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Hawaii’s offense sputters in 17-10 loss to San Diego State

Bad offense and questionable clock management doom the Warriors against the Aztecs

San Diego State v Hawaii Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

A jubilant crowd showed up to Clarence T.C. Ching Complex to see Hawaii take on #24 San Diego State. It wasn’t a packed capacity crowd like many hoped for, but Hawaii’s student section was primed and ready to go, and those that did attend made their presence known. It was an early look at what Hawaii football games will be like for the foreseeable future, and possibly longer.

The game, however, was far from an instant classic. Hawaii finished the game with 260 total yards of offense and that was more yards than San Diego State’s offense posted. No, it’s not a total shock this game ended up being a defensive grind. In fact, this happened the last time San Diego State came to Hawaii. Still, this was a tough game to watch.

Both team’s opened the football game with punts on their first drives, combining for 10 yards of offense. San Diego State started with great field position on their second possession, and the scrambling and passing abilities of San Diego State quarterback Lucas Johnson were on display. Aztec running back Greg Bell scored from 5-yards out to give the Aztecs a 7-0 lead.

On the next drive, Hawaii’s offense sputtered again, forced to punt. However, Hawaii clawed back into the contest when linebacker Darius Muasau forced a fumble out of Lucas Johnson, recovered by Isaiah Tufaga at the SDSU 19-yard line. Hawaii wasted no time at all, quarterback Chevan Cordeiro finding do-it-all man Calvin Turner Jr. for a 19-yard touchdown. After one quarter, the game was tied 7-7.

Just as it appeared Hawaii was settling into the game, San Diego State put together a 15-play, 82-yard scoring drive that eat up 7:33 of clock. Lucas Johnson was not Patrick Mahomes by any means, finishing 12/16 passing for only 99 yards, but he was a master of finding short passing options that get the ball beyond the sticks. Hawaii, however, did stop the Aztecs in the red zone. Or so we thought. The Aztecs faked the field goal, clearly recognizing a positional flaw in Hawaii’s setup, and holder Jake Browning scored with ease from 13-yards out. Ouch.

On the ensuing Hawaii possession, Chevan Cordeiro threw an interception. The Aztecs would fail to convert that turnover into points, missing the field goal attempt plays later, but Hawaii’s offense simply fell apart after this sequence. The Aztecs went into the locker room winning 14-7 on the scoreboard.

Just like the beginning of the first half, both teams traded quick punts to open the second half. Hawaii seemed to be putting together a quality drive, but it was derailed when Cordeiro found wide receiver Jared Smart for a 23-yard gain, but Smart fumbled the football, recovered by San Diego State’s C.J. Bakersville. It appeared that Smart was a victim of targeting, but the sequence wasn’t even reviewed. Fox Sports studio analyst Dean Blandino agreed with the no call. Hawaii’s Twitter account didn’t.

Hawaii’s defense held up, forcing the Aztecs to punt. On Hawaii’s next drive, a holding penalty on 3rd-and-2 doomed yet another promising drive, forcing Matthew Shipley to punt again. San Diego State’s next possession put Hawaii in a hole. The 14-play, 57-yard drive took 8:26 off the clock. Essentially half of a quarter. The result was a successful Matt Araiza, and the Aztecs led 17-7 with 7:41 remaining in the game.

Good news: Hawaii finally put together a scoring drive! Not good news: it was a 15-play, 70-yard drive that took off 4:41 seconds. Hawaii stalled in a goal-to-go situation, forced to kick a 22-yard field goal. Down 17-10, Hawaii declined to onside kick. San Diego State took 1:41 off the clock, but the Hawaii defense did force another punt. It wasn’t always pretty or timely, but the Hawaii defense is not to blame for this loss. With 1:11 remaining, Hawaii had the ball at their own 32 yard line needing a touchdown. Clock management withstanding, Hawaii had a chance.

Until they let the clock run out. Hawaii forced the ball into Aztec territory, converting a 4th-and-5 in the process. On 3rd-and-10 from the Aztec 23, Cordeiro checked down to running back Dedrick Parson for a 5-yard gain well in-bounds as the clock was ticking. Hawaii rushed to the line to get another play off, but couldn’t snap it in time.

I’ve got nothing. It was bad, even Todd Graham didn’t defend it. The clock management, from Todd and Bo Graham to Cordeiro himself, was terrible. Far too much experience between Todd and Chevan for that to happen. San Diego State won 17-10, Hawaii dropping to 4-6 on the season and needing to win out to play in the Hawaii Bowl.

Hawaii’s inconsistency on offense continues. Hawaii will play UNLV next week in the Raiders’ fancy stadium at 11 a.m. Hawaii Time. The game will be televised/streamed on Spectrum Sports.