HONOLULU – Dressed in their new, shiny, all-white uniforms and guided by their new, much-lauded coaching staff, the Washington Huskies took the Aloha Stadium field here on a sunny Saturday against a Hawaii team that finished 1-11 in 2013 and … watched the Rainbow Warriors score a touchdown on their first possession.
And a field goal on their second. Instant gratification, this was not.
It didn’t get a whole lot better from there, either. This was a yuck-fest from beginning to end. Permanent UW consternation was dashed, though (for now) on the legs of John Ross, and the power of an increasingly disruptive pass rush – or maybe Hawaii’s offense just came back down to earth – as the Huskies scored 17 unanswered points before halftime en route to a season-opening 17-16 victory under first-year coach Chris Petersen.
And that might be the only positive this game yielded for the Huskies, who too often looked inept offensively and did just enough down the stretch to avoid a catastrophic loss.
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Hawaii led 10-0 before Lindquist had completed a pass, as quarterback Ikaika Woolsey took advantage of the Huskies’ young secondary and led the Rainbow Warriors to two scoring drives to begin the game.
Then, the Huskies got the ball to Ross. The speedy sophomore took a reverse pitch from Deontae Cooper 20 yards for UW’s first touchdown of the season, suffering only a mild brush on the shoulder as he zoomed toward the end zone.
Ross wasn’t done. After Hawaii failed to convert a 4th-and-2 try from UW’s 9-yard line, Lindquist dropped back and heaved a perfectly-thrown ball up the middle of the field, Ross ran past his defender, caught it in stride, and sprinted the requisite distance for a 91-yard touchdown.
All of a sudden, the Huskies led 14-10, fans wringing their hands a little less and breathing a little easier.
But not for long. The Huskies’ managed a field goal before halftime, and caught a break when Hawaii kicker Tyler Hadden banged a 40-yard field goal try off the left upright just before halftime.
The Rainbow Warriors tacked on three points on their second possession of the third quarter, converting a field goal after Hawaii flipped the field with a 58-yard punt that pinned the Huskies at their own 2-yard line before a three-and-out and a short punt gave the Rainbow Warriors the ball at UW’s 41.
Meanwhile, Lindquist and the Huskies offense struggled, and when they weren’t just struggling, they were really struggling. Lindquist completed just 10 of 26 passes for 162 yards, and the Huskies punted on their first eight possessions of the second half.
None of UW’s running backs established any kind of rhythm. Lavon Coleman led the bunch with 17 carries for 78 yards – 37 of those on the final, clock-killing possession – and Dwayne Washington carried 12 times for 38 yards. That was in contrast to Hawaii’s 6-foot, 245-pound back Joey Iosefa, who bulldozed his way to 143 yards on 30 carries.
Hawaii had its best chance to take the lead after partially blocking a Korey Durkee punt from UW’s end zone in the fourth quarter that ultimately landed at the Huskies’ 36-yard line. But the Huskies’ defense held, forcing the Rainbow Warriors to settle for a 27-yard field goal to trim UW’s lead to 17-16.
Again, the teams traded punts. When the Huskies got the ball back, they rushed well enough for three first downs, Lindquist converting a 3rd-and-7 with a tough 9-yard carry to Hawaii’s 34-yard line.
But again, after two incompletions, the Huskies punted, this time opting to have Lindquist pooch it through the end zone after lining up under center on fourth down.
Washington’s defense came up big yet again, forcing a punt after blowing up a third-down screen pass from Woolsey to Iosefa.
Then, finally, the Huskies found daylight with their running game, Coleman rushing for three first downs to ice a game UW simply could not afford to lose.
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple