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Prep Football Preview Special
Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveNovember 8, 2020, 2:33am
Sat, Nov 7, 2020 @ Aloha Stadium [ 6:00 pm ]
HALAWA — Chevan Cordeiro got an earful from his coach at the end of the first half Saturday.
But by the end of the game, he had Todd Graham singing a different tune.
Cordeiro, a sophomore quarterback and 2018 Saint Louis graduate, passed for career-highs of 410 yards and four touchdowns to help the University of Hawaii get back into the win column with a 39-33 victory over New Mexico in its home opener at a crowd-less Aloha Stadium.
The Rainbow Warriors (2-1 Mountain West) rallied from a 13-point, second-quarter deficit to hand the Lobos (0-2) their 11th consecutive loss dating back to last year.
Hawaii racked up 503 yards of total offense Saturday night, a staunch improvement upon last week's 233 total yards in an all-around abysmal 31-7 road loss to Wyoming.
"I'm really proud of our guys. Our guys weren't gonna be denied. It was a great team win," said Graham, UH's first-year coach.
A week after he was limited to 11-of-26 passing for 110 yards without a touchdown, Cordeiro bounced back in a big way against the Lobos — especially in the second half.
In the first half he completed 20 of 28 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice. Both times it cost the Rainbow Warriors. Cordeiro's first interception came three plays after a New Mexico had converted a short field goal to break a 7-all tie.
"I thought they jumped offsides," Graham said of the Lobos' defensive front. "We still can't throw the ball up, but we thought there was two (New Mexico) guys clear in the neutral zone, that's why (Cordeiro) threw the first one up."
New Mexico's offense cashed in on the very next play, when Jordan Kress hauled in a 29-yard, over-the-shoulder TD pass from quarterback Tevaka Tuioti to make the score 17-7 with 4:10 left in first quarter.
The Lobos stretched their lead to 20-7 early in the second quarter with a 49-yard field goal by George Steinkamp.
Hawaii had a chance to cut into that lead just before halftime. Cordeiro orchestrated a 10-play drive that started at the UH 5-yard line and included a 42-yard completion to wideout Nick Mardner. However, Cordeiro fired a second-down pass toward the right sideline that was intended for Rico Bussey near the goaline, but it was undercut by New Mexico's Jerrick Reed II, who recorded the earlier pick off of Cordeiro as well.
The turnover with three seconds left in the half gave possession back to the Lobos and sent the Rainbow Warriors into the locker room down, 20-14.
Graham did not mince his words with his quarterback about the interception.
"I was not very nice when he threw that ball. I'm usually very calm with him, but that drive, as we were going down, I said, ‘Hey man, let's take care of the ball,' and if you remember, earlier in that drive he was scrambling, threw it back in the middle and almost threw an interception then," Graham explained.
Graham said his instructions to Cordeiro were to take a shot at the end zone if it was there and if not, to throw it away or to get out of bounds if he were forced to evade the pocket on a scramble.
"And so that was probably the first time I got on to him pretty hard. I got on to him really hard and then obviously I talked to him at halftime and I told him that ‘the reason I got on to you is I don't want you to ever do that. I want you to learn that those decisions right there, we don't need you to do that, you know, it's not fourth down-and-10, the game's not on the line, you don't have to throw the ball,' " Graham said.
Cordeiro didn't have quite as much to say about his conversation with Graham as the latter did.
"After my interception, he told me — I mean, I know it was wrong — and just not to do it again and just to bounce back," Cordeiro said.
Bounce back he did.
On his very first pass attempt after halftime, Cordeiro hit a wide open Zion Bowens for a 42-yard touchdown on a deep pass over the top. Matthew Shipley's extra point gave Hawaii its first lead, 21-20, with 13:05 left in the third quarter.
Following a three-and-out by the Lobos, Cordeiro and Bowens hooked up two plays later for a 40-yard TD pass on another long play. Cordeiro faked an end around to running back Miles Reed before launching a deep pass for Bowens, who pulled it down just inside the back boundary of the end zone.
"That was a nice catch," Cordeiro pointed out.
However, New Mexico answered with a 26-yard Nathaniel Jones TD run a few minutes later to cut the Hawaii lead to 28-27.
