Before preparing for tonight’s critical Mountain West clash with San Jose State, coach Nick Rolovich told his University of Hawai‘i football team: “Playing for each other…selfishness doesn’t work in our state, and doesn’t work in a football program.”
The night prior, he decided to go with redshirt freshman Chevan Cordeiro under center instead of established gunslinger Cole McDonald, and that decision came up aces as the Rainbow Warriors outlasted the Spartans 42-40 in an offensive slugfest that featured 1,006 combined yards of offense at Aloha Stadium on Saturday night.
“Probably the toughest decision in my head coaching career,” said Rolovich of the quarterback swap moments after the victory was cemented. “If you go by numbers, you’re probably taking the conference offensive player of the year off the field, so I really respect Cole McDonald. I spent all week game planning in my head, and the decision wasn’t easy, but in the end when I signed my name to come and work for this team and this state, I have to put the player on the field who gives us the best chance to win. I understood the ramifications, but I felt Chevan would give us the best chance to win this game.”
Cordeiro shined in the spotlight, completing 23-of-31 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns and adding 55 yards on the ground, including two rushing scores.
“It feels great, any win feels great – close, or a blowout,” said Cordeiro.
Cordeiro found his favorite target JoJo Ward early and often, and the shifty receiver collected seven catches for a game-high 170 yards and two scores, including a 71-yard scoring connection.
“It’s really (about) repetitions in practice, and making plays,” said Ward. “I’m pretty confident (in Cordeiro) because we see what he can do in practice all the time. On the offensive side it was really fun.”
The Rainbow Warriors (6-4, 3-3 Mountain West) were also sparked by Miles Reed as the running back helped wear down the San Jose State defense to the tune of 124 yards and a score on 17 carries.
“The word for Miles Reed is energy,” said Rolovich. “The energy and love – he’s inspiring when he runs, just by his body language, and is a very unselfish player who loves his teammates and being a part of this football program.”
The Spartans (4-6, 1-5) kept things close all game thanks in large part to quarterback Josh Love, who threw for 375 yards and two scores. Tre Walker caught a game-high 10 balls for 138 yards, while running back DeJon Packer ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was a great night at Aloha Stadium, and I appreciate the fans who came out,” said Rolovich. “Our team stuck together; we planned for a fourth-quarter game all week.”
Following the game, Rolovich had a hard time finding a blemish on Cordeiro’s performance in leading the offense.
“It’s hard for me to find a mistake he made,” said Rolovich when breaking down Cordeiro’s mastery under center. “He was dialed in, just the complete command of the offense and I thought guys rallied around him. I really feel like we have two starting quarterbacks and I’m proud of both kids. The three best quarterbacks in this conference could have been in the stadium tonight – it’s a first-world problem at quarterback.”
With the win, Hawai‘i still has an outside shot at claiming the Mountain West’s West Division; if the ‘Bows win out in conference play, and San Diego State loses twice, UH would earn a spot in the conference title game.
“The values of Hawai‘i influence our path in recruiting,” said Rolovich of the emphasis he puts on character when recruiting student-athletes. “At our university, you need to be willing to give before you take. Coming here will change your life.”