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SJSU preview: Behind a highly anticipated game & why Hawaii should thank Cordeiro

A roaring rivalry game for the Dick Tomey trophy

Chevan Corderio Hawaii, San Jose State photo by: Troy Babbitt, Brian Rothmuller

Date/Time: Saturday, October 28, 2023 - 9 PM PDT

Location: Clarence T.C. Ching Complex, Honolulu, Hawai’i

Broadcast: Spectrum Sports PPV (HI), Team 1 Sports streaming

Radio: 860 KTRB AM

Head-to-Head: Since 1936, the overall series record is 22-1-22 with the Spartans winning the last three. But the two most recent losses to Hawaii were epic, historic barnburners. 2018 saw a quintuple 44-41 OT loss. 2019 was a 42-40 loss where then-Hawaii QB Chevan Cordeiro accounted for five touchdowns.

In Cordeiro’s press conference Wednesday afternoon, all the expected media questions were asked. The theme that resonated from Cordeiro: team, trust, focus and opportunity.

“It’s a team game and it’s about the team going to Hawaii and bringing back the Dick Tomey Trophy,” said Cordeiro.

The late Tomey put Hawaii football on the map in the mid-70s to mid-80s and also resurrected San Jose State football from 2005-2009, where Tomey mentored now seventh-year Spartan head coach Brent Brennan.

“I think about coach Tomey everyday,” said Brennan during his regular Tuesday presser. “The people who’ve impacted your process; you literally think about them everyday and coach Tomey was such a huge part of that for me.”

Reluctant Revolutionist

Cordeiro also has made clear since his arrival to San Jose that his trust in Brennan and staff are what helped return his respect and love for football again. The proven brotherhood and the Polynesian reverence Brennan instilled with San Jose State was far more Hawaii than actual Hawaii, when Cordeiro had to leave the Rainbow Warriors.

Cordeiro was a reluctant revolutionist who triggered the much-needed generational change in Hawaii football, as it was clearly not going to change unless something absolutely drastic happened.

It’s only sad for Hawaii that their favorite son had to leave to find himself again, but in the end both sides are far better for it.

It’s also doubly sad that it took so much emotion and energy from so many people to be able to notice a Texas-size blunder in Hawaii.

And it’s just as bad if simple minds still feel Cordeiro betrayed them, where he actually helped save that program - if they cared to dig deeper into a story that went to the highest level of government on the islands.

The Spartan Opportunity

Above and beyond football, San Jose and the Bay Area is abundant with diversity, perspectives, connections and opportunity. It is truly a haven for the ambitious.

“With the opportunities I would have here and to grow as a person here, San Jose was the right place for me like it was for Chev,” said junior Spartan kicker Kyler Halvorsen, another native Hawaiian and Rainbow Warrior transfer.

“When I met coach Brennan and the staff, I knew right away they were the real deal,” added Halvorsen. “And with Chev being here, since we’re friends, he helped with the transition.”

Cordeiro has echoed the sentiment from day one. The student-of-the-game football mentality translates across the board from the classroom to internships to a person serious about their future, whichever way it leads.

“It’s really opened my eyes and really helped me grow up as a person and a football player being here,” said Cordeiro.

SJS football analyst and Poly confidant Lyle Moevao sees much more potential left in Cordeiro.

“Besides more football potential to realize, Chev’s shown such a great deal of leadership,” said Moevao on the next-level question. “He came from a very different system in Hawaii and then he’s come here and taken total control right away and has done it with flying colors.”


By this time in the Brennan era, big-time games and big-time rivalries are always stripped down to its essence. The noise and the hype are left for the media and the fans to sort out.

“This is always an incredibly challenging game,” said Brennan. “It doesn’t matter what the records are. These games are always highly-contested and Hawaii is better than they’ve been the last three years due to coach Chang.”

Cordeiro added, “I know when the first snap is in that I can lock in and do my job and I’m going to have to do that to help my team win.”

Both Cordeiro and Brennan are pros at shutting out the outside noise and all the superfluous elements outside of the game.

“The media and the outside world will make it about Chev and all about that stuff,” said Brennan. “But this is about San Jose State and Hawaii playing football and about two teams desperately needing a win.”

Spartans win if

It’s almost a given Cordeiro will either be efficient and/or outstanding, but neither aspect has guaranteed a win like what the power running game has brought the last two games - a core team identity that is diverse power football.

Kairee Robinson and Quali Conley are arguably the best running back tandem in the MW averaging over 160 yards per game with 999 combined rushing yards. Along with solid offensive line play, defenses see backs who can run between the tackles and claim the edges. That in itself is a two-dimensional running game feeding into a more assorted, formidable offense.

Defensively, the Spartans statistically still have the worst rush defense and a mid-ranked pass defense in the MW. It just so happens Hawaii’s run-and-shoot scheme has the worst rushing offense in the conference, though it has the second-best passing offense led by ‘Bow QB Brayden Schager.

By the book, it’s advantage Spartans, but in a rivalry game in Hawaii where logic is often defied by the intangibles, let’s call it even odds unless the Spartan defense also locks-in.

“They’re a hard-hat crew and are very business,” said Brennan on the SJS defense. “(DE) Tre Smith and (LB) Jordan Pollard are kind of quiet. (LB) Bryun Parham is an emotional leader and safeties Tre Jenkins and Chase Williams are the most impactful leaders out there. All those guys lead and work.”

With that, the Spartan defense has the depth and zero-dark fire to dominate, if they show up. If so, the Spartans win big.

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