Chasing Championships: Hawaii advances to MWC title game

Hawaii receiver Jason-Matthew Sharsh celebrated his touchdown in the first quarter against San Diego State. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii beats San Diego State about as often as a solar eclipse passes through the island chain. So, even though the Rainbow Warriors were favored to knock off the Aztecs tonight, you can understand why many in the Aloha Stadium crowd of 21,592 were dubious.

But thanks to a resurgent defense and quarterbacks Cole McDonald and Chevan Cordeiro, the Warriors did exactly that, 14-11, to win the West Division and advance to the Mountain West Conference championship game at Boise State on Dec. 7.


It will be Hawaii’s second trip to Idaho this season. The Warriors were blown away by the Broncos by 22 points on Columbus Day and will be decided underdogs in the rematch. Hawaii fumbled three times in that regular-season game that resulted in 21 points for the boys in blue en route to the 59-37 win.

UH coach Nick Rolovich hopes his players will acquit themselves better this time around and play more as they did in tonight’s game, in which Hawaii raised its season mark to 8-4 and league record to 5-3. San Diego State fell to 8-3 and 5-3. Hawaii closes out the regular season on Nov. 30 in a nonconference game with Army at Aloha Stadium. The Aztecs return home to play host to Brigham Young, Hawaii’s opponent in the Hawaii Bowl, if that’s where the Warriors land in the postseason carousel.

Hawaii got the ball first to start the second half with a 7-3 advantage. The Warriors managed only three possessions in the opening two quarters, with each drive beginning inside their 10. The UH defense forced three punts in the first half, holding the Aztecs to 161 yards. It was something of a defensive struggle over the opening 30 minutes.

And it remained that way the rest of the game, as each team managed time-consuming drives to score once each after intermission. UH’s first drive of the third quarter was at its own 25 before a holding penalty put the Warriors at the 15. That led to a punt. The Warriors’ second drive was at their own 5 with Cordeiro making his first appearance.

His opening snap was almost a safety, and there was nearly a fumble exchange on a run-option call three plays later, but somehow the freshman gathered himself and led the Warriors to their second touchdown of the game, an 11-yard run by Fred Holly III. Ryan Meskell hit the PAT to make it 14-3 UH with 5:15 remaining in the quarter.

San Diego State went on a long drive of its own that began in the third quarter and ended in the fourth on a 5-yard keeper by quarterback Ryan Agnew. He also was successful on a 2-point conversion run to cut the margin to 14-11 with 12:58 remaining in the game.

San Diego State held UH on its ensuing series, resulting in a punt, and the Aztecs took over at their own 20 with 7:55 remaining. It was up to the Warriors to make a stand, and that’s what they did as UH took over at its own 12 with 5:28 remaining. Now, it was Cordeiro’s turn to run some clock. With a nice mix of run and pass, the Warriors erased nearly four minutes before having to punt with 1:31 remaining.

The Aztecs took over at their own 19 with 1:23 on the clock. They got to UH’s 31 to set up a 48-yard field-goal attempt that Matt Araiza missed right to seal the win.

Hawaii scored first on an 8-yard touchdown pass from McDonald to Jason-Matthew Sharsh with 3:30 remaining in the opening period. The Hawaii defense forced a punt as the offense set up shop at its own 8. Converting a crucial third-and-14 on just the third snap of the game, Hawaii went 92 yards on 15 plays to lead by a touchdown at the end of one.

San Diego State came close to drawing even right before the half. The drive was set up on a pick by the Aztecs on a tipped pass. They drove 41 yards to the UH 10, before the drive stalled, setting up a 27-yard field goal by Araiza with 18 ticks remaining in the second quarter to make it 7-3 UH.

As one might expect in such a low-scoring game, the offensive stats were underwhelming. Agnew completed 25 of 39 passes for 229 yards, but the two Hawaii signal-callers combined for only 215 yards (McDonald going 13-for-19 for 144 yards, a TD and a pick and Cordeiro 9-for-16 for 71 yards). Sharsh was tops among receivers with 10 catches for 95 yards and that score.

Cordeiro led the way on the ground with 59 yards on eight carries. Miles Reed added 53 yards on 13 totes.


  1. sports for fun November 23, 2019 10:30 pm

    It was a defensive battle tonight at Aloha. Hopefully in the next game the Hawaii defense will be able to put some pressure on the quarterback. Ryan Agnew had TONS of time in the pocket tonight!

  2. Howard unebasami November 24, 2019 2:52 pm

    What a game of chess. Each move important. Bows. Bows Go for it.

  3. Whats Up November 24, 2019 3:00 pm

    Great Win, lets enjoy this momentous achievement as Hawaii fans. But starting Monday it time to get ready for Army and send the Seniors off with a win.

  4. third_down_guy November 25, 2019 8:19 am

    Are there any travel packages to the championship game?

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