low-scoring affair against Hawaii with the Cowboys reaching the Warriors’ 14-yard line, but Wyoming ran out of time in a 17-13 loss late Saturday night at Aloha Stadium that sent the Paniolo Trophy back to Honolulu. Wyoming (2-4, 0-2 Mountain West) led 13-10 late in the fourth quarter thanks in part to Carl Granderson’s 61-yard pick-six midway through the third quarter.
Hawaii (6-1, 3-0 MW), though, scored what proved to be the winning touchdown with 1:26 left on a 38-yard touchdown pass to JoJo Ward from freshman quarterback Chevin Cordeiro, who got the start in place of the injured Cole McDonald.
Nico Evans once again carried the load for a Wyoming offense that failed to reach 300 total yards for the fourth time this season, racking up a career-high 192 yards on 24 carries. With five Hawaii sacks counting against the Cowboys’ rushing total, Wyoming had just 190 total yards before trying to answer the Warriors’ final touchdown on a frantic final possession.
Quarterback Tyler Vander Waal went just 9 of 17 for 87 yards but completed his first four passes of the drive to get Wyoming into Hawaii territory. A pass interference call moved the Cowboys to the 24-yard line, but an incompletion and a sack pushed them back and forced them to burn their final timeout with 9 seconds left.
Another incompletion and a false start made it fourth-and-21 from Hawaii’s 35. Wyoming got the necessary distance when Vander Waal found James Price over the middle to the 14 with 1 second remaining, but the Cowboys couldn’t get the ball spiked before time ran out.
Hawaii came in averaging more than 42 points a game but had to turn to Cordeiro with McDonald being scratched just before the game started with an undisclosed injury. McDonald had statistically been one of the nation’s best quarterbacks (2,327 total yards, 24 passing touchdowns, two interceptions).
Cordeiro, who backed up Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa in high school, completed his first five passes and helped Hawaii tie it at 10 late in the third quarter with his first career touchdown pass, but the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder was largely kept in check by a Wyoming defense that limited him to 148 yards on his 19 completions and kept the pressure on with a season-high four sacks.
After Cooper Rothe put Wyoming back on top with a 23-yard field goal with 5:31 left in the game, the Cowboys had a chance for a fifth with Hawaii facing second-and-13 from Wyoming’s 38 on what turned out to the Warriors’ final possession, but Cordeiro got out of the grasp of Garrett Crall before finding Ward in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score that ultimately sent Wyoming to its third loss in its last four games.
Wyoming will stay on the road next Saturday with a trip to Fresno State.