FORT COLLINS — Cole McDonald led the Hawaii Warriors to their first win in Fort Collins since 1988, picking apart Colorado State’s secondary in a 43-34 win over the Rams on Saturday night after nearly blowing a 30-point lead.
McDonald threw for 418 yards and three touchdowns, including a 55-yarder to Cedric Byrd that made it 37-7.
With his counterpart, University of Washington graduate transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels throwing for 537 yards and five touchdowns, McDonald and the Warriors had to fend off a furious Rams rally.
It included a four-play, 99-yard scoring drive and a 9-yard TD toss to Izzy Matthews that pulled CSU to 40-34 with 4:42 remaining.
The Rams didn’t try an onside kick after that, and Tristin Kamaka’s fair catch at the Hawaii 13 gave the Warriors the ball at their 25 thanks to a new NCAA kickoff rule.
McDonald hit John Ursua for 10 yards on third-and-3 at midfield with a couple minutes left and Ryan Meskell’s 35-yard field goal with 44 seconds left sealed it.
Despite a delay of game call to start the game, the Warriors (1-0, 1-0 Mountain West) were nearly unstoppable, scoring on all but one of their first-half possessions in taking a 23-7 lead into the locker room on their way to their first win at CSU since Sept. 10, 1988.
The Rams (0-1, 0-1), coming off a third consecutive bowl appearance, figured to be ahead of the Warriors, coming off a 3-9 season, but missing coach Mike Bobo for much of the two weeks leading into their opener apparently took its toll in the first half.
Bobo spent 10 days in the hospital for peripheral neuropathy after experiencing numbness in his feet. He called offensive plays from the coaches’ box.
Hawaii: Snapping a five-game road losing skid is just what coach Nick Rolovich needed to jump-start his program.
Colorado State: This was the last thing Bobo needed with the Rams heading into a brutal stretch that includes games against Colorado, Arkansas and Florida.
Hawaii: The Warriors host Navy (0-0) on Saturday when former Hawaii QBs Rolovich and Ken Niumatalolo square off.
Colorado State: The Rams have a short week before hosting the University of Colorado (0-0) in the Rocky Mountain Showdown at the Denver Broncos’ stadium.