After two agonizing losses to Pac-12 teams to open the season, the University of Hawai'i Rainbow Warrior football team notched its first win of the season with a 27-24 victory over Northern Iowa, Saturday night in a non-conference match-up at Hawaiian Airlines Field at Aloha Stadium.
The Rainbow Warriors' (1-2) were led offensively by running back Steven Lakalaka, who rushed for a career-high 124 yards on 32 carries and one touchdown. The sophomore from Honolulu got the start in place of injured starter Joey Iosefa. Quarterback Ikaika Woolsey passed for 188 yards and one touchdown before being replaced by back-up Jeremy Higgins midway through the third quarter. Higgins finished 3-of-6 for 37 yards and directed two second half scoring drives.
Multi-purpose player Scott Harding made his presence felt on all three phases. His rugby-style punting pinned the Panthers inside their own 20 seven times and averaged 10.9 yards on seven punt returns. He also caught a career-long 52-yard reception in the second quarter.
Defensively, the Warriors held UNI to 320 yards of total offense, including only 55 yards on the ground. The defense also scored the game's first points as lineman Beau Yap recovered an errant snap in the end zone to give UH an early 7-0 lead.
The teams combined to punt 24 times – 13 by UNI and 11 by UH.
Without a completion in the first quarter, Woolsey connected with wideout Marcus Kemp on a 50-yard pass play early in the second quarter, setting up a 36-yard Tyler Hadden field goal. The Warriors tacked on another score when Woolsey found tight end Harold Moleni for his first career touchdown pass. On that drive, Woolsey connected with Harding for a 52-yard reception.
Just before the half, the Panthers added a Michael Schamdeke field goal from 41-yards out to cut the deficit to 17-10.
UH punted on its first four possessions of the third quarter before Lakalaka busted a 30-yard touchdown run. The score was set up on the previous UNI possession when the Panthers started at their own 1 after a Harding punt. UH forced a three-and-out and Harding's 13-yard return gave the Warriors the ball at the UNI 30-yard line.
With UH leading 24-17, Harding's 11 punt of the game hit UNI returner Darrien Miller as he attempted to scoop up the bouncing ball and was recovered by UH's Ne'Quan Phillips. Four plays later Hadden booted a 37-yard field goal to make it 27-17 with 3:19 to play.
The Panthers again closed to within one touchdown after Kollmorgen's second touchdown but the Warriors recovered the onside kick attempt and ran out the clock.
The Rainbow Warriors continue their non-conference schedule with a road game at Colorado, Saturday, Sept. 20 in Boulder, Colo.