Dave Reardon: Senior night belonged to the Rainbow Warriors

Nov. 20—For one of the few times this season, Hawaii was the team better prepared to compete—at the opening kickoff, after halftime, and at the other points of the game when it mattered most.

When the ball fell off the tee before the opening kickoff, announcer Billy V called for a "re-do."

At the time, it seemed like a good idea for the entire University of Hawaii football season—or, since UH's record stood at 2-9, maybe a "let's pretend it never happened " was more in order.

But the tables finally turned Saturday at the Ching Complex, and senior night belonged to the Rainbow Warriors.

Yes, there were a few anxious moments toward the end. But, for the most part, first-year coach Timmy Chang's squad did the things a college football team needs to do to win in their 31-25 victory over UNLV.

For one of the few times this season, Hawaii was the team better prepared to compete—at the opening kickoff, after halftime, and at the other points of the game when it mattered most.

The Warriors contained the Rebels' most ominous offensive threat, limiting stud running back Aidan Robbins to 72 yards on 17 carries.

UH identified UNLV's weak spot on defense, and exploited it. The Hawaii receivers were wide open all night, and Brayden Schager passed for three touchdowns.

Hawaii scored TDs while the opponent had to settle for field goals. And as long as seven is more than three, that's a good formula for success.

UH came up with the big turnover—and capitalized on it, turning it into much needed insurance points.—RELATED :—PHOTOS :

The Rebels often looked unmotivated. But at 4-6 with two games left, they were playing for potential bowl survival.

"Fun to read, UNLV babies whining about missing bowl eligibility on Twitter, " texted my old college roommate, Neal Steinken, from Chicago, who became a UH football fan over the years because of insomnia. "No one cares, bruh, that you're not going to the Belk Squeegee Bowl."

There will be no bowl game for Hawaii this year. Teams with three or four wins need not apply. Not even UH athletic director David Matlin can pull that one off—and he used to run the Hawaii Bowl and is a wizard at sneaking teams with losing records in under the ropes.

UH also has W's against Duquesne and Nevada this season. But if you can only win one game, the last home game is the one you want.

Because people remember how you leave.

That's not meant as a shot at the nearly two dozen players who beamed their way out through the portal to explore strange new worlds last year, but as a compliment to the seniors who stuck around.

"I'm very glad I stayed, " senior receiver Zion Bowens said, clutching the Island Showdown Trophy as tightly as he did the 55-yard touchdown pass from Schager that gave Hawaii the lead it would keep late in the third quarter.

"I wouldn't want to do it anywhere else."

Yes, Hawaii caught some breaks Saturday.

There was the holding call on a UNLV touchdown pass.

There was that nice carom of a pass into UH linebacker Logan Taylor's hands.

There was the errant 44-yard field goal try by UNLV's Daniel Gutierrez—his first miss of the season.

And there was that sudden downpour that seemed to adversely affect only the visitors.

In a season where the Warriors have endured more than their share of bad breaks, you can chalk it up to what goes around ...

"That's how it happens, " Chang said. "You take a lickin' ... and then it feels good to be on the other side of it."

Now UH just needs to bottle the magic and get it through TSA. A victory to end the season against their former teammate, quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, and his new teammates at San Jose State would be nearly as sweet as a senior night victory.