The University of Hawai‘i football team lost in soul-crushing fashion, as a fourth quarter comeback bid fell just short. Chevan Cordeiro’s magic proved not to be enough. The redshirt freshman quarterback led a last minute drive to tie the game after an onside kick, but left too much time on the clock as the Fresno State Bulldogs won on a last second field goal. The 41-38 loss drops the Rainbow Warriors (5-4) to 2-3 in conference play as they moved further away from current West division leader San Diego State.
“Credit to Fresno (State),” head coach Nick Rolovich said. “They showed a lot of fight. That’s a well-coached football team, a team that knows how to win. We had way too many penalties, dropped balls, and missed opportunities.”
Quarterback Cole McDonald racked up 275 yards through the air in the start. The redshirt junior also finished with 1 passing touchdown and 1 interception before being replaced by Cordeiro. Meanwhile, Cordeiro finished with 71 yards on 5-9 passing. He also drove in the game-tying touchdown on a 10-yard run.
“I think we’ve got two great quarterbacks,” Rolovich said. “I’ve said that for a long time. We have to look at the film to see what’s going on, but I don’t think (the struggles) are all Cole. He missed some opportunities, but the receivers didn’t have their best day.”
A week after bursting onto the scene with 255 yards as a unit against New Mexico, the running game had another strong outing. Four runners found the end zone, as the unit garnered 209 yards on the ground against the Bulldogs . Redshirt junior Fred Holly III, who didn’t travel with the team to Albuquerque, joined in on the party this time around with 84 yards on 7 carries and 1 touchdown. Fellow running back Miles Reed also had a big day. The redshirt sophomore finished with 75 yards on 14 carries with 1 touchdown. Quarterbacks McDonald and Cordeiro joined in on the fun, with 17 and 33 yards respectively. Each quarterback punched the ball into the endzone once.
“I was happy to see the running game and the offensive line give us some balance, not just always have to throw the ball,” Rolovich said.
The day began on a positive note for the ‘Bows. After winning the coin toss and electing to receive, Hawai‘i began driving. McDonald found junior receiver Jared Smart for a 14-yard completion, before quickly finding senior Jason-Matthew Sharsh for another 12 yards. However, Sharsh’s reception was called back after redshirt junior Kumoku Noa’s illegal blindside block on the ‘Bows sideline. The drive stalled from that point on, as senior Ben Scruton was called on to punt. Scruton pinned the Bulldogs to their own 10-yard line with a well-placed punt.
On the other side of the ball, Fresno State faced no such problems. After a UH pass interference to start the drive, the Bulldogs wasted no time in driving down the field. Receiver Jalen Cropper took a jet sweep handoff, before tossing an arcing ball to fellow receiver Zane Pope for the 36-yard opening touchdown. Their defense flashed their abilities as well, forcing a quick Hawai‘i three and out before stopping the fourth and short conversion.
The Rainbow Warrior offense picked up the pace in the second quarter. After a Bulldog three and out to start the frame, the ‘Bows took off on a 9 play 82 yard drive that took five minutes off the clock. Reed started things with a 15-yard rush, before McDonald found Sharsh on three completions of 18, 13, and 14 yards. The drive ended in a 6-yard touchdown rush by McDonald for the ‘Bows first touchdown. Following another Fresno three and out, Hawai‘i turned to the ground game on another extended scoring drive. McDonald found receiver Cedric Byrd II for a 12-yard completion to start the drive, before passing the baton off to Reed. After back-to-back 10-yard runs by Reed, Holly took over with a 32-yard run before punching the ball into the endzone from a yard out.
The defense continued its strong play, as senior Kaimana Padello hit Bulldogs quarterback Jorge Reyna’s arm to force a fumble, which was recovered by freshman linebacker Darius Muasau. Hawai‘i couldn’t take advantage of the prime field position, but redshirt senior Ryan Meskell converted a career long 50-yard field goal to add to the score. His field goal was the longest for UH since Rigoberto Sanchez repeated the feat against Michigan in 2016.
Jalen Cropper briefly stopped the UH scoring barrage with a 53-yard touchdown run, but McDonald responded with a 48-yard touchdown toss to senior receiver Jojo Ward, capping off a 24-point quarter for Hawai‘i.
Fresno State opened the second half with a 44-yard touchdown run to cut into the ‘Bows’ lead. Meanwhile, a crucial false start penalty killed Hawai‘i's offensive momentum. The Bulldogs took advantage, scoring 10 unanswered points to take a touchdown advantage.
McDonald was intercepted to start the fourth quarter as his throw bounced off of a receiver and into the waiting hands of a Bulldog. Fresno, meanwhile, continued to score as Reyna found Jared Rice in the endzone for a 26-yard touchdown. Down two scores, Rolovich pulled the plug on McDonald and sent Cordeiro into the game. On his first full drive, Cordeiro found redshirt freshman Nick Mardner for a 50-yard gain, setting up Miles Reed for his first touchdown run of the game.
“I just thought the ball was coming out of Cole’s hands a little funky,” Rolovich said. “I thought it was time to get Chevan in, see if he can bring a different element.”
Hawai‘i recovered the ensuing onside kick to keep their chances alive. Cordeiro again drove the team down the field, before taking matters into his own hands with a 10-yard touchdown run to tie the game. The ‘Bows left too much time on the clock however, as Fresno State, armed with all three timeouts, drove steadily into field goal range, before Cesar Silva knocked in a 37-yard game winning field goal as the clock expired.
“We have to pick ourselves up, turn around, and get ready for San Jose State,” Rolovich said.
The Rainbow Warriors return to Aloha Stadium on Nov. 9 to take on San Jose State at 6 p.m. HST.