Hawaii had a reputation for making favored teams fight for their lives in Aloha Stadium, but never pulling off major upsets - a stigma the Rainbows are happy to shed.
There were close losses to 10th-ranked Air Force in 1985 and fourth-ranked Brigham Young in 1984, as well as near-misses against Western Athletic Conference contenders last season.The Rainbows came through Saturday, holding off the ninth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes for a stunning 27-24 upset in the non-conference season opener for both teams.
"Last year we weren't lucky," said second-year Hawaii coach Bob Wagner. "`Tonight we were lucky and maybe this is our year."
"I think Hawaii is mostly underrated," Iowa coach Hayden Fry said. "Hawaii's been flirting with upsetting somebody and they finally did it."
"We did not underestimate Hawaii," Fry said. "We knew they would be tough."
Freshman place-kicker Jason Elam was the hero for Hawaii, hitting two fourth-quarter field goals. He outdueled Iowa's Jeff Skillet, who came up short on a 43-yard field goal attempt with 20 seconds left.
A potential go-ahead touchdown pass by Iowa quarterback Chuck Hartlieb was nullified by a holding penalty with 40 seconds to go.
Hawaii's defense allowed just three second half points by the Hawkeyes, and its offense scored 13 fourth-quarter points as Hawaii rallied from a 21-14 first-half deficit.
"The way we came back was just great," Wagner said. "Our offense played better in the second half. We just hung in there and got lucky."
"They ripped us pretty good on defense," Fry said. "Hawaii did such a good job with their offense that they kept the ball away from us in the second half."
Elam missed a 30-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter, but came back to kick the two field goals into the wind.
"I just went in with the attitude that I couldn't let the team down," Elam said.
His second field goal, from 23 yards, put Hawaii ahead to stay with 1:36 to go. His first, a 47-yarder, gave Hawaii a 24-21 lead with 9:58 left.
Skillet tied the game on a 44-yard field goal with 7:48 left.
Fullback Heikoti Fakava rushed for 99 yards and three touchdowns, helping Hawaii gain 266 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Warren Jones accounted for more than half of Hawaii's total offense, completing 14 of 25 passes for 167 yards and rushing for 76 more.
Hawaii's defense allowed the Hawkeyes to outgain the Rainbows 450 to 407 yards in total offense, but stopped three Iowa drives, including one that reached the Hawaii 1-yard line.
After Elam's winning field goal, Iowa quarterback Chuck Hartlieb completed five straight passes to drive Iowa 57 yards to the Hawaii 23. He then connected with Travis Watkins in the end zone, but a holding penalty cancelled what would have been the go-ahead.
Hartlieb completed 22 of 33 passes for 278 yards and Tony Stewart rushed for 147 yards.
"You can't take anything away from Hawaii," Fry said. "They hit their field goals and we missed ours."
Hawaii tied the game in the fourth quarter. Jones ran for 33 yards and completed a 40-yard pass to Chris Roscoe to the Iowa 5-yard line, setting up Fakava's scoring run.