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Hawaii loses pineapple trophy to UNLV in 27-13 loss

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UNLV running back Charles Williams knocks Rainbow Warriors out of bowl contention.

NCAA Football: Hawaii at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Todd Graham’s Rainbow Warriors entered Saturday afternoon’s clash with UNLV knowing very well that the team needed to rally in November to reach the bowl season. To add to the weight of the moment, a rivalry trophy was on the line as well. The rally failed before it even got started. Hawaii lost 27-13 to UNLV as Rebels running back Charles Williams had a career night, and Hawaii offensive coordinator Bo Graham’s offense remains in shambles.

The game started positively for the Warriors, with quarterback Chevan Cordeiro finding wide receiver Nick Mardner for a 79-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage.

On 3rd-and-5 during UNLV’s first possession, an errant snap that ricocheted off of UNLV quarterback Cameron Friel was recovered by linebacker Darius Muasau, and Hawaii’s momentum appeared to be avalanching on top of the Rebels. The Rainbow Warriors offense would fail to capitalize on the turnover, the drive concluding with a missed field goal attempt by Matthew Shipley.

UNLV took over possession of the ball, and it was time for running back Charles Williams to make his presence known. Williams scored from five yards out to even the score at 7-7, featuring heavily on a 7-play, 74-yard drive.

Hawaii’s next drive wouldn’t last long, ending in a punt. On UNLV’s next two offensive possessions, the Warriors would force turnovers. Interceptions by Khoury Bethley and Solo Turner. The defense was harassing UNLV quarterback Cameron Friel into poor decisions.

Here’s the problem: despite forcing three turnovers out of the UNLV offense, Hawaii went into the locker room at halftime tied 10-10 with UNLV. Three defensive turnovers, yet Bo Graham’s offense could only muster 10 points.

That’s not to suggest the defense is without fault. UNLV and Charles Williams owned the second half. Williams scored from seven yards out to give the Rebels a 17-10 lead out of the halftime break, capping off a 6-play 88-yard drive. Williams rushed for 266 yards on 38 carries and three touchdowns on the evening. An absolutely massive performance, a near lock to win Mountain West offensive player of the week.

Hawaii’s offense did nothing in the second half, and much of the game for that matter. UNLV controlled the clock, and Cameron Friel was timely in moving the sticks against the Hawaii defense.

Chevan Cordeiro finished with 183 passing yards, one touchdown pass and two interceptions. The Rebels entered the game ranking 116th in passing yards allowed, and the Warriors failed to exploit that weakness. Hawaii’s running game wasn’t much better, finishing with a net of 57 yards.

UNLV defeated Hawaii 27-13 at Allegiant Stadium, ending Hawaii’s quest for a bowl game.

Hawaii appeared to be turning a corner for the better after upsetting Fresno State. Since that performance, Hawaii has lost every Mountain West game.

No need to ignore the elephant in the room. When former offensive coordinator G.J. Kinne left for UCF, Todd Graham promoted his son, Bo Graham, to the OC position. Some fans critiqued the hire with claims of nepotism. My take was simple: Bo’s relation to his dad won’t be a problem...if the offense succeeds. However, if the offense struggles, the criticism will be loud. With two games remaining in the 2021 season, Hawaii’s offense is a mess. Cordeiro has regressed, the running game is hit and miss. The wide receivers outside of Mardner aren’t helping move the sticks. Bottom line: this offense doesn’t score enough points, not even close. I’m not calling for anyone to be fired, but I think it would be wise to add another perspective to the offensive staff next season.

Hawaii will play Colorado State next Saturday November 20th at 6 p.m. HT.

Warriors fans, please attend. This season has been a disappointment, but this senior class won the West Division in 2019, played in the Mountain West championship game. They’ve earned a proper sendoff.