“Ship-Shot”: Shipley’s last-second FG propels Hawai’i over New Mexico State, 20-17
BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED SEP 24, 2023
HONOLULU – An on-and-off rainy night in Manoa saw soaked ‘Bows fans go home happy after senior kicker Matthew Shipley drilled a 24-yard field goal as time expired to complete Hawai’i’s second-half comeback win over New Mexico State, 20-17.
The vibes in the Hawai’i locker room postgame were high after avenging what coaches and players alike called an “embarrassing” loss last season on the road at NMSU, elated from a multi-score second half comeback to close out the non-conference schedule.
It didn’t seem to be trending that way early, as the Aggies (2-3) jumped ahead with RB Monte Watkins’ 39-yard TD catch – a screen that forced three missed Hawai’i tackles – for an early 7-0 1st quarter lead. NMSU chipped on three more just a few minutes into the 2nd quarter on a 35-yard field goal from Ethan Albertson to cap off a 14-play, 54-yard drive that lasted over eight minutes.
Hawai’i looked sluggish up to that point, running five plays before punting on the ensuing possession. The ‘Bows needed a shot in the arm, some kind of boost, “Jordan’s Secret Stuff” even.
What they got was the Sauce.
New Mexico State drove the field after the UH punt, ripping off two straight runs of bouncing off tacklers for extra yards to get the ball to the Hawai’i 20-yard line before ‘Bows DL Daniel “Sauce” Williams ripped loose a Star Thomas rushing attempt and returned it 41 yards to set up the Rainbow Warriors’ first score of the night.
While momentum started shifting, Hawai’i couldn’t quite get six on the gifted extra possession from Williams. The ‘Bows settled from 35 yards out and allowed Shipley to do the rest, cutting the Aggies’ lead to 10-3 with 5:27 left in the half.
The visitors from the mainland refused to let go of their grasp of the game so easily, answering Hawai’i’s first score of the night with an 8-play, 73-yard touchdown drive that saw NMSU QB Diego Pavia hit Star Thomas for a 21-yard TD and a two-touchdown lead for the C-USA representatives.
Hawai’i had a chance to add another field goal with six seconds left, a try from 51 yards out, but the career-long try was wide for Shipley and the ‘Bows entered the locker room down two scores and mustering less than 100 yards of total offense in 30 minutes of play.
The halftime speech must have been as electrifying as Williams’ fumble recovery and return because a different Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors team hit the field for the second half. New Mexico State dominated the first half, winning the possession-time battle while being 5-of-7 on 3rd down conversions. The Aggies also had seven more 1st downs in the opening half of play.
The Hawai’i offense immediately looked to have re-found a rhythm, driving 75 yards in eight plays on the opening possession of the second half. ‘Bows QB Brayden Schager got his first career rushing touchdown to finish the drive, running it in from four yards out to make it a one-score game, 17-10.
Looking to capitalize on the momentum swing out of the break, the ‘Bows special teams unit pulled off a surprise onside kick and recovered it to give the home squad a chance to tie it quickly. An overturned Steven McBride catch followed by a nine-yard loss on a sack killed the drive quickly for Hawai’i, though.
New Mexico State tried to answer back with a haymaker of their own, a 42-yard completion down the sideline to WR Jordin Parker to set themselves up deep in Rainbow Warrior territory, but the ‘Bows defense held strong. The Aggies settled for a 43-yard try that went wide-left, keeping it a one-score game with 6:00 left in the 3rd quarter.
Once again, the Run-N-Shoot was running and shooting down the field with a mix of rushes by RB Landon Sims and Jordan Johnson between dimes by Schager to different receivers. The ‘Bows worked their way down inside the New Mexico State 10-yard line before the Aggies’ defense forced a Schager fumble and recovered it to end the UH threat just before the end of the third quarter.
Luckily for the ‘Bows, NMSU ended up pinned inside their own 10-yard line for the next offensive drive and allowed Hawai’i to pin the ears back and force a quick three-and-out to get the ball back.
With a second chance to tie it, Hawai’i capitalized. Schager led an 11-play, 43-yard scoring drive, tossing a 3-yard TD to WR Koali Nishigaya to knot the game at 17 with 7:19 left in regulation. Dating back to last season, it’s the 14th straight game the junior QB has thrown a touchdown pass for the ‘Bows.
Looking to drain the clock with an all-conference kicker in their back pocket, New Mexico State turned back to the running game that had treated them well in the past two matchups with Hawai’i. After some initial success, the drive stalled near midfield as the ‘Bows forced a punt and gave the offense a chance to win the game with three minutes left in regulation.
Starting inside their own 30, Hawai’i quickly worked its way into Aggies’ territory with completions of 13 and 22 yards to Johnson and WR Pofele Ashlock. Facing a big third-and-9 at the NMSU 36, Schager delivered a strike to McBride for a 12-yard gain to move the chains and run the clock under 60 seconds.
A pass interference penalty drawn by Ashlock in the endzone on the next play set up first-and-goal for the ‘Bows, who ran the clock all the way down to two seconds before taking a timeout and setting up a chip shot 24-yard field goal attempt for Shipley to win it. The kicker from Liberty Hill, Texas calmly stepped to his spot and nailed the kick to send everyone home happy and give Hawai’i a lift heading into Mountain West play after a 20-17 win.
New Mexico State QB Diego Pavia finished 9-of-15 with 155 yards passing and two touchdowns and led the Aggies’ rushing attack with 97 yards on the ground. Junior RB Star Thomas led NMSU receivers with four catches and a touchdown, while Jordin Parker had the most receiving yards for the visitors (42).
Hawai’i QB Brayden Schager finished with 245 yards and two total TDs (1 pass, 1 rush) on 26-of-38 passing and did not throw an interception (though he did lose his first fumble of the year) in the ‘Bows comeback win. He looked much more decisive with the ball in the second half as he led the charge back. Sophomore RB Jordan Johnson led the rushing attack with 44 yards on nine carries while chipping in an extra 35 yards receiving.
Freshman WR Pofele Ashlock led the way again for the ‘Bows with seven catches for 77 yards, though the Aggies’ defense was able to keep the talented pass catcher out of the end zone. Senior WR Steven McBride had 47 yards on four catches, while WR Jalen Walthall helped move the chains with his six catches for 32 yards.
‘Bows kicker Matthew Shipley said that the missed field goal try from 51 yards before the end of the first half was already out of his mind and not impacting his mental approach before lining up to win it for the ‘Bows. It was the first game-winning kick as time expired for UH since 2001 (via Christian Shimabuku – KHON2).
Hawai’i hits the road next week to open Mountain West Conference play, heading to the “Ninth Island” for a matchup with UNLV. The Rebels (3-1) visited (and held off) UTEP this past weekend, 45-28, and enter the matchup with the ‘Bows on a two-game win streak. The game kicks off at 10 a.m. HT on the Mountain West Network. UNLV opens as 11-point favorites at home against UH.
After a roller coaster ride of a non-conference slate, the ‘Bows have made it to conference play with two wins and a reinvigorated hope towards the rebuild of the #BRADDAHHOOD at UH. A gritty victory to keep the Aggies winless in Honolulu was a great step forward for the young ‘Bows. Up next, a step up in testing against the Rebels.
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