By Kyle Galdeira
When University of Hawai‘i starting quarterback Cole McDonald was ruled out of Saturday night’s contest with rival Wyoming, the Rainbow Warriors called on their freshman phenom to lead the squad.
Chevan Cordeiro, who joined the ‘Bows after guiding Saint Louis to the state championship last fall, was victorious in his first career collegiate start and helped UH secure a gritty 17-13 victory over the Cowboys and their stout defensive unit at Aloha Stadium.
The true freshman completed 19-of-29 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown strike came on a nifty scramble-and-heave that soared 38 yards to a leaping JoJo Ward, who hauled in the pass and put Hawai‘i up by the game’s final margin with 1:26 remaining in the contest.
Cordeiro’s lone glaring mistake came in the form of an interception by Carl Granderson, who took the pick 61 yards for a touchdown and put the Cowboys ahead 10-3 midway through the third quarter. That pick-six marked the game’s first touchdown after the squads played to a pedestrian 3-3 score through the first half; Hawai‘i’s field goal was tallied with 8:25 to play in the second frame as Ryan Meskell connected on a career-long 39-yard boot.
Hawai‘i was also buoyed on the ground by bruising running back Dayton Furuta who carried the ball 16 times for 101 yards, including a 21-yard rumble.
With the win, the Rainbow Warriors improved to 6-1 and 3-0 in Mountain West Conference play – a program first in the brief history within the league. And, the team was able to take back the perpetual Paniolo Trophy awarded to the rivalry game’s winner.
“I’m glad people feel good about this football team,” said UH coach Nick Rolovich. “The win is on the back of this defense.
“It was excellent coaching at the end of the game, the players knew the situation. To be 6-and-1, and have that trophy back, there’s something special about this team. It’s rooted in the Aloha Spirit, and I was happy for everyone that was here tonight.”
Cordeiro’s first touchdown strike came on a five-yard pass to Cedric Byrd to tie the score at 10 apiece late in the third quarter. The shifty quarterback also ran 12 times for 23 yards, and frustrated the Wyoming defense with his agile moves in and out of the pocket.
“You can take these numbers and throw them out…he’s here for the right reason,” said Rolovich of his young gunslinger. “He wants to represent the state on the football field with the Warrior jersey on. I believe that he dreamed about this moment when he put pen to paper and decided to be a Rainbow Warrior.
“Chevan is excellent at playing off script. When he was almost sacked on that play, almost everyone in the stadium could smell his determination. He gave JoJo a great ball, and he went up to ‘big boy’ that ball.”
The Rainbow Warrior defense turned in a solid effort, and limited Wyoming to 244 total yards of offense. Penei Pavihi racked up a team-leading 10 tackles, while defensive lineman Kaimana Padello notched three tackles-for-loss, two sacks and forced a fumble.
“The crowd made a big impact on that last drive, and on the last series, for us to do our jobs and play lights-out football, it’s a perfect example of playing good football and trusting each other.” said Rainbow Warrior defensive lineman Zeno Choi, who also registered a sack.
Wyoming’s offensive output was essentially manufactured by running back Nico Evans who rushed 24 times for 192 yards, including a 63-yard run that accounted for more than a quarter of his team’s offense.
Hawaii will now prepare to hit the road for a non-conference tilt with longtime rival BYU.
“I’m pretty happy to be getting on a plane going to Provo (Utah to play BYU on Saturday). Getting a chance to play them in a game that means so much to us, this is an incredibly important game for our program and theirs,” said Rolovich.
(Photos by Andrew Lee / Hawaii Media Source)