HONOLULU — According to his coach, Cole McDonald has his priorities in order.
Despite it being just his second career start, McDonald turned in another glowing performance Saturday night. The sophomore threw for 428 yards and six touchdowns on 30-of-41 passing and Hawaii used a quick start en route to a 59-41 win over Navy on Saturday night.
“I think it’s just hard work, it’s his desire and it should come down to those two things and he’s either worrying about his hair, or he’s doing football,” Rolovich said of McDonald, who has passed for 846 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception this season.
“There’s not a lot of stuff outside of school, football and his sweet hair that he worries about — and the kid is competitive. The kid is a confident competitor that nothing flusters him and sometimes he makes me angry, but that’s because I think he can be even better than he was tonight and when he sees the film he’ll understand that,” Rolovich said.
The Rainbow Warriors (2-0) scored on their first six possessions and racked up 522 total yards, while the Midshipmen (0-1) dropped their first season opener since 2014.
John Ursua (10 catches for 167 yards), Cedric Byrd (11 for 90) and JoJo Ward (6 for 161) each caught two touchdown passes from McDonald.
Rolovich praised the unselfishness of the trio.
“You’ve got more than those three guys that, from the pit of their hearts, believe in the system and believe in helping each other get open. . You can’t just be a super athlete in this offense without giving up some of yourself for the greater good of the team,” Rolovich said.
Freddy Holly III’s 1-yard TD run, the first of his career, gave Hawaii a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
After Navy turned it over on downs on its ensuing drive, Ward pulled down a 34-yard scoring strike from McDonald five plays into the second quarter on fourth-and-4.
Later in the quarter, on fourth-and-1, McDonald faked a handoff to Holly before lofting a deep pass down the right sideline to a wide-open Ursua, who had his seventh game with at least 100 receiving yards.
That stretched the lead to 35-7, but Navy answered with Malcom Perry's 75-yard TD run one play later.
Ryan Meskell’s 23-yard field goal on the final play of the first half closed out a 24-point second quarter for Rainbow Warriors and gave them a 38-14 lead at the intermission.
Navy scored twice — on a pair of Zach Abey TD runs — in a span of 85 seconds midway through the third quarter to pull within 38-28, but McDonald tossed a 31-yard TD pass to Byrd early in the fourth to make it a 17-point cushion.
Abey scored on runs of 3, 1, 7 yards and 2 yards and Perry rushed for 108 yards on 17 carries.
Navy had 441 total yards, including 326 rushing.
Hawaii is now 3-1 all-time against Navy. All three of its wins in the series have come in Honolulu.
Navy assistant focusing on football after son's transplant.
Navy: Hawaii’s 436 passing yards were the third most allowed by a Navy defense in the Ken Niumatalolo era and the most since Louisiana Tech recorded 409 on Dec. 23, 2016 in the Armed Forces Bowl. Niumatalolo said defending Hawaii’s numerous offensive weapons made for a tough task.
“There’s so many different things you’ve got to be aware of. You try to bring pressure, (but) Cole can elude pressure and you can’t gang up on the pass because they’ve got the run game. They spread you out in so many different ways and present so many problems,” Niumatalolo said.
Hawaii: A return to the run and shoot offense has proven to be a fruitful one. After averaging 402.7 yards and 22.8 points per game a season ago, the Rainbow Warriors are averaging 51 points and 569.5 yards through their first two games this year. They previously ran the run and shoot for 13 seasons and consistently ranked among the nation’s leaders in passing offense and scoring.
SPECIAL TEAMS BOOST
Following a Navy three-and-out early in the second quarter, Owen White had his punt blocked by Hawaii’s Jeffrey Keene. It was recovered by Maxwell Hendrie, who returned it 19 yards for a touchdown that stretched his team’s lead to 28-0. It was the first blocked punt returned for a score by the Rainbow Warriors since Dejaun Butler did so against UC Davis in 2015.
ABEY TO THE RESCUE
Abey, who led Navy in rushing yards a season ago, moved from quarterback to receiver in the offseason. However, the Midshipmen called upon his services at his old position several times in the red zone Saturday and Abey delivered by finding the end zone on each of his first three carries. He finished with 5 rushes for 17 yards.
Navy: The Midshipmen open American Athletic Conference play Saturday when they host Memphis. They have not started a season with consecutive losses since 2012.
Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors will look for its first 3-0 start to a season since 2007 when they host Rice Saturday.