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UH falls to Boise in MWC title game, headed to Hawaii Bowl

Hawaii wide receiver Jared Smart hauls in a catch during the second half of the Rainbow Warriors’ 31-10 loss to Boise State in the Mountain West championship game Saturday. AP photos

The Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — Jaylon Henderson started the season third string on Boise State’s quarterback depth chart. He finished the year by hoisting the Mountain West championship trophy after being selected the game MVP.

The senior threw for 212 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score in No. 19 Boise State’s 31-10 victory over the University of Hawaii football team in the conference championship game Saturday.

Boise State (12-1, No. 19 CFP) won its second conference title in three years, beating Hawaii again this season after winning the Oct. 12th meeting, 59-37.

On Sunday, the Rainbow Warriors accepted an invitation to play in the SoFi Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24 at Aloha Stadium. UH will take on old rival BYU in the Christmas Eve bowl, set to be televised on ESPN at 3 p.m.

Boise State quarterback Jaylon Henderson goes airborne over Hawaii defensive backs Khoury Bethley (middle) and Ikem Okeke for a second-half touchdown Saturday.

Henderson’s play-making ability sparked a lethargic offense late in the first half, though he almost didn’t get a chance to make it happen.

Hank Bachmeier, the Broncos’ starting quarterback who hadn’t played since suffering an undisclosed injury against San Jose State on Nov. 2, was warming up on the sideline to possibly enter the game late in the half.

But that all changed in 53 seconds when Henderson threw two touchdown strikes of 36 yards each to Khalil Shakir and John Hightower.

“We have a lot of guys that are in that locker room that are just like (Henderson),” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “We say all the time is hard work does not go unnoticed. There’s a lot of other good players that played really well tonight, but this hard work and staying focused and putting in what you’re asked in your role to go out there and star in it, these guys have done that.”

After rolling up 518 yards of offense in the first game, the Broncos also leaned on their defense more in the rematch.

Hawaii running back Miles Reed breaks away for a long run.

Nose tackle Sonatane Lui, who entered the program as a walk-on, anchored a Boise State defense that forced two turnovers and had two fourth-down stops inside its own 5. The senior also earned defensive MVP honors with two sacks, two tackles for loss and one forced fumble.

Hawaii (9-5) was making its first appearance in the title game. It enjoyed some success through the air with Cole McDonald passing for 241 yards, but couldn’t overcome early problems in the red zone.

The old adage is that you never take points off the board, but the Rainbow Warriors bucked that in the second quarter–and paid a steep price.

Early in the second quarter with the game still tied at 3, coach Nick Rolovich elected to take a made 21-yard field goal by Ryan Meskell off the board after an offside penalty moved the ball to the 1. However, Boise State stuffed McDonald on a sneak up the middle, and UH didn’t score again until the fourth quarter.

“I didn’t feel like field goals were going to win the game,” Rolovich said in defense of his decision. “We needed to be aggressive right there.”