Ferd’s Words | Sports

It was altogether appropriate that when the University of Hawaii football team needed a first down to close out San Jose State on Saturday night the ball was entrusted to quarterback Chevan Cordeiro. Read more

It was altogether appropriate that when the University of Hawaii football team needed a first down to close out San Jose State on Saturday night the ball was entrusted to quarterback Chevan Cordeiro.

Because 3 hours and 9 minutes earlier the Rainbow Warriors put the game, and perhaps even their season, in the same sure hands, giving the redshirt freshman his first start of the season.

The player that head coach Nick Rolovich had termed, “the best backup quarterback in the nation,” earlier this season showed he isn’t likely to return to that role anytime soon, passing — and running— the Warriors to a 42-40 victory over San Jose State.

>> Click here to see photos of the game between Hawaii and San Jose State.

It isn’t often that a team dares to bench the nation’s No. 3 passer, but that’s what Hawaii did in sitting Cole McDonald in favor of his two-year backup. And Cordeiro, who was summoned from the bench amid cheers late in last week’s loss to Fresno State, took the pressure off the coaches, making the move look more like a no-sweat master stroke than a gamble to the 16,367 on hand.

On a night when UH needed to match the Spartans score-for-score in the latest in a long line of Rainbow Warriors-Spartans shootouts, Cordeiro was up for the task, passing for three touchdowns and running for two more in a near-flawless performance that puts Hawaii on the doorstep of bowl eligibility and keeps it in the running for the West Division title in the Mountain West Conference.

At 6-4 (3-3 MWC), UH needs to win just one of its three remaining regular-season games against Nevada-Las Vegas, San Diego State and Army to qualify for the postseason.

Cordeiro, whose only start in two seasons in Manoa came when an injured McDonald was unable to go against Wyoming last season, went the 67-offensive-play distance, completing 23 of 31 passes for 309 yards while guiding UH to touchdowns on six of seven possessions, not counting the end-of-the-half situations. All of them required marches of 75 yards or more. He also ran 11 times for 55 yards.

Cordeiro’s only miscue was a second-quarter fumble that the Spartans recycled into one of their four school-record-tying field goals.

But the Saint Louis School graduate, whose Aloha Stadium resume includes a state high school championship and two stirring fourth-quarter rallies last season, bounced back with cool precision, completing key passes and scrambling for drive-stretching gains in a game in which the Warriors did not require the use of a punter.

Cordeiro’s resurgence also triggered that of receiver JoJo Ward, who caught seven passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Ward had six TDs in UH’s first four games but just one since — until Saturday night. But he figured prominently in this one either scoring himself or setting up the others.

After Cordeiro produced UH’s last touchdown of the night, a 2-yard run for a 42-33 lead with 4 minutes, 23 seconds remaining, the Spartans came back to score to get within 42-40 with 1 minute, 51 seconds left.

Jared Smart recovered the inevitable onside kick for UH, but the Warriors still needed to run out the clock. On third-and-2, it was left to Cordeiro to turn out the lights on the Spartans and clinch the inaugural Dick Tomey Legacy Trophy.

Cordeiro rushed 4 yards to secure the first down with 1 minute, 30 seconds left, earning slaps of appreciation from teammates. Not to mention a sigh of relief from the smallest home crowd since 2017 that had witnessed his remarkable ascendance.


Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com or 529-4820.