Warriors stop New Mexico State, 24-6
BY Stephen Tsai
Spurred by a feisty defense, Hawai‘i produced a workmanlike 24-6 victory over the New Mexico State tonight at Aloha Stadium.
The Warriors’ second consecutive victory, before a crowd of 25,103, came with some bruises.
Quarterback Bryant Moniz suffered injuries to his ribs in the third quarter and did not play after that.
And running back Leon Wright-Jackson suffered a sore neck in the first quarter and was sidelined the rest of the way. But Wright-Jackson scored two touchdowns, and Moniz’s replacement, Shane Austin, threw a scoring pass to slotback Greg Salas. Salas set a school record with 16 catches for 196 yards.
UH’s defense made sure that was enough. The Warriors did not allow an offensive touchdown, and intercepted two passes.
The Warriors improved to 4-6 overall and 2-5 in the Western Athletic Conference. If they win their final three regular-season games, they will earn a berth in the Sheraton Hawai‘i Bowl.
New Mexico State, which scored on a 58-yard interception return in the third quarter, fell to 3-7 and 1-4.
In a show of the Warriors’ dominance in the first half, the Aggies, getting the ball back at their 23 with 40 seconds to play before the intermission, opted to take a knee and run out the clock.
It was a surprising concession given that the Warriors were set to receive the opening kickoff of the second half.
But that reaffirmed the Warriors’ control in a first half in which they built a 17-0 lead.
The lead could have been at least six points wider. Scott Enos, who entered having missed three consecutive field-goal attempts, was wide right from 22 yards with 4:13 left in the second quarter.
The Warriors got the ball back and, boosted by a 15-yard penalty for not giving punt returner Ryan Henry enough room, advanced to the Aggie 23, where they faced a fourth-and-11. This time, they opted not to summon Enos. Moniz’s pass eluded the fingertips of Salas, giving the Aggies possession with 40 seconds left in the half.
With the way the Warriors were playing defensively, the Aggies probably did not want to take any further risks.
The Aggies, who entered dead last in the NCAA Division I-A in total offense, managed 141 first-half yards. But they never threatened in the first two quarters.
Four of their five full first-half possessions ended in punts. The fifth was abbreviated when UH safety Mana Silva plucked quarterback Jeff Fleming’s dying-quail pass at the 5.
The Warriors, meanwhile, easily solved every Aggie defensive tactic.
The Aggies opened with essentially a full-court press, placing 10 defenders within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. Safety Stephon Hackett was the lone “deep” defender, positioned 10 yards from the ball.
The Warriors picked apart that scheme with slants, screens and crossing routes. Salas, in particular, was able to elude Chris Buckner’s man-to-man coverage. Salas had eight first-half catches for 127 yards.
When the Aggies dropped into a two-deep zone, the Warriors found the seams. On a third-and-16 play, Salas made a leaping grab between Buckner and Hackett for a 42-yard gain.
Moniz completed 15 of 29 passes for 244 first-half yards. Three of his passes were dropped.
Wright-Jackson continued his impressive running. Coming off last week’s three-touchdown, 167-yard performance, he ran for two touchdowns in the first half. The first was off a trap-play for 3 yards. The second came on a draw in which he dragged Buckner the final 2 yards of the 11-yard carry.
UH—Leon Wright-Jackson 3 run (Scott Enos kick), 7:03. Big plays: Jon Medeiros 15 pass from Bryant Moniz. Wright-Jackson runs of 19, 16 yards. Greg Salas 9 pass from Moniz to NMSU 10 on fourth-and-3. 11 plays, 83 yards, 5:22 elapsed time. Score: Hawai‘i 7, New Mexico State 0.
UH—Wright-Jackson 11 run (Enos kick), 3:39. Big plays: Moniz consecutive completions to Salas (13, 11 yards) and Wright-Jackson (13). 5 plays 48 yards, 1:53 elapsed time. Score: Hawai‘i 14, New Mexico State 0.
UH—Enos FG 38, 12:13. Big plays: Medeiros 17 pass from Moniz. Salas 41 pass from Moniz. 8 yards, 60 yards, 3:14 elapsed time. Score: Hawai‘i 17, New Mexico State 0.
NMSU—Davon House 58 interception return (run failed), 1:13. Score: Hawai‘i 17, New Mexico State 6.
UH—Greg Salas 12 pass from Shane Austin (Enos kick), 11:08. Big plays: Moniz runs of 17 and 7 yards before leaving game with rib injury. Medeiros 13 pass from Austin. Salas 12 pass from Austin. 9 plays, 76 yards 4:58 elapsed time. Score: Hawai‘i 24, New Mexico State 6.
• Greg Salas set a UH game record with his 16th reception with 7:02 remaining in the fourth quarter.
• Blaze Soares gets first interception of season with 2:06 remaining in the third quarter, ending NMSU drive at UH 48.
• UH's Leon Wright-Jackson had six carries for 43 yards in the first half with TD runs of 3 and 11 yards in the first quarter. UH quarterback Bryant Moniz was 15 of 29 passes for 244 yards with no interceptions. Greg Salas had eight catches for 127 yards.
• The Warriors had 310 yards of total offense in the first half to New Mexico State's 141.
• New Mexico State quarterback Jeff Fleming was 8 of 14 for 88 yards and one interception. Marcus Allen had three catches for 39 yards in the first half.
• The Warriors were penalty-free in the first half. UH didn't punt in the first half.
• UH scored on its first three drives before Scott Enos missed on a 22-yard field goal attempt with 4:13 remaining in the second quarter.
• UH's Mana Silva got his WAC-leading fifth interception of the season with 9:52 remaining in the second quarter giving the Warriors the ball at their own 5.
• UH's Moniz was 8 of 12 for 101 yards in the first quarter. Leon Wright-Jackson had five carries for 42 yards.
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