Every once in a while, a football game will live up its billing. Neither Hawaii nor San Jose State is known for their defensive prowess. A shootout was promised, and a shootout was delivered.
The evening started with a buzz when rumor turned to reality. Hawaii redshirt freshman quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, who led the furious comeback against Fresno State, was given the start over Cole McDonald. A gutsy move by head coach Nick Rolovich, a move that paid off on the night.
The first quarter featured a San Jose State field from kicker Matt Mercurio and a Hawaii touchdown pass from Cordeiro to wide receiver JoJo Ward. Hawaii led 7-3 going into the second quarter and then the fireworks began. San Jose State scored the next 10 points, grabbing momentum with a 13-7 lead. That momentum was quickly put out by a 71-yard touchdown pass from Cordeiro to Ward again. The two teams would trade touchdowns after that, and San Jose State added a field goal right before the half. The Spartans led 23-21 at halftime, but had to feel like opportunities were missed in the first half having to settle for three field goals.
Hawaii struck first in the second half, a three-yard run from Cordeiro to make the score 28-23. Cordeiro’s ability to run clearly added an element to the offense. The only other points in the quarter came from the Spartans’ Mercurio again. Too often the Spartans settled for field goals. It’s not often 40 points isn’t enough, but the Spartans could have easily scored 60+ on the night had Hawaii’s red zone defense not come through.
Up 28-26 going into the final frame, Cordeiro and the running game took over. San Jose State has struggled mightily against the run in 2019, and Hawaii running back Miles Reed exposed that with 124 yards on 17 carries. A 31-yard run from Miles set up a touchdown pass from Cordeiro to wide receiver Jared Smart. Hawaii up 35-26, didn’t keep that 9-point gap for long as San Jose State quarterback Josh Love responded less than three minutes later with a touchdown pass of his own.
As pressure built up, Cordeiro rose to the challenge. Hawaii drove down one more time and scored again to take the lead 42-33, once again off of Cordeiro’s running ability. Up 42-33, the Warriors would concede another touchdown but the two possession lead ultimately was too much for San Jose State to overcome. Hawaii won the inaugural Dick Tomey Legacy Trophy over the Spartans 42-40.
The Warriors moved to 6-4 (3-3) on the season and received a jolt to their seemingly-dead West Division title hopes with ranked San Diego State shockingly losing to Nevada. Suddenly, there are tiebreaker scenarios that could have the Warriors playing in the Mountain West Championship game if Hawaii wins out.
Cordeiro was excellent. That said, it was his first start and now future opposition has tape of him as a starting quarterback. I suspect there are more twists to come in the McDonald-Cordeiro saga. For now, Hawaii’s slump is over and the Warriors are back in business.
Hawaii travels to Las Vegas next week to take on the UNLV Rebels.