HONOLULU (AP) — It’s likely that Mike Schmidt won’t soon forget his first trip to Hawaii.
Air Force’s backup quarterback came off the bench to account for four touchdowns and the Falcons beat Hawaii 56-26 on Saturday night.
Air Force (5-2, 3-1 Mountain West), which had 324 total yards by halftime, scored touchdowns on its first four possessions and seven of 10 overall.
Schmidt, a fourth-year senior with just three carries for 28 yards — and no pass attempts — in five career games prior to Saturday, relieved starter Donald Hammond III, who left the game midway through Air Force’s first possession after falling on his right (throwing) shoulder.
“It’s a pretty great business trip,” Schmidt said. “It’s a beautiful place to be and we played a great team tonight and just playing with my buddies is the best feeling in the world. It’s a memorable trip for sure.”
Schmidt rushed for 120 yards on 14 carries, including scores of 1, 61 and 18 yards. He also completed 5 of 6 passes for 147 yards, with a 75-yard TD pass to Geraud Sanders, who finished with three receptions for 116 yards.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun referenced legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden when he spoke about Schmidt seizing the moment.
“You hope that every guy realizes that there can be an opportunity. There was a pretty good basketball coach that worked at UCLA . and one of his favorite sayings is, ‘If I’m prepared then perhaps my chance will come,’ and Mike works extremely hard and it’s neat to see a guy get an opportunity and he made the utmost of it,” Calhoun said.
Schmidt connected on his first four pass attempts. His first throw resulted in a 39-yard completion to Kaden Waguespack.
“It feels great to do it, but it’s just one of those things where you don’t think, you just execute; we just do what we do every day,” Schmidt said. “I have so much trust in my receivers and my o-line just makes it so easy. I’d be back there and not even get touched and just execute, just give it to my guys and let them do what they do.”
Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich said the Falcons’ change at quarterback did not have an effect on his team, but he credited Schmidt for his performance nonetheless.
“I don’t think so, I think they run their offense and maybe he’s better at certain things,” Rolovich said. “I don’t think that was necessarily what we saw tonight. I mean, they found something they wanted to work and he was very effective for them.”
Timothy Jackson ran for 113 yards and a touchdown and Kadin Remsberg added 91 yards and two scores on the ground for the Falcons.
Hawaii’s Cole McDonald threw for 404 yards and three touchdowns on 34-of-52 passing with one interception — which Milton Bugg III returned for a 92-yard pick-6 in the closing minutes.
Jared Smart caught 11 passes for 140 yards for the Rainbow Warriors (4-3, 1-2), who finished with 486 total yards, but committed two turnovers and allowed four sacks.
Air Force: The Falcons rushed for 353 yards and finished with a season-high 522 total yards. They averaged 9.0 yards per play, 6.9 yards per rush and 28.2 yards per completion.
Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors ranked 12th (last) in turnover margin (minus-2) in the Mountain West and 129th in the nation coming into the weekend. Both of their turnovers Saturday came in the fourth quarter and represented their 10th lost fumble and 11th interception this season.
The Falcons manufactured six scoring drives that covered at least 75 yards, including a 14-play drive that took seven minutes, 41 seconds off the clock to start the second half and culminated with a 10-yard TD run by Jackson. Still, the Rainbow Warriors won the time-of-possession battle — just barely. Hawaii held on to the ball for 30 minutes and eight seconds to Air Force’s 29 minutes and 52 seconds of possession time.
“A lot of credit needs to go to Air Force, how they came on this trip and how they played, took advantage of some opportunities and we didn’t play good enough football to win tonight,” Rolovich said. “They’re very good at what they do on offense and they put pressure on you and they did it to us tonight.”
IT’S A PLANE!
Air Force wore special uniforms that paid tribute to the C-17 aircraft, a large military transport. The gray jerseys included black lettering that featured the nine active C-17 Air Force bases in place of each player’s last name. There was a C-17 flyover immediately following the national anthem. The pilots of the aircraft were former Hawaii wide receiver, Maj. Britton Komine, and former Air Force tight end, Capt. Nate Dreslinski.
Air Force: will host Utah State on Saturday. The Falcons had won three in a row against the Aggies until last year’s 42-32 loss in Logan, Utah.
Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors visit New Mexico next Saturday. Hawaii has not won in Albuquerque, New Mexico, since the 1987 season and has lost its last six overall against the Lobos.