HONOLULU (AP) — For Jon Embree, it was tough taking away any positives in his Colorado coaching debut.
The Buffaloes managed to shut down Hawaii’s high-powered passing attack, but still couldn’t get it done on the road, losing to the Warriors 34-17 in the season opener for both teams Saturday night.
Besides spoiling the Embree’s debut, the loss extended the Buffaloes’ road losing streak to 18 straight, 19 counting the 2007 Independence Bowl. Colorado hasn’t won on the road since beating Texas Tech on Oct. 27, 2007.
“There is no bright side. I’m not a moral victory guy,” Embree said. “We did not win. That was our goal. We got to end this losing streak on the road. That is the goal right now. We didn’t do that.”
The Buffaloes, making their debut as a member of the Pac-12, just couldn’t stop Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz, who ran for a career-best 121 yards and three touchdowns.
Moniz, who had just 102 yards rushing in 2010 while leading the nation in passing, rushed for 120 yards and two TDs in the first half alone. He also threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Joey Iosefa in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory for the Warriors.
His scoring runs of 57 and 14 yards gave Hawaii a 17-0 halftime lead. He added a 1-yard TD in the third quarter, pushing the lead back to 17.
“We held them in check throwing the ball, but he beat us with his legs,” Embree said.
It was a surprising performance for Moniz, who last year became just the 11th FBS quarterback to surpass 5,000 yards in a season. Moniz was 20 of 33 for 178 yards, far below his nation-leading 360-yard average last year.
“I’d rather throw for 500 yards and three touchdowns, but it’s just one of those things that you need to make plays,” Moniz said.
Moniz turned to the ground after having trouble finding his range. Moniz scrambled for a 22-yard gain in the first quarter and two plays later broke a 34-yard run, leading to a field goal. He then broke a career-long 57-yard TD run in the second quarter to put Hawaii up 10-0. Moniz faked a handoff, sidestepped a defender and sprinted untouched the rest of the way.
With 24 seconds left in the half, Moniz kept it on an option and scored on the 14-yarder.
Colorado was hoping history would repeat itself. It was down 10-0 at halftime to Hawaii last year in Boulder, but rallied in the second half and won 31-13.
Hawaii learned its lesson not to get too comfortable. McMackin called two consecutive timeouts during the third quarter and made sure his players didn’t let this one slip away.
“We just had a little visit and talked family business,” McMackin said. “I won’t say what was said, but it took me two timeouts to get everything I wanted to say done. The official gave me a weird look.”
Colorado made it interesting at the start of the fourth quarter, taking advantage of a Hawaii turnover and cutting the lead to 24-17 on Will Oliver’s 34-yard field goal. Moniz fumbled as he was hit by Chidera Uzo-Diribe.
“I told the team at halftime, don’t worry about it. Let’s just come out and play and they did,” Embree said. “We came back and we got it to seven, so we were there. … But I thought at halftime that we were going to win and I thought we were going to win when we were down a score at the end. So it’s disappointing.”
Colorado punted on all five of its first-half possessions. The Buffaloes finally woke up in the second half behind quarterback Tyler Hansen, who hadn’t played a game since rupturing his spleen Oct. 23.
“We were awful in the first half. I don’t know what that was,” Embree said.
Hansen connected with Paul Richardson for two scores in the third quarter. One was a 21-yarder that cut the lead to 24-14. Earlier in the quarter, he caught a 6-yard pass to get Colorado on the scoreboard. That 73-yard scoring drive included a 52-yard pass play from Hansen to Rodney Stewart, who found an opening along the right sideline.
Hansen was 16 of 30 for 223 yards and two touchdowns. But he was sacked a career-high seven times and threw a late interception, ending any chance of a comeback.
Stewart had 52 yards rushing and caught four passes for 98 yards for Colorado.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)