The University of Hawaii football team just completed one of the more stirring comeback victories in recent memory, and with a lot on the line.
Led by a dominant second-half defense and true freshman Chevan Cordeiro‘s three touchdown passes in less than one quarter of play, UH beat UNLV 35-28 and clinched a berth in the Hawaii Bowl.
The Rebels led 21-6 at halftime and it was 28-13 when Cordeiro replaced third-year sophomore Cole McDonald with about 12 minutes left in the game. Cordeiro immediately found JoJo Ward for a 64-yard touchdown pass.
Cordeiro — who earlier this season led UH to a win over Wyoming with a last-minute scoring pass to Ward — then threw another TD pass to Ward for 20 yards at the back of the end zone to tie the score, and with 1:25 left he found John Ursua open on the sideline for a 68-yard touchdown strike and the lead.
The FRESHMAN throws his 3rd TD of the game to give Hawaii the lead!! 🔥💣💯 pic.twitter.com/6XcSFbY6mB
— Hawaii Football (@HawaiiFootball) November 18, 2018
Cordeiro finished with four completions in five attempts for 153 yards and the three scores.
McDonald had a rough night with 14 for 30 for 175 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He ran for UH’s first touchdown.
One of the first Twitter reactions by a UH fan was “Let the debate begin.” Assuming that is in regard to a quarterback controversy, my response was “I don’t think there is one.”
I’m of the belief that it is obvious Cordeiro should be the starting quarterback from here on out, beginning with next week’s regular-season closer at San Diego State — especially considering McDonald’s lingering woes after a midseason injury.
McDonald’s passes were crisp and on-target before he missed the Wyoming game with the injury; they have not been since. UH was 5-1 before McDonald’s injury. They were 0-4 when McDonald returned from the injury (after the Wyoming win engineered by Cordeiro with a last-minute TD pass) before tonight’s win.
There is the question, though, of burning Cordeiro’s redshirt year if he plays in more than four games. He has now played in three.
Also, if McDonald is benched, does that mean he transfers? And would this fall under the category of the belief of some that a player should not lose his starting spot due to injury?
One option head coach Nick Rolovich may consider is to start McDonald next week at San Diego State; if Cordeiro doesn’t play in that game he could play in the Hawaii Bowl and still keep the redshirt and be eligible for four more seasons after this one.
The Warriors are now 7-5. A win at San Diego State would guarantee a winning season, UH’s first since 2010. To me, that is reason enough to start the quarterback most likely to deliver that win, and at this point that would be Cordeiro. Plus, there’s no guarantee he will want to stay in college for five years. We don’t know if Cordeiro’s upside includes pro football potential, but so far it looks like it might, and he may want to go for it before 2022.