BOULDER, Colorado — Hawaii linebacker Julian Gener grimaced at the mere suggestion that his team could take some kind of solace in keeping the game close.
No doubt, the Rainbow Warriors hung right with a Pac-12 school for the third time in a month. But no way was he going to feel good about a 21-12 loss to Colorado on Saturday as they dropped their 14th straight road game.
"We've had three moral wins already, which we're tired of," said Gener, whose team nearly beat Washington and then Oregon State to start the season. "We need wins in the win category."
The Rainbow Warriors (1-3) certainly had early chances to set the tone. On their second offensive play, Ikaika Woolsey overthrew a wide open receiver in the end zone. They settled for a field goal, one of four Tyler Hadden hit on the day.
That's just the way things went for Hawaii's offense, which replaced Woolsey in the second half because of ineffectiveness, and then lost his backup, Jeremy Higgins, in the fourth quarter after the left-handed Higgins hurt his throwing hand.
Coach Norm Chow was at a loss to explain why his team kept bogging down in the shadow of the end zone against Colorado (2-2).
"I wish I knew," he said. "If I knew, we wouldn't be bogged down. Just have to get better at what we're trying to get done."
Hawaii had no effective coverage plan for Buffaloes receiver Nelson Spruce, who had 172 yards receiving and one touchdown to go with a school-record 13 catches.
"He's a good player," Chow said. "I tried to recruit him when I was coaching elsewhere."
Hawaii got on the board early with a field goal after intercepting Sefo Liufau's first pass of the game. But Colorado answered right back when Liufau threw a pass down the left sideline that Spruce hauled in for a 71-yard score.
And this was a fitting end to frustrating first half for Hawaii: Woolsey threw a Hail Mary into end zone, but it sailed way, way, way out of the back.
"We hung in there," Chow said. "We obviously have got to get better."
The defense did their part in the second half, holding the Buffaloes scoreless. That didn't sit well with Spruce.
"If we want to win some of these Pac-12 games, we're going to have to execute on a high level for all four quarters," Spruce said.
The Rainbow Warriors had a big contingent in attendance, but once again came up short. They haven't won a road game since Oct. 29, 2011, at Idaho.
"They want to see a winner," Chow said. "We need to win some ball games to make them feel better about us."
Woolsey struggled as he finished 10 of 24 for 64 yards. He also was sacked three times.
Chow switched things up after halftime by inserting Higgins, who provided a spark right away by hitting Marcus Kemp for a 32-yard gain to begin the third quarter. The drive sputtered and Hadden connected on a 41-yard field goal to make it, 21-9.
After an interception by TJ Taimatuia later in the quarter, the Rainbow Warriors had the ball on the Colorado 7, only to fail to capitalize and settle for another field goal.
"We've got to finish in the red zone," said running back Steven Lakalaka, who had 19 carries for 123 yards. "We have to score."
The bye week couldn't arrive at a better time for Hawaii, especially with Lakalaka nursing a sore right shoulder and the hand injury to Higgins.
Asked whether Higgins' hand was broken, Chow said, "You said it. I didn't."
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