The Rainbow Warriors were outfought by the San Diego State Aztecs on a 17-10 defensive struggle on Saturday night.
“That was a very tough loss for our guys,” Hawaiʻi coach Todd Graham said of the game. “I’m really proud of the effort and the heart that our guys showed us. That was a tough one to lose.”
Regardless of the loss, the Hawaiʻi faithful showed up strong, thanks to the state government easing COVID-19 restrictions. Of the 9,000 allowed, 5,119 fans came out to witness the game, far exceeding the 1000 that were at the New Mexico State game two weeks prior.
“It was so awesome to come out and the student section was awesome,” Graham said. “To see our fans in the stands, I know our players were excited to play for them. It was a great atmosphere.”
In celebration of the military night, the ‘Bows wore a special “battleship gray” strategy uniform, designed to honor those who lost their lives in the Pearl Harbor attack and the 1941 Hawaiʻi football team.
The ‘Bows offense ran through Calvin Turner Jr., who scored the ‘Bows first and only touchdown on a 19-yard catch and run. He was the team's second-leading rusher and receiver with 22 yards on the ground, and 37 yards through the air.
Hawaiʻi quarterback Chevan Cordeiro struggled in the first half, passing for just 43 yards, one touchdown and a killer interception after a throw into triple coverage. Corderio rallied in the second half, completing 15 of 22 passes for 132 yards.
“They were very dominant defensively,” Graham said about San Diego State. “We struggled to do anything offensively and I give them credit.”
The halves were like night and day in terms of offensive efficiency; after four first downs in the first half, Hawaiʻi greatly improved on that number, ending the night with 16 first downs. They did not fare any better on third downs with a 33% percent conversion rate.
Ball security continued to be an issue with yet another fumble lost this season, this time with wide receiver Jared Smart losing the ball on a questionable hit.
The Hawaiʻi defense flexed its bend don't break ability, and held the Aztecs to a season-low 227 yards, a single touchdown and field goal.
“We played very well,” Graham said of his defense. “We held the opponent to 227 total yards, probably their low for the year.”
Linebacker Darius Muasau sparked some life in the ‘Bows defense with a strip-sack on Aztec quarterback Lucas Johnson late in the first quarter, and defensive back Khoury Bethley wrapped up Aztecs in the secondary, leading the team with eight tackles, five of which were solo.
The Aztecs went with a run-heavy approach, netting them 128 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Greg Bell had 35% of the team’s total offensive yardage and their lone offensive touchdown, the other touchdown happening on special teams with a Jack Browning 13-yard run off of a fake field goal attempt.
An underrated battle of the night was between ‘Bows punter Matthew Shipley and Aztec punter Matt Araiza. While Shipley punted six times for 194 yards, he was outdueled by Araiza who had five punts for 248 yards and a long of 79 yards.
After the loss to San Diego State, the ‘Bows fall to 4-6 on the season, moving them to a .400 win percentage and handing the ‘Bows their second home loss of the season. They will now head to Las Vegas, Nevada to take on the UNLV Rebels on Nov. 13 at 11 a.m. HST. The game will be available for purchase on Spectrum pay-per-view and also broadcast on the ESPN Honolulu radio station.