The Lobos jumped back ahead early in the fourth stanza on a 24-yard field goal by Steinkamp, but the Rainbow Warriors retaliated with another big play. Three plays into their ensuing possession, Cordeiro hit a wide-open Calvin Turner near the right sideline. Turner came back to the slightly underthrown ball, secured the catch, then cut back across the field to his left and left three would-be tacklers on the way to the end zone on the 64-yard TD pass.
That score gave UH the lead for good with 12:19 left to play.
"I mean, they always tell me, ‘Don't overthrow them,' " Cordeiro said of his receiving corps. "I saw Zion, Nick them so wide open, I just wanted to give them a chance and make them run for it, even Calvin, I just wanted to give him a chance and make ‘em run and score a touchdown."
Cordeiro connected with Jared Smart, who made a spectacularly acrobatic catch, for the ensuing two-point conversion to give UH a 36-30 advantage.
Shipley converted a 41-yard field goal with 6:33 remaining to make it a two-score game at 39-30.
New Mexico pulled back within a score at 39-33 after Steinkamp's made good on a 42-yard field goal with 1:21 to play, but failed to recover the onside kick that followed and Cordeiro took three kneel-downs to end the game.
"I couldn't have done it with just myself. I got help from the o-line, they protected me good, just my receivers, making plays — me throwing to them and them making a play — I mean, I just wanted to give them a chance. I believed in them and I mean, they got up and grabbed it," said Cordeiro, who improved to 6-1 as a starter in his UH career.
Cordeiro completed 13 of his 15 passes after halftime for 223 yards and three touchdowns. Most importantly, no picks.
"I was really proud, that's what I told him, I said, ‘Now you have adversity, you learn from every snap and then you go back out there and play,' and I thought he played really well in the second half," Graham said of the 2017 All-Hawaii Division I Offensive Player of the Year in Cordeiro.
"I thought he played outstanding and he's just continuing to get better. He's got tremendous respect of our players and our staff and so him playing like that really is uplifting for our team and obviously our players — this is his team — our players follow his lead," Graham declared.
Cordeiro's 33 completions and 43 pass attempts were also career-high marks. He also ran in a touchdown from five yards out that tied the score at 7 early on. Cordeiro led UH with 39 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Mardner led Hawaii with six receptions for 147 yards. Nine different Rainbow Warriors registered at least one catch.
New Mexico ran for 279 of its 499 total yards and averaged 7.3 yards per rush. Jones carried 13 times for 96 yards with a touchdown and Bobby Cole added 14 rushes for 96 yards. Tuioti threw for 181 yards on 17-of-31 passing with two touchdowns and no picks.
The Lobos scored on their first four possessions. Kress capped two of those drives with TD catches, including a 52-yard hook-up with Tuioti to open the scoring on the third play of the game. Kress posted three grabs for 93 yards and Emmanuel Logan-Greene added seven catches for 52 yards.
"It was just incredible effort. Lots of ugly football at times, but really proud of our guys and proud to be two-and-one and moving on to the next one," Graham said.
HIGH PRAISE FOR MUASAUSophomore linebacker Darius Muasau, a 2019 Mililani graduate who earned All-Hawaii First Team honors as a high school senior, continues to shine on the UH defense.
Muasau, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound Ewa Beach native, recorded a game-high 10 tackles, including six solo stops in Saturday's win over New Mexico. He also teamed with teammate Mason Mataafa on a sack and had one quarterback hurry, both coming in the final minutes.
Graham had high praise for Muasau in his postgame comments.
"Well, I mean, he is as talented as — and this is saying something because I've coached some really talented linebackers — I think he has a chance to be as good as I've ever coached," Graham said.
The defense is designed to feature the linebacking corps of Muasau, Jeremiah Pritchard, a former Farrington standout, and converted safety Khoury Bethley, Graham explained.
"We built the defense around them and in this system they're going to make a ton of plays," he said.
While Muasau has made his share of plays — he's led UH in tackles in each game this season and has a team-best 35 on the season — he doesn't do a whole lot of talking.
"I just love coaching him — my kind of guy, he doesn't say much at all — I mean, he just says, ‘Yes, sir,' and then he just plays," Graham said. "He's a guy that fits exactly the mold of what we're looking for in a big-time leader by how he plays each week and he gives me everything he's got and when he ain't got nothing else he gives me a little bit more and so I'm very proud of him."
Muasau has started all three games this season and seven in his UH career.
"I think he's a guy that's got a great future ahead of him. … I'm really proud of him and how he's leading our team and buying in, taking that responsibility to be a guy that plays consistent week-in and week-out."
