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Hawaii loses season finale to San Jose State

Offensive struggles plague the Warriors one final time in 2022

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Hawaii at San Jose State Photo by Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was rivalry weekend in college football on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and Hawaii and San Jose State logged another memorable clash, mostly for the headlines entering the game. One of those headlines: Hawaii taking on one of their former program heroes in quarterback Chevan Cordeiro. No team understands how dangerous the former Warrior quarterback can be like Hawaii, and the Cordeiro-led Spartan offense proved to be too much for Rainbow Warriors on Saturday afternoon.

Hawaii’s offense showed some promise in recent weeks with 31-point showings against Utah State and UNLV, but their season-long struggles on offense reemerged in San Jose. Hawaii’s offense marched into San Jose territory three times in the first half, resulting in kicker Matthew Shipley going 2/3 in field goals.

A defensive struggle for much of the half, Hawaii’s defense kept Chevan Cordeiro in check. Hawaii cornerback Virdel Edwards even intercepted the former Hawaii quarterback. Trailing 7-6 late in the first half, the Warriors took over on the Hawaii 15-yard line with 3:12 remaining in the half. Unable to milk away the clock, Hawaii punted the ball away. The Hawaii defense had bent, but not broken, but in this situation conceded a late 7-yard touchdown to wide receiver Elijah Cooks. A theme this season, a quality defensive effort squandered late in the half. Hawaii trailed 14-6 at the break.

The Warriors did their best to keep Cordeiro and Cooks in check, but eventually the dam broke. Cooks finished with 121 receiving yards on ten catches for two touchdowns. It must be said, Hawaii was gashed on the ground as well by Spartan running back Kairee Robinson who rushed for 148 yards on the afternoon. Predictably, Hawaii’s failure to cash in on offense eventually led to struggles on defense. Again, not an unfamiliar development this fall. The Warriors trailed 24-6 going into the fourth quarter, the game essentially out-of-reach.

Credit to Timmy Chang and his #braddahood. They didn’t quit all year, played hard all season. That didn’t change on Saturday. Quarterback Brayden Schager found Steven Fiso, who seems to have a knack for performing in season finales, for a touchdown in the early fourth quarter.

San Jose State’s offense responded with a field goal, and then once again Hawaii’s offense was on the move. In a goal-to-go situation, Hawaii couldn’t punch it in as San Jose State defensive end Viliami Fehoko sacked Schager on 4th-down. Staring defeat in the eyes, Hawaii refused to go away but couldn’t find a way to win. Hawaii lost 27-14 in San Jose; their seasons concludes with a 3-10 (2-6) record.

That brings an end to one of the strangest, most frustrating, yet hopeful seasons of Hawaii football I can remember. It started with a program mutiny that saw a plethora of key talent leave for mainland programs. A harsh byproduct of the transfer portal era. Timmy Chang was hired and brought back togetherness for a program that desperately needed a cultural reset, but the damage was done, evidenced by numbing blowout losses to Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky to start the season. The blowout loss in Las Cruces might’ve been rock bottom.

...but Hawaii didn’t quit. The adversity had arrived, but Hawaii was not shaken. The players didn’t quit, nor discouraged. Wins against Nevada and UNLV, along with respectable losses to San Diego State, Colorado State, Wyoming, Utah State, and San Jose State despite obvious talent deficiencies showed that the Warriors are not miles away from attempting to climb back to the top of the Mountain West. Sure, Timmy Chang and his staff showed some growing pains in certain situations, but Hawaii was rarely overwhelmed after the bye. A bounce or two the other way and who knows, Hawaii might’ve gotten to 5-6 wins.

That’s the ultimate takeaway from this season. Timmy Chang was dealt a terrible hand. Asked to make a five-course meal and had only a cup of ramen to work with. Players who were scout team members in 2021 were starting in 2022. Yet despite this, the team played hard and pushed their Mountain West opposition to their limits.

The real battle comes in December: recruiting. Hawaii needs to land a quality high school class to lay the foundation of development, while also plugging holes with transfer portal and junior college additions. Chang has mentioned that he wants to establish Hawaii football as the go-to bounce-back program for local talent that went to the mainland but are considering a transfer. Players like Meki Pei, Wynden Ho’ohuli are a good start, UH needs more of them. Our own Mike Wittmann will have you covered on all things recruiting.

The worst of it is behind you, Rainbow Warriors fans. Better days ahead as Timmy Chang rebuilds the program he helped make a national brand as a player.

Special thanks to all you readers who followed all season. Spring practice will be here before we know it. Mahalo and Go Warriors.

Hawaii opens the 2023 season in Nashville against Vanderbilt.