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Hawaii Warriors defeat Fresno 34-19 in season opener

Todd Graham era begins with a comfortable win that never felt in doubt

NCAA Football: Hawaii at Fresno State Kiel Maddox-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not unusual for Hawaii and Fresno State to meet in the San Joaquin Valley in late October. The contest representing the season opener? Yet another oddity during the 2020 pandemic.

Few teams entered the altered 2020 season with more hurdles to clear than Hawaii and Fresno State. Hawaii lost their head coach to the mainland in January, then had spring ball canceled and summer workouts scaled back. Fresno State wasn’t allowed to meet in their team facility from March-September. The circumstances were not ideal, but there is no other option but to make lemonade out of lemons.

For Hawaii, it started off in frustrating fashion. Starting kick returner Lincoln Victor fumbled the opening kickoff, which subsequently led an eventual 7-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Rivers. The following drive, Hawaii was forced to punt. Not a fun sequence to open the Todd Graham era.

To be honest, that was the end of Fresno State’s fun. The next four Fresno State drives would follow: interception, fumble, punt, punt. New starting quarterback Jake Haener would finish with three interceptions on the opening, as Hawaii’s “war dog” defense impressed in the opener.

Fresno State would score a late touchdown in the second quarter, but Chevan Cordeiro would respond with a touchdown drive of his own to make the score 17-13 at the break.

Cordeiro was tremendous on the evening, and the real story was the run game. When was the last time Hawaii football won a game without throwing a single touchdown pass? Cordeiro would run for 116 yards on 13 carries for 2 touchdowns. Running back Miles Reed would add 109 yards on 21 carries, and surprisingly wildcat quarterback/running back Calvin Turner would add 60 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hell, even true freshman running back Dae Dae Hunter added 43 rushing yards.

Defensively, holding a team to 409 total yards isn’t dominant by any means, but the 4 turnovers forced were encouraging for the Warrior defense. Several times they bent, but did not break. Hawaii would ice the game late via defensive stops and the legs of Chevan Cordeiro.

It’s difficult to know what type of competition Fresno State represents in 2020, but the Bulldogs were a 2.5-point favorite and Hawaii won by 15. Hawaii took care of business on the road at a place where things haven’t always gone well for UH.

Tonight, it appeared as if Hawaii football is reloading under Todd Graham.

NEXT UP: A Friday night showdown with the Wyoming Cowboys, who surprisingly lost to Nevada and will be without starting quarterback Sean Chambers. The forecast shows a high of 46 and a low of 28.