Hawaii walks off a winner against Colorado State

Hawaii defense back Cam Stone (4) breaks up a pass intended for Colorado State wide receiver Tory Horton (14) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Hawaii wide receiver Steven McBride (7) runs through the Colorado State defense during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

In a season finale that was grand, Matthew Shipley connected on a 51-yard field goal as time expired to deliver the Hawaii football team a 27-24 victory over Colorado State at the Ching Complex.

A crowd of 9,255 celebrated Shipley’s Freon-blooded kick, the 15 UH seniors, and defensive tackle John Tuitupou’s proposal to his long-time girlfriend.


“She said, ‘Yes!’” the JumboTron flashed — the same response after an official’s review confirmed Shipley’s strut-off kick was launched a nano-second ahead of the final whistle.

“That’s what all kickers dream of,” Shipley said of his second clock-beater this season. “Every kicker wants to hit a game-winner. It’s something you work hard for every day in practice. For my first three years here, I never had a game-winner. And in my senior season, I had two of them. It’s really special and nice to get those.”

Unlike Saturday night’s outcome, Shipley’s UH career will go into overtime. He will use the NCAA’s COVID-19-year exemption to return for a fifth UH season in 2024.

The Warriors finished the season winning three of their final four games. They also ousted the Rams from bowl contention. CSU finished at 5-7, falling short of the six victories needed for postseason consideration.

But the Rams, who trailed 24-10 early in the fourth quarter, made an improbable push to tie it at 24 and set up the dramatic ending.

With 2:27 to play, Shipley was poised to increase the Warriors’ 24-16 lead. But CSU’s Chigozie Anusiem crashed the UH’s left side to deflect Shipley’s 45-yard attempt. The Rams were awarded possession at their 28.

A sack and two short passes later, the Rams faced fourth-and-6 from their 30. Against a three-man rush, Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi found wideout Tory Horton behind the UH secondary for a catch-and-run touchdown covering 70 yards. Horton caught Fowler-Nicolosi’s 2-point pass to tie it at 24 with 54 seconds left.

The Warriors’ final drive began at their 25. Quarterback Brayden Schager went 11 yards on a keeper for a first down. Landon Sims rushed 12 yards to the 48, then caught a middle screen for a 7-yard gain.

“That clock runs really fast at the end of the game,” Sims said. “My goal was to get yards, get out of bounds, and give Shipley a chance. He’s a hell of a kicker, the best I’ve ever seen.”

Schager then fired an 11-yard pass to Chuuky Hines as the clock continued to tick. With eight seconds left, special teams coordinator Thomas Sheffield yelled “Hurricane,” the alert signal when the Warriors need to set up a field-goal attempt without any timeouts.

“We were prepared to run ‘Hurricane field goal’ as we practiced,” long-snapper Solomon Landrum said. “I knew it was about eight seconds when we ran out, and that’s enough. Last year, it was 11 seconds (when Shipley hit a field goal at the end of the first half against CSU). It was a little tighter this time, but I didn’t have any doubt. I had trust in the training we had done. We went out there and executed.”

The Warriors, who ended at 5-8 overall and 3-5 in the Mountain West, were able to hold off a team that featured the league’s best receiver (Horton) and tight end (Dallin Holker). The Rams took a 7-0 lead on the opening drive, with Justin Marshall rushing the final 21 yards.

The Warriors tied it at 7 with eight seconds left in the first quarter. Facing heavy pressure, Schager — with a defender’s hand in his face and throwing off his back foot — lofted a 12-yard pass to Steven McBride on a crossing pattern in the end zone.

The Rams made use of three UH penalties — illegally leaping in a block attempt, a pass interference and an out-of-bounds hit — to set up Jordan Noyes’ 21-yard field goal with 9:27 remaining in the second quarter for a 10-7 lead.

The Warriors then broke out a play they had been rehearsing all season to take a 14-10 lead with 6:32 left in the second quarter.

On third-and-2 from the CSU 26, Schager lateraled to wideout Hines on the left side. Hines then threw a scoring pass to tight end Devon Tauaefa in the left corner of the end zone.

“We probably ran (that play) 20 times in practice, and it was fun to do,” Schager said.

Asked the name of the play, Hines said, “Cha-ching! It’s money.”

The Warriors extended their lead to 21-10 with 8:24 left in the third quarter. On a jet sweep to the right, slotback Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala sprinted around the end and found the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown.

“Just doing my job,” Mokiao-Atimalala said. “Everybody blocked it perfectly. It was a jet sweep all the way, but Schager could pull it. I felt him pull it, but I squeezed it. It was wide open. I knew I could make it.”

After the game, the Warriors huddled in prayer and thanks. And then Tuitupou, who successfully petitioned the NCAA for a waiver to play this season, took a knee, proposing to Malialani Manuel. “I was a little nervous, but the boys had my back,” Tuitupou said. “I’m glad I came back this year, and we ended the year with a ‘W.’”

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