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Spartans underwhelm in Hawaii Bowl in loss to Coastal Carolina

Cordeiro looking ahead

SJS QB Chevan Cordeiro (2) pursued by Coastal Carolina LB/CB Teddy Tiokeng (6)
photo by: Vic Aquino

December 1941 was the last time San Jose State was in Hawaii for a bowl game. Those Spartans spent 29 days on the islands for an infamous reason.

82 years later at the 2023 Hawaii Bowl, the Spartans’ performance was unfortunately not a storybook ending.

In a slow buildup game, Coastal Carolina (8-5, 5-3 Sun Belt) withstood a final quarter run by San Jose State (7-6, 6-2 MW) to take the bowl win 24-14.

“We started rolling late in the second-half, but we hurt ourselves,” said SJS QB Chevan Cordeiro. “We just got hot too late.”

The first-half ended with a 7-0 Coastal Carolina lead - the lowest scoring first-half in the history of the Hawaii Bowl.

The Spartans who lived by the run to set up the pass saw an anemic first-half.

It was also a first-half marred by untimely Spartan offensive line penalties, dropped but catchable deep balls and being pinned back deep in their own territory three different times by Chanticleer punter Mack West.

Coastal Carolina’s triple option led by freshman QB Ethan Vasko was the game MVP. Vasko’s poise, speed and athleticism belied a first-year player taking the reins with only a handful of regular season games under his belt.

“Vasko did a heck of job,” said Spartan head coach Brent Brennan. “We haven’t seen the triple option in nine or ten weeks since Air Force, but the Chants version is not a spread triple like it was tonight and it’s hard to simulate the speed of that in practice.”

The triple option chipped away at the Spartans with Vasko throwing three touchdowns on 199 yards passing on 20-of-33 attempts, along with 50 rushing yards.

NFL receiver prospect Sam Pinckney was Vasko’s main recipient with 123 yards receiving, eight receptions and one TD catch late in the game to seal the win - though a clear missed face mask call on Pinckney would have nullified the play.

Defensively, the Spartans bent and broke enough to keep SJS in the game until Cordeiro started to take control.

“It’s not all the time the run game is going to be there,” said Cordeiro who’s 59 scramble rush yards helped grab the momentum in the second-half. “We just had to adapt and change to what they were giving us.”

Cordeiro finished with 215 yards passing on 16-of-30 attempts and a 35-yard touchdown throw to TE Sam Olson. It was Cordeiro’s deft scramble on fourth-and-nine to find Olson in the end zone four minutes into the fourth quarter to finally get on the board.

Olson’s 96-yards receiving was also a career-high.

Cordeiro’s last game also saw him clear 12,000 yards passing on a five-yard completion to Olson in the first-half. In all, the Spartans mustered a respectable 374 yards after the non-existent first-half.

When the run game turned-on the last half of the season and carried the Spartans to a torrid six game win streak, the thinking would be much of the same Saturday. SJS running back Kairee Robinson’s 67 yards was impaired by two untimely fumbles that hurt Spartan scoring chances.

When San Jose opened the second-half still in neutral, it took Cordeiro’s sprinter speed to open the game up, but falling short left Cordeiro in tears and full of emotions realizing his college career ending.

“I’m forever grateful. It really doesn’t matter the wins and losses,” said a solemn Cordeiro. “I love the game and I found that again here and I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.”

The sour taste of Saturday certainly begs the question, ‘What’s next for Cordeiro?’

“I’ll take two weeks off and rest a little,” said Cordeiro. “I feel like I’m not done yet. I feel like I have a lot of years left and I still have a lot of people to prove wrong.”

Cordeiro added, “After I take those two weeks, I go back and start grinding.”

“All I need is one shot.”

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