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SJS football preview: The Aloha rivals

Hawaii is 1-1 against undefeated teams. Their tie-breaker is here.

San Jose State v Hawaii
SJS Spartan Bailey Gaither (84) making a catch against Hawaii’s Cortez Davis (18) at Aloha Stadium, November 9, 2019.
Photo by Darryl Oumi

San Jose State vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

Location: Honolulu, HI (Aloha Stadium)

Date/Time: Saturday, December 5th, 1 pm (HT), 3 pm (PST)

Television: Team 1 Sports App (outside Hawaii), Spectrum Sports (Hawaii)

Radio play-by-play: KDOW (1220 AM, San Francisco), ESPNHonolulu.com


San Jose State (4-0) scrambled and rallied to assure their face-off against Hawaii (3-3) would take place amid the recent reinstated COVID-19 restrictions in the greater San Jose area.

As flipping the location to the Rainbow Warriors (‘Bows) home field is logistically the right decision for both teams, having an unexpected road game 2,400 miles away should have less effect vs. the need to get in relevant practice and preparations for the Spartans.

SJS expects to get to Honolulu earlier than usual to ready themselves.

The fight for the Dick Tomey Legacy Trophy

Tomey was a successful head coach with Hawaii from 1977-1986 and was a coaching icon with San Jose State from 2005-2009. Tomey passed away last May.

Spartan head coach Brent Brennan was an assistant under Tomey and was a life and coaching mentor to Brennan. Brennan also started his coaching trek at Hawaii in 1998.

Since 1936, Hawaii leads the overall series 22-19-1. Since 1996, they’ve played every year, except 2012, with the last four years going to the ‘Bows.

But the last three games against Hawaii under Brennan have been memorable, exciting and shoulda-coulda-been winnable games:

2017: A 37-26 loss at Aloha Stadium plagued by over 100 yards of Spartan penalties that heavily contributed to that loss.

2018: A classic five overtime 44-41 loss at CEFCU Stadium that was one missed field goal in overtime from a win.

2019: Another barn-burner 42-40 loss in Honolulu was a few plays from a win that saw Hawaii’s dual-threat QB Chevan Cordeiro account for five touchdowns.

2020 will see a much more proven San Jose team. But in this true rivalry, stats and win-loss records don’t matter considering how competitive the Spartans were the last three years.

Three things to look for

The Cordeiro Turner special

Cordeiro is a consummate athlete at quarterback for Hawaii. He may look to be off or down for a period but will certainly explode offensively enough to always give his team a chance.

Right next to him is another all-around, all-purpose athlete in running back Calvin Turner. These types of athletes are never kept down for long and always show up.

San Jose’s answer defensively will be similar to how they addressed Air Force and San Diego State. A strong front-line presence and layered assignments with discipline will help do the job for the Spartan defense.

Creative answers

Against previously undefeated Nevada, Hawaii would often flood the secondary to negate the Wolf Pack’s highly potent passing game. The Spartans will expect something similar along with faux ‘Bow variations.

San Jose can answer in several general ways that’s up to Spartan OC Kevin McGiven.

From a power game to a pass game to an option game led by two different types of quarterbacks in Nick Nash and Nick Starkel, it’s this checker-and-chess game that’s most interesting to football nerds.

It’s this scheming and back-scheming that’s usually the next-day film specials.

Saturday specials

The goal of special teams is to flip field position. Hawaii has Turner and receiver Melquise Stovall who can do just that as returners. The Spartans can boast receiver Bailey Gaither and running back Shamar Garrett as well.

The Spartan’s specialty team units are the best under Brennan’s tenure so far. If San Jose keeps Hawaii’s return men mostly in check and their kick coverage keeps them at bay on field position, it’s a component to the bigger picture.

Hawaii was a bit turnover prone earlier in their season, except their last two games. The way San Diego State’s defense put pressure on Hawaii is something very similar to what the Spartan defense can do, unlike the Spartans past confrontations with Hawaii.

The Spartans don’t necessarily need to get turnovers vs. applying enough overall pressure where it becomes enough for viewers to actually see, as with their earlier wins.

Predict, prediction, predicting

Wherever this game was going to be played, it’s going to be personal, as it was going into the Aztec game in SoCal.

The plight against San Diego State in past Brennan-years is similar against Hawaii. The Spartans win at the Aztec’s home field this year was with conviction and with that “something-to-prove” shoulder chip.

The first, second and third reaction to hearing the game being in Honolulu was unfazed, eh, and yes! It doesn’t matter to this program at this point.

But the ‘Bows are built for upsets such as this. It’s in the literal warrior mentally behind the history of the islands.

The Spartans are also technically still building, but there is also this fury and assassins’ mentality to do the job they now know they’re capable of at a nationally-recognized level.

The hybrid feeling that your physically and mentally capable comes with time and the confidence along with it. They’ve been saying it but it’s now showing up with wins.

Brennan’s program had gumption and will in previous years against Hawaii. Now they have more physical pieces and maturation to expect a win anywhere, even in a back alley.


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