Rainbow Warriors, Cougars renew rivalry

Wide receiver Keelan Ewaliko, a graduate of Baldwin High School, and Hawaii play BYU today in both teams’ season finale. -- AP photo

The last time the University of Hawaii football team defeated Brigham Young, most of the current Rainbow Warriors weren’t even in elementary school.

They’re likely too young to remember the magical day in early December 2001 when the undefeated Cougars came into a sold-out Aloha Stadium to take on an underdog and underrespected UH team that wanted nothing more than to hang a loss on its biggest rival.

They didn’t get to see — at least at the time — the electrifying punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns by Chad Owens, or Craig Stutzmann emphatically kicking the ball into the stands to celebrate one of the Warriors’ 10 TDs.

Nick Rolovich remembers. He set a school record with eight scoring passes that day as Hawaii defeated BYU 72-45.

Today at Aloha Stadium, he faces the Cougars (3-9) for the first time as head coach of the Rainbow Warriors (3-8).

Keelan Ewaliko, shown being tackled during UH’s loss to San Diego State last month, is one of 20 seniors playing their last game with the Rainbow Warriors today. -- AP file photo

Hawaii and BYU don’t play each other nearly as much as they did while the two were in the old Western Athletic Conference, so it’s not surprising many current players don’t really know much about the rivalry.

But Rolovich and his coaching staff, which includes Stutzmann, are making sure their players are educated on the subject.

“They’re getting the history lesson daily,” Rolovich said earlier this week in a video posted on the UH athletics’ website. “Yesterday we watched the highlights from the ’89 game. … I think it’s important for them to understand the history of this game.”

That 56-14 UH victory in 1989 ended a 10-game losing streak by Hawaii in the series. This year’s Rainbow Warriors find themselves in a similar position as they will try to end another skid against the Cougars — BYU has won the last three meetings, the last by a score of 47-0 in 2012. The Cougars lead the all-time series 21-8.

“I didn’t realize it was, like, that big of a deal,” senior receiver Keelan Ewaliko said. “I mean, it’s my first time playing them, so I just want to do my best, especially on Senior Night and just go out with a bang.”

Ewaliko, a Baldwin High School graduate, is one of 20 seniors playing their last game with the Rainbow Warriors.

“Every week is just counting down the days to the point where I probably won’t be able to play football again,” he said. “So I just appreciate it as much as I can, and I just kind of linger on the field because it’s a special place and it means a lot to me. It’s a bittersweet moment.”

During Ewaliko’s time at UH, the Rainbow Warriors have gone 17-34 — that doesn’t include 2013, his redshirt season, when UH went 1-11. The lone bright spot was last season’s 7-7 team that defeated Middle Tennessee in the Hawaii Bowl.

The Rainbow Warriors enter today’s game having lost four straight and eight of their last nine games.

“They’ve sacrificed a lot, they’ve given a lot to this program,” Rolovich said of the seniors. “They’ve been through some hard times, this year being one of them. To send them off with a win vs. BYU on Senior Night, I think (it’s) something they deserve and something they’ll never forget.”

_______________

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

NOTABLE GAMES ON TV

Today

7 a.m.–Ohio St. at Michigan, FOX

10:30 a.m.–Alabama at Auburn, CBS

2:30 p.m.–Clemson at South Carolina, ESPN

3 p.m.–Notre Dame at Stanford, ABC

3 p.m.–Washington St. at Washington, FOX

4 p.m.–BYU at Hawaii, CBSSN

COMMENTS