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Hawaii @ Oregon State: Three things to look for, Prediction

Rainbow Warriors return to Pac-12 territory again hoping to do better this time around

Oregon State v Hawaii Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

HAWAII @ OREGON ST.

Location: Corvallis, Oregon (Reser Stadium)

Date/Time: Saturday, September 11th at 5:00 p.m. (Hawaii Time)

Television: FS1

Streaming: TV subscribers should be able to watch on the Fox Sports app, or this link.

Radio: ESPN Honolulu

Head-to-Head: Oregon State leads the series 7-4. Hawaii won the first game in the series back in 1923 by a score of 7-0. I doubt any of you were there. The 1999 Oahu Bowl is one of the more famous Hawaii victories, beating the Beavers 23-17 to cap off what was at the time the greatest turnaround in NCAA history. From 0-12 to 9-4. Oregon State won the four contests that followed that bowl game in 2006, 2008, 2013, and 2014. Hawaii, however, won the most recent contest in 2019 at Aloha Stadium 31-28. That was only two years ago, but for obvious reasons (gestures to the world) feels like ages ago.

Three things to look for:

1. Is the Hawaii defense up for this?

Defensive coordinator Victor Santa Cruz’s Rainbow Warrior defense entered the 2021 season with more praise than we’re accustomed to for a Hawaii defense. It was warranted too, Hawaii closed the 2020 season by shutting down Nevada and their hyped offense, and stopped a respectable Houston offense in the New Mexico but actually Frisco Bowl. With an off-season of real practice, it was easy to believe the Hawaii defense might be on the rise.

So far, not so much. Entering the Portland State game, frankly the Warrior defense could’ve been excused for the performance at UCLA. The Bruins proved their worth against LSU. Wrong place, wrong time for the Warriors. Ended up playing the one Pac-12 team worth a damn. That excuse evaporated when Portland State’s offense, with one game under their belt since 2019, dropped 477 total yards on the Warriors. 400 through the air.

Again, Portland State is not a bad team by any means, but considering the respect tossed the Warrior defense’s way in the off-season, nearly conceding 500 yards to an FCS school was certainly unexpected.

Oregon State’s offense managed 363 total yards against Purdue in Week 1. 285 yards through the air, while the running game struggled. The Beavers played multiple quarterbacks. Is Purdue any good? Or Oregon State for that matter? Too early to tell either way, but if the Hawaii defense doesn’t sort their problems out, Saturday will turn into a second disappointing contest against a Power 5 foe.

2. It’s time for Chevan Cordeiro to put on the cape

Hawaii’s fourth-year quarterback, Cehvan Cordeiro, has been around for some time now. By the time he leaves, the Hawaii record books will feature his name all over the place. With that said, while Cordeiro has thrived at Aloha Stadium (and now Clarence T.C. Ching Complex), his form away from home has been inconsistent.

Cordeiro’s first road start came in 2019, against lowly UNLV. Cordeiro was coming off a week in which he feasted on San Jose State at home. It seemed a lock that Cordeiro would smoke the Rebels, but instead he opened the game 4/9 passing, 46 passing yards and two interceptions. He was replaced by original starter Cole McDonald, who didn’t concede his starting spot the remainder of the year.

In the cursed 2020 season, Cordeiro was sensational against Fresno State. 229 passing yards, 116 rushing yards, two touchdowns. Excellent.

Since then, Cordeiro’s performances away from home have been...uneven. His completion percentage was under 50% at both Wyoming and San Diego State, throwing interceptions in both while failing to scramble like usual. Cordeiro did pick up a win against Houston, and didn’t turn the ball over, but the defense won the day that evening. He had 169 total yards for the Warriors that evening.

Fast-forward to the UCLA game, and Cordeiro was ineffective until the Bruins sidelined their starters. Like the other games, some of this was on Cordeiro, plenty of it was the protection (or lack thereof). Bottom line: whatever the excuses, Cordeiro has been untouchable at home, but quite beatable on the mainland.

It’s time for Cordeiro to show off his experience as a quarterback and give Hawaii a chance for a rare road win against a Power 5 opponent. To do that, Cordeiro will need to put his inconsistent past behind him. The Warriors need Oahu Chevan on Saturday if they want to win.

3. The dam is almost built

No disrespect to Oregon State, but Beavers fans haven’t been enjoying themselves at Reser Stadium this past decade. In 2020, however, there were signs of progress. The Beavers went 2-5, not good I know, but beat Cal and Oregon and were never blown out. The largest defeat came against Arizona State by 13 points. Yes, this narrative isn’t too dissimilar to what we learned about UCLA in 2020.

Now, I’m not saying the Beavers are “smack the hell outta LSU” good like the Bruins are, but this program has taken a step forward. The Beavers will feature one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country. They’ve increased their points per game total each season under Jonathan Smith, reaching 28.9 PPG last season. Will that number take a hit with Jermar Jefferson now playing with the Detroit Lions and the instability at quarterback? Chance Nolan seemed to be more effective against Purdue than Sam Noyer. I’d expect to see Nolan start, but that’s not been determined just yet. The Beaver running game rushed for 78 yards on 25 carries against Purdue, the loss of Jefferson being felt, but this is of no solace to a Hawaii defense that was just steamrolled by Portland State.

The Beaver defense is replacing arguably their best defender from 2020 in Hamilcar Rashed Jr. this fall, he had 22.5 tackles for loss this season, so UH catches a break there, but the Beavers front seven is plenty experienced. Can the Hawaii offensive line hold them off long enough to give Cordeiro and the running backs enough time to navigate? It’s too early to say if Jonathan Smith’s program has turned the corner, but either way Hawaii cannot win this game without an A-grade effort on Saturday.

Prediction:

I feel like it’s impossible to gauge the temperature of Hawaii football right now. The beatdown loss to UCLA can be forgiven, the Bruins are legit. The offense was much, much better against Portland State, but the quality of the opposition has to be taken into account. Especially considering the Vikings moved the football at will.

Oregon State opened as an 11-point favorite, and I cannot tell if that’s too much or too little respect given to the Beavers. This I know: the defense is struggling, it’s the truth, but if Hawaii wants to pull off the upset in Pac-12 territory, Cordeiro and running backs Dedrick Parson and Dae Dae Hunter need to have good games. At some point, the Beavers will try to overwhelm Cordeiro like UCLA did and Chevan will need to find his hot read. He did that against UCLA...after the scoreboard read 44-3.

Yes, it’s true, the defense has been a disappointment through two weeks, but that’s not the biggest factor for me in this contest. The key is the offense finding balance and moving the chains. It sounds simple, it hasn’t been in recent mainland trips.

Prove me wrong, Rainbow Warriors. I’m going with Warriors 19, Beavers 31.