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Hawaii denies upset bid, defeats Lobos 39-33

Warriors move to 2-1, winning first home game in front of empty stands

New Mexico v Hawaii Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

It was a special evening for Hawaii football, for several reasons. First home game since the restart of Mountain West football, of course the first home game for Hawaii head coach Todd Graham. Hawaii also honored the late Ben Yee, a longtime Hawaii booster who was a fixture around UH football for decades. Yee died this past April. Hawaii honored him well Saturday evening.

Hawaii’s home victory over New Mexico was not without hiccups. The game started off poorly for UH when Lobo’s wide receiver Jordan Kress took a 52-yard pass from quarterback Tevaka Tuioti to the end zone less than a minute into the game. Hawaii would respond with a run-heavy drive capitalized by a 5-yard touchdown run from quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, who bounced back from last week’s shocker.

New Mexico, however, would control the game through 14:50 mark of the 2nd quarter by leading 20-7. A surprise considering Hawaii was a multiple touchdown favorite in this contest. Chevan Cordeiro would put a stop to this, finding wide receiver Nick Mardner, who embarrassed the Lobo defense on the way to the end zone. Hawaii would trail 20-14 at halftime.

Hawaii head coach Todd Graham apparently had some choice words for quarterback Chevan Cordeiro at halftime, and that motivation proved key. Hawaii would dominate from there, abandoning the run-heavy attack in favor of allowing Cordeiro to spin it, and Hawaii wouldn’t necessarily run away with the game, but were comfortably in control. Two quick touchdowns straight out of the locker room gave the Warriors a 28-20. Both touchdowns went to wide receiver Zion Bowens, who has 3 catches for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns on the season. Bowens doesn’t catch a ton of passes, but when he does, he makes sure they count.

New Mexico would retaliate. Minutes after the pair of touchdowns, an easy 26-yard sprint to the end zone by Lobo running back Nathaniel Jones would put the Lobos within one point. At the 13:31 mark of the fourth quarter, a George Steinkamp field goal would give the Lobos the lead. Once again, Hawaii would respond to adversity with the quick strike offense, this time via the emerging star that is Calvin Turner Jr. A two-point conversion would give Hawaii a 36-30 lead.

Later, true freshman kicker Matthew Shipley would convert a 41-yard field goal to make Hawaii’s lead a two-possession lead. New Mexico would fight back, but a hit from cornerback Cameron Lockridge on Lobo quarterback Tevaka Tuioti would end the effectiveness of the Lobos offense. Lockridge was ejected from the game for concussing Tuioti. New Mexico would find another field goal and attempt an onside kick, but Hawaii recovered and did just enough to hold off an unexpected upset big from New Mexico.

The reward: breaking things.

This is a tough result to interpret. On one hand, Chevan Cordeiro and the offense were explosive. Not 50+ point obliteration explosive, but the big plays were on display all night. Nick Mardner, Calvin Turner Jr., Zion Bowens, Hawaii clearly has receiving talent. It was nice to see Hawaii revert back to the passing game when things got tight. Special shoutout to linebacker Quinten Frazier, who has been a real find for this Hawaii staff.

On the other hand, this was New Mexico. The Lobos’ coaching staff has publicly admitted this program is under a multiple season rebuild. This is not the class of the Mountain West, yet the Lobos pushed Hawaii to a one-possession game at Aloha Stadium.

A win is a win. NEXT UP: @ San Diego State in some MLS stadium, in what might as well be an elimination game in the Mountain West race,