SEALING THE DEALIt was nearly three years ago — Nov. 19, 2017, to be exact — that Jonah Panoke and Chevan Cordeiro put the finishing touches on a second straight First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Open Division State Championship for Saint Louis.
The pair hooked up for a 53-yard touchdown pass with just 37 seconds left to play to lift the Crusaders past Kahuku to a thrilling 31-28 win on the turf at Aloha Stadium.
Saturday night, each did his part to help out the hometown ‘Bows.
Cordeiro, of course, filled up the stat sheet to the tune of single-game career-highs in pass completions (33), attempts (43), passing yards (410) and passing TDs (4).
Panoke, however, made just one all-important play.
After New Mexico's field goal to pull it to within 39-33 of Hawaii with 1:41 left to play, it hoped to recover an onside kick in order to have a chance at a late-game comeback. However, Donovan Murphree's kick took a few bounces before it was covered by Panoke to give his team possession at the New Mexico 47-yard line.
"That was a big-time play," said Cordeiro, who took three kneel-downs to run out the clock. "Even though you guys might not think that, but that was a key play. If it wasn't for him securing that, I mean, we wouldn't be in victory formation."
Graham echoed the thoughts of his quarterback.
"Jonah Panoke there at the end, that was a big-time play on the hands team and that's some of the stuff that we hadn't had as much time to work. We worked that, I think, once a week and he did a great job with that," Graham said.
Panoke was also a First Team All-Hawaii selection as a Saint Louis senior in 2017.
LESS IS MOREAfter drawing 14 penalties in its first two games of the season, Hawaii was flagged just three times for 30 yards against New Mexico, much to the delight of Graham.
"I was pretty impressed, too," Graham said. "I really challenged the offensive line the last two weeks about the penalties and I thought that was a positive. … I think we were a lot more disciplined tonight."
Two of UH's penalties were against its defense: a holding call against LB Bethley and a targeting infraction against DB Cameron Lockridge, which led to his disqualification from the rest of the contest (as well as the first half of next week's game against San Diego State). The lone penalty against the offense was for an ineligible man downfield.
The Rainbow Warriors were penalized seven times for 44 yards in a season-opening win at Fresno State two weeks ago. Against Wyoming they drew seven flags for 60 yards.
Another area of improvement for Hawaii Saturday was pass-protection. UH's offensive line surrendered three sacks against Fresno State and five to Wyoming last week, but gave up just one to the Lobos.
"I was really proud of our offensive line against a difficult scheme in what they run, the 3-3-5, the multiple-scheme stuff. They blitzed a ton and we did a great job. I thought our offensive line did a great job," Graham said.
OTHER LOCAL BOYS• Sophomore DB Kai Kaneshiro, a 2018 Saint Louis graduate made his second start of the season at safety and finished with six tackles. • Senior OL Michael Eletise, a 2016 Kaiser alum, started his third consecutive game at left guard. • Junior DB Noa Kamana, a 2017 Punahou graduate, made two tackles on kickoff coverage, both in the second half. • Sophomore linebacker Isaiah Tufaga, a 2018 Saint Louis alum, had one solo tackle, one quarterback hurry and a pass break-up. • Sophomore PK/P Adam Stack, a 2017 Kamehameha graduate, averaged 42.8 yards on his four punts. He booted two punts of 45 yards and had one downed inside the 20-yard line.
EXTRA POINTS It was UH's first game at Aloha Stadium since a 38-34 win over BYU in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve of last year. … The Rainbow Warriors have won their last six home openers dating back to 2015. … UH picked up its first win over New Mexico in Honolulu since a 35-13 win in 1991; The Lobos had won four straight meetings in Honolulu. … Hawaii has now won its last two meetings against New Mexico and leads the all-time series, 16-10, including a 12-6 mark in Honolulu. … The Lobos last win came against in-state rival New Mexico State on Sept. 21, 2019. … It is the first season at the helm for New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales, who was defensive coordinator at Arizona State the past two seasons; Graham was head coach of the Aztecs from 2012-'17. … Hawaii next plays San Diego State (2-1) Saturday. That game will be played at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., the home of the LA Galaxy of the MLS and previously the temporary home of the NFL's Los Angeles Chargers. SDSU is in the process of building a new 35,000-seat stadium on its Mission Valley campus. Kickoff between the Rainbow Warriors and Aztecs is scheduled for 11 a.m. Hawaii time.
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