The University of Hawaiʻi football team hung tough throughout the contest, but fell short in its 2023 home opener against Pac-12 member Stanford, 37-24, in the newly expanded Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex, September 1. The Rainbow Warriors dropped to 0-2 on the year and the Cardinal started the season 1-0.
Junior quarterback Brayden Schager led UH’s return of the run-and-shoot offense, throwing for 355 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Pofele Ashlock, who earned Mountain West freshman of the week honors a week ago for his performance against Vanderbilt, led the UH receiving corps once again with eight receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinal. Junior wide receiver Koali Nishigaya added six receptions for 52 yards, and senior wide receiver Steven McBride contributed three catches for 40 yards and one touchdown.
On the defensive side, senior linebacker Logan Taylor led the Rainbow Warriors with nine tackles, including two tackles for loss. Freshman defensive back Elijah Palmer added seven tackles.
The Ching Complex was expanded from 9,000 seats to 15,000 in time for the September 1 home opener. In addition, the Aloha Stadium scoreboard was relocated to the Ching Complex to enhance the fan experience.
Stanford scored on its second drive of the game on a 1-yard rush to put the Cardinal up 7-0 midway through the first quarter. After three straight 3-and-outs for the Rainbow Warriors to open the game, the ‘Bows punched it into the endzone on a Schager to Ashlock 7-yard pass at the beginning of the second quarter to cap off an 11-play, 75-yard drive. A Matthew Shipley extra point tied it at 7.
The Cardinal then scored on back-to-back drives of their own to extend their lead to 14 at 21-7 with just over four minutes left in the half. In UH’s final drive of the half, it looked like the Rainbow Warriors were going to come up empty, but junior wide receiver Karsyn Pupunu caught a deflected pass by Schager on 3rd-and-9 for 33 yards to the Stanford 15-yard line. A Shipley field goal closed the gap to 21-10 going into halftime.
Stanford’s first three drives in the second half ended in successful field goals, taking nearly 15 minutes off of the clock. UH scored on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Schager to McBride eight seconds into the fourth quarter, but that was the only score UH managed in the second half. The Cardinal tacked on another touchdown with 5:30 left in the game to extend their lead to 37-16. The Rainbow Warriors added a touchdown late in the game on a 16-yard pass from Schager to Ashlock. A two-point conversion by graduate quarterback Dalen Morris closed the gap to 14 at 37-24, which would end up being the final score.
UH will stay in Honolulu to host the Albany Great Danes out of the Colonial Athletic Association on Saturday, September 9 at 6 p.m. at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex. Before every UH home football game, fans are invited to attend “Kickoff at the Les!” The entire field at Les Murakami Stadium adjacent to the Ching Complex will be open to fans with music, entertainment, vendors, food and drink options as well as a Keiki Zone. For game tickets and more information, visit the UH Mānoa Athletics website.
—By Marc Arakaki