The game plan was to run it. We have a great offensive line and they opened up holes for everybody. —Austin Kafentzis
HONOLULU — For the most part, it looked like a pair of three-win teams squaring off in the season finale.
On a night that featured blustery winds and intermittent rain showers, BYU and Hawaii slogged it out at Aloha Stadium, with the Cougar offensive line paving the way to a dominant run game — to the tune of 285 yards — but BYU made enough mistakes to keep the score close into the fourth quarter.
In the end, the Cougars rode that strong rushing attack to a 30-20 victory over the Rainbow Warriors before a crowd of 24,910.
The win produced two unlikely stars, running backs Austin Kafentzis and Riley Burt, who ran 18 times for 98 yards and 13 times for 75 yards, respectively, after starter Squally Canada went down with an injury in the first half.
“I’m glad we put it on our O-line to help us run some yards,” said coach Kalani Sitake. “Our running backs did a great job.”
“I wasn’t expecting Squally to get hurt, obviously, but it was in the game plan for me to get touches,” said Kafentzis, who suffered a shoulder separation in the third quarter but kept playing. “Things happen and the game plan changes and you’ve got to roll with it. The game plan was to run it. We have a great offensive line and they opened up holes for everybody.”
With the win, the Cougars improved to 4-9 and avoided a 10-loss season while Hawaii finished with a 3-9 mark.
BYU racked up 451 yards of total offense. But the Cougars struggled to score through the first three quarters and led 13-7 until late in the third quarter — continuing a major theme of this season — and BYU’s special teams had a missed PAT and a missed field goal by Rhett Almond and muffed a punt by Michael Shelton.
The Cougars escaped the islands with their second true road victory of the season after scoring 17 points over the game’s final 16 minutes.
Canada enjoyed a big first half, rushing for 113 yards and two touchdowns. But he suffered an injury late in the second quarter. The Cougars kept picking up big chunks of yards on the ground with Kafentzis and Burt.
Freshman quarterback Joe Critchlow completed 14 of 23 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, BYU’s defense held Hawaii to 28 yards rushing.
“Defensively, we played a really solid game,” Sitake said.
On BYU’s first drive of the second half, it drove to the Hawaii 30 but on fourth-and-9 from the 35, Critchlow’s pass to Talon Shumway gained just 8 yards and the Cougars turned the ball over on downs.
Late in the third quarter, Critchlow’s 37-yard completion to Matt Bushman put the ball in Hawaii territory and set up BYU’s second touchdown. Five plays later, Critchlow threw an 11-yard TD pass to Neil Pau’u to put the Cougars ahead 20-7 with 1:39 left in the period.
On the final play of the third quarter, Shelton fumbled a punt and Hawaii recovered at the BYU 19. Hawaii capitalized by scoring on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Dru Brown to Salt Lake City native Ammon Barker to cut the deficit to 20-13, as Zayne Anderson blocked the PAT.
BYU responded with an impressive drive that ended with a 35-yard field goal by Andrew Mikkelson — his first career field goal that increased the Cougars’ advantage to 23-13 with 6:21 remaining.
Burt scored his first career TD with 3:46 left on an 11-yard run to make the score 30-13. UH scored a final touchdown with 1:49 on the clock.
BYU struck first on its opening drive, as the Cougars ran the ball five straight times on an 85-yard drive, culminating with a 40-yard touchdown run by Canada.
Later in the quarter, BYU was moving the ball when Critchlow was hit hard in the pocket and the ball flew into the hands of Hawaii’s Solomon Matautia, who rumbled 42 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 7-7 with 4:42 left in the first quarter.
The Cougars answered with a 16-play, 80-yard drive that took 8:05 off the clock. The drive featured heavy doses of Canada and Kafentzis running the ball. Canada scored on a 3-yard run to put BYU up, 13-7. However, place-kicker Almond missed the extra point.
Late in the second quarter, BYU’s Corbin Kaufusi drilled Brown, who fumbled the ball. Merrill Taliauli plucked it out of the air, giving the ball back to the Cougar offense.
BYU marched down to the Hawaii 9-yard line. With two seconds left in the first half, Almond’s 26-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left as the score remained 13-7 for the Cougars at intermission.