This year, a Christmas Eve tradition looks a little different as Hawaii will play in the New Mexico Bowl at Frisco against Houston. Considering all the difficulties of travel this year, it is surprising that Hawaii will bowl on the mainland for only the third time ever.
Good and Bad Memories on the Mainland
Hawaii’s previous two bowls on the mainland came after signature seasons for the Warriors in 1992 and 2007. The 1992 team won a share of the WAC title, going 10-2 with non-conference wins against Pitt and Oregon and tie-breaking wins over co-champs Fresno State and BYU. The latter two wins sent them to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, the holy grail of bowls for WAC teams. Awaiting them was a 6-4-1 Illinois team.
Come gametime, the Fighting Illini were no match for Hawaii’s option attack as Michael Carter exceeded 100 yards passing and rushing on his way to MVP honors. Travis Sims capped a 1000-yard season with 112 yards on 28 carries.
All of Hawaii bowl appearances for the next 14 years came in the Oahu/Hawaii Bowls, until their dream season of 2007. That year, as many know, the Warriors busted the BCS with a 12-0 record and wins over Boise State and Washington to earn a bid to the Sugar Bowl against Georgia.
The Warriors had worse luck than in 1992 as the Bulldogs shut down the Warriors’ run-and-shoot offense, holding Heisman-finalist Colt Brennan to 169 yards and intercepting him three times. Hawaii did not reach the end zone until the fourth quarter in a 41-10 drubbing.
Fireworks in Frisco
Do not let the records fool you, beyond the fascination with Hawaii not playing in the Hawaii Bowl, this one should be entertaining. Hawaii only averages 26 points per game, but has shown flashes of excellence on offense throughout, while Houston allows and scores 32 points per game.
The quarterback battle is intriguing as two of the most underrated dual-threats in college football face off. For Hawaii, Chevan Cordeiro, a quarterback with much experience, leads the offense, while Clayton Tune leads Houston. Cordeiro has thrown for 1947 yards with 11 touchdowns and has been efficient running the ball with 82 non-sack rushes for 617 yards and seven touchdowns.
Clayton Tune has had a similar year, throwing for 1832 yards with 13 touchdowns in seven games, and adding 340 non-sack rushing yards on 49 carries. Both teams like to spread the ball around with Hawaii boasting four receivers with 29 or more catches and Houston having three receivers eclipse 20 catches.
The last time these two met, there were fireworks on and off the field, as Hawaii held on for a 54-48 3OT win in the 2003 Hawaii Bowl. Kevin Kolb threw for 332 and 3 touchdowns, while Timmy Chang threw for 475 yards and five touchdowns. Despite these standout performances, a postgame brawl took center stage, overshadowing an otherwise phenomenal game.
This year has the potential for the same fireworks with both teams having balanced attacks and experienced quarterbacks to lead them. 2020 has lacked much normalcy, but this year’s New Mexico Bowl in Frisco gives the country a chance to enjoy a Christmas tradition like no other, Hawaii football on Christmas Eve.