McDonald leads Hawaii to 38-34 win over BYU in Hawaii Bowl

Dec 25, 2019, 9:51 AM
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (1) loses the football on a hit by Hawaii defensive back Eugene Ford, r...
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (1) loses the football on a hit by Hawaii defensive back Eugene Ford, right, as Wilson tried to leap into the end zone during the second half of the Hawaii Bowl NCAA college football game Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019, in Honolulu. Hawaii recovered the football in the end zone for a touchback. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich had this Hawaii Bowl all figured out, except for the details.

He told his players there would be times when beating BYU seemed out of reach, but he wanted them to expect to win the game in the fourth quarter. And that’s what happened Saturday in Aloha Stadium, a 38-34 victory for their first victory over the Cougars since 2001.

Rolovich just couldn’t have scripted how it would happen.

Hawaii scored 31 points by halftime against a BYU defense that had given up more than 30 points in a game once this year, on the road against Washington. The Warriors were blanked so badly in the second half they didn’t even get into the red zone until their final possession.

And then, Cole McDonald took them 71 yards in three plays, capping off a magnificent Christmas Eve with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Nick Mardner with 1:17 remaining.

Khoury Bethley grabbed his second interception of the game — and the season — to stop BYU’s last chance and give Hawaii only its sixth 10-win season in school history and the first since 2010.

“It sure wasn’t looking that good,” Rolovich said. “To get a 10-win season by beating BYU, it’s hard to write anything better.”

McDonald finished with 493 yards passing and four touchdowns, taking him over 4,000 yards for the season. He constantly burned the BYU secondary with the deep ball, and he was at his best at the end.

BYU (7-6) took its only lead of the game on a 20-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. The Cougars had a chance to run out the clock until Zach Wilson was hurried and threw incomplete on 3rd-and-2.

That gave Hawaii one last opportunity, all it needed.

McDonald had an idea about what the defense was trying to do, and he manipulated the safety by looking right before coming back to the left to find Mardner alone for a 38-yard gain down the left sideline. On the next play, he found Mardner on a post and led him perfectly. Those were the only two catches Mardner had for the game.

“I was nervous and excited,” McDonald said. “It was destiny for us.”

Rolovich played for Hawaii in 2001 when it last beat BYU, back when both were in the Western Athletic Conference. This was the first time they met in a bowl game, with Hawaii (10-5) designated the visiting team on its home field.

BYU wasted a solid game by Wilson, whose father grew up in Hawaii. Wilson threw for 274 yards and ran for 72 yards and two short TDs to help the Cougars rally in the first half.

BYU’s last chance ended when Bethley picked off Wilson for the second time, and the celebration was on.

McDonald finished 28 of 46, and he did most of his damage in the first half by throwing for 331 yards and three scores.

Of the four touchdown drives, the shortest was 40 yards. That one followed Bethley’s first interception. Two plays later, McDonald found Jared Smart on a post route with a perfectly thrown pass that made it 14-0.

Wilson brought the Cougars back, leading them on touchdown drives of 73, 75 and 75 yards, the last one ending on Micah Simon scoring on an 11-yard reverse.

“We knew they had a dynamic offense,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “We knew he had to be at our best. Obviously, we didn’t make enough plays to win the game. The big plays were the issue, even at the end of the game.”

BYU still leads the series 23-9.


Hawaii: McDonald used the middle of the field and was not afraid to go deep on a BYU defense that had been stubborn against the pass most of the year.

BYU: The Cougars had great balance with the run (231 yards) and pass (274 yards). But they were susceptible to the deep ball all game, and it cost them in the end.


Hawaii receivers Smart and JoJo Ward each went over 1,000 yards for the year, joining Cedric Byrd II. This is the sixth time in NCAA history that a team had three players with at least 1,000 yards receiving in a season. Hawaii has done it twice, the other time in 2007. The other schools are Texas Tech (2003), Tulsa (2003), Houston (2009 and Fresno State (2013).


BYU’s front line was so dominant that Hawaii finished with 2 yards rushing on 27 carries. The longest run of the game was a scramble by McDonald for 9 yards on the play before his two passes to Mardner.


Hawaii: At Arizona on Aug. 29 to open the 2020 season.

BYU: At Utah on Sept. 5 to open the 2020 season.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories


utah jazz educator award winners...
Andrew Gordon

Spanish Fork teacher is year’s first Jazz “Most Valuable Educator”

The Jazz "Most Valuable Educator" honor comes with a custom Jazz jersey and $1,000 grant for the winning teacher's classroom.
3 days ago
A fundraising effort has begun to raise $100 million to help redevelop the Ballpark neighborhood of...
Randall Jepson

Council chair weighs in on the future of Smith’s Ballpark

Ballpark Community Council Chair Amy Hawkins sees future green space and a place for people to relax at the site of Smith's Ballpark.
3 days ago
girls play tackle football...
Randall Jeppesen

Girls’ tackle football lawsuit reinstated

Several girls filed a lawsuit in 2017 to get three Utah school districts to create tackle football teams for girls.
11 days ago
A fundraising effort has begun to raise $100 million to help redevelop the Ballpark neighborhood of...
Simone Seikaly

Salt Lake Bees baseball relocating to new field in Daybreak in 2025

The new Bees baseball stadium will be privately financed by owner, The Larry H. Miller Company, and is expected to be completed by the 2025 season.
11 days ago
A Snow College student-athlete died Monday morning in a two-car accident on SR-132. Photo credit: U...
Samantha Herrera

Snow College softball player dies in car accident

Snow College student and athlete Paige Rydalch reportedly died in a car crash Monday morning. She was an infielders on the school's softball team.
12 days ago
Hamlin is breathing on his own and speaking to family, physicians and teammates -- positive updates...
Elizabeth Wolfe, Jacob Lev and Adrienne Broaddus, CNN

‘Keep praying for me’: Damar Hamlin, breathing on his own, posts on Instagram for the first time since collapse

Hamlin is breathing on his own and speaking to family, physicians and teammates. Positive updates Bills players say.
21 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
McDonald leads Hawaii to 38-34 win over BYU in Hawaii Bowl