CSU's comeback effort falls short in home loss to Hawaii

Colorado State football had no answers for the University of Hawaii or its passing offense Saturday, especially in the first half. The Rainbow Warriors moved the ball up and down the field and appeared to be well on their way to an easy road victory in the Week 0 matchup, but a second half CSU comeback made things interesting, as Hawaii narrowly hung on for the 43-34 victory at Canvas Stadium. 

"First off, you have to give coach (Nick) Rolovich and his staff a lot of credit. They came in and were better prepared than we were tonight. They played a better football game in all three phases," head coach Mike Bobo said. 

Led by starting quarterback Cole McDonald, Hawaii methodically moved the football up and down the field for most of the game with ease. McDonald consistently picked apart the Rams' secondary in the victory, spreading the football to seven different pass catchers and really doing whatever he wanted. The few times that CSU managed to contain Hawaii's wide receivers, it did not bother McDonald at all. He simply scrambled outside of the pocket and beat the Rams with his legs. 

"They did a good job keeping us off balance," Bobo said. "They were a balanced football team. They were able to run the ball for 200 yards and throw it for 400 yards. In our five-man box, they were doing a good job of running the ball. We went to a six-man box and played single-high, and they were taking advantage of single coverage. Really, anything that they did, worked."

In total, McDonald completed 26-of-36 pass attempts for 418 yards and three touchdowns through the air. On the ground, McDonald ran the ball 13 times for 96 yards and another pair of rushing touchdowns to help Hawaii build a multi-score lead. 

Offensively, CSU struggled to maintain drives for the majority of the game, and it really killed any chance of the Rams coming back in this one. The Rams came out with a 14-play, 85-yard drive for a touchdown in the opening possession, but failed to reach the red zone again until the third quarter. 

CSU figured things out late, but at that point, the deficit was too large to overcome. The Rams had three second half scoring drives of 75 yards or more, including a four-play drive that went 99 yards in just over one minute at the beginning of the fourth quarter.  

In his Colorado State debut, senior quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels was 33-of-48 for 509 yards and four touchdowns. The 509 passing yards set a new single-game record for the program. 

"(Offensively) it was a great way to start the season, but I just wish we would have started faster," Carta-Samuels said. "If there was another quarter to play or if we would have just played like we did in the second half (for the entire game), we would have won."

His first touchdown pass as a CSU QB was a 10-yard strike to Bisi Johnson in the first quarter and the second was a seven-yard pass to Preston Williams. Of his four touchdown passes, Carta-Samuels' most impressive was definitely his third, a 58-yard deep ball to Johnson. 

Johnson finished the game with six catches for 157 yards and two receiving touchdowns. His counterpart, Williams, led all receivers in the game with nine catches for 188 yards and two touchdowns as well. 

Along with everything that went wrong for the Rams defensively, the penalties certainly did not help the Rams' cause. CSU racked up 12 penalties for 120 yards in the loss.

"It was not a very disciplined effort tonight," Bobo said. "There were 12 penalties tonight that were drive killers-several times their drives were extended on offense when we were on defense. Special teams created no momentum. With special teams, penalties killed us over and over. Just a pretty disappointing effort there with discipline. That falls on me as the head coach."

After a disappointing home loss to an opponent that the Rams were favored by 17 to beat, CSU will look to rebound in next Friday's Rocky Mountain Showdown against Colorado. 

"We didn't quit at the end, but like I told the guys, there are no moral victories," Bobo said. "We have a short week. We can't feel sorry for ourselves. We have to have a practice tomorrow and we have to get ready to play a CU team for the Rocky Mountain Showdown next Friday on a short week." 

PHOTOS: Elliott Jerge