Byrd's four TD night leads Hawaii past Arizona 45-38
Honolulu — Cedric Byrd is developing quite the knack for fast starts.
The Hawaii senior wide receiver hauled in four touchdown passes to help Hawaii escape with a 45-38 win over Arizona Saturday.
The Rainbow Warriors (1-0) never trailed, saw three separate 14-point leads erased and overcame six turnovers to record their first win over the Wildcats (0-1) in six tries.
Byrd caught scoring passes of 7 and 25 yards in the first half and added TD grabs of 35 and 30 yards after halftime. He finished with career-highs of 14 receptions for 224 yards to eclipse his previous career-high of 11 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown in a season-opening win at Colorado State last year, which doubled as his Hawaii debut.
"I mean, I feel like the coaches did a great job of preparing us to read their defense and then everything they prepared us for, they came out and ran it, so it was easy to read what they were in," Byrd said.
Byrd averaged 16 yards per catch against the Wildcats.
"He's fast. I mean, really fast and he got deep on us more than a couple times and he's got great quickness, he's hard to tackle — he's a good player — but they exploited us when we got into some man-to-man and he became the deep guy, I mean, he was running right by us, so he's a good player," Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said of Byrd.
Arizona evened the score at 35 with Khalil Tate's 21-yard TD pass to Stanley Berryhill III late in the third quarter, but Hawaii took the lead for good on Ryan Meskell's 34-yard field goal with 10:39 left to play.
Tate passed for 361 yards and three touchdowns on 22-of-39 passing with two interceptions. He also rushed for a team-high 108 yards on 13 carries.
Hawaii used two quarterbacks in the win. Starter Cole McDonald completed 29 of 41 passes for 378 and four touchdowns but was intercepted four times. Chevan Cordeiro replaced McDonald in the third quarter and finished 5 of 7 for 58 yards and a touchdown.
"Well, you really shouldn't win a football game when you turn the ball over that much, so that's why a lot of credit, I think, goes to the defense," Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich said.
The Wildcats had a chance to tie on the final play, but Tate scrambled all the way to the Hawaii 1-yard line before he was tackled by Kalen Hicks and Manly Williams to end the game.
"We did some really, really good things at times on offense, defense and special teams and we did some awful things and when you get out on the road, you can't get down 14 points and come running back and then have some other plays that just were inconsistent, so for us to be a better team, our consistency and level of consistency across the board needs to be better," Sumlin said.
Jace Whittaker recorded two of Arizona's four interceptions. Colin Schooler had a team-high nine tackles and a fumble recovery.
Hicks totaled nine tackles, including six solo stops and a pass breakup to lead the Rainbow Warriors defensively.
"Obviously the turnovers kept this game close. . I think our defense did a fine job. . They really stuck together when that thing got close," Rolovich said. "There could have been a time when we fell apart multiple times and then kept believing in each other, kept believing in the process."
Hawaii led 28-21 at halftime.
The teams combined for 1,134 yards of offense and 58 first downs. They ran a combined 149 plays from scrimmage.
It was the first time the teams met since the Wildcats posted a 47-28 win in Tucson, Arizona on Sept. 17, 2016 and marked their first game in Honolulu since the 1998 season opener, when they came away with a 27-6 win over the Rainbow Warriors en route to a 12-1 season record.
The Rainbow Warriors are now 3-11 in their last 14 games against Pac-12 opponents.
Arizona: After just six carries for 16 yards in the first half, running back J.J. Taylor finished with 11 rushes for 75 yards and a touchdown. He ran for 1,434 yards as a sophomore last year, when he earned third team AP All-American honors. The Wildcats, who averaged
202.4 rushing yards per game in 2018, ran for 178 yards Saturday.
Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors executed their lone punt of the night inside the game's final minute. Of their 14 total offensive possessions, six drives ended with a touchdown, six others in turnovers (four interceptions, two fumbles) and one field goal. They were 5 of 10 on third-down conversions and 2 of 3 on fourth downs.
Penalties were a sore spot for the Wildcats last season and that was the case again Saturday, when they were flagged 10 times for 88 yards.
They led the nation in penalty yardage (82.3 per game) and averaged 8.7 penalties per game last year.
Test of depth
Just minutes before kickoff, Hawaii announced that junior linebacker Penei Pavihi will miss the 2019 season with a right knee injury. The Pago Pago, American Samoa-native, made 13 starters and tied for second on the team with 87 total tackles as a sophomore. Jeremiah Pritchard started in Pavihi's place but was unable to finish the game due to an apparent leg left injury in the third quarter.
A common denominator
The teams paid tribute to the late Dick Tomey, who coached 10 years at Hawaii and 14 Arizona. The Wildcats wore a "DT" sticker on the back their helmets and several members of Tomey's family were in attendance and took part in the coin toss. Also, there were about 30 former players on the field who played under Tomey at either Hawaii or Arizona.
Arizona: Hosts Northern Arizona on Sept. 7
Hawaii: Will face its second of three straight Pac-12 opponents to open the season when it hosts Oregon State on Sept. 7.
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