Even after loss, Big Mac’s bagel on picks still impressive

Cole McDonald is still pick-less for his UH career after the loss at Army over the weekend. / Photo by Bryan Bennett, Special to the Star-Advertiser

Yes, a loss is a loss. But even after the frustrating 28-21 defeat at West Point, this is still the University of Hawaii football team’s best four-game start to a season in 16 years — with the notable exception of 2007. Other than that Sugar Bowl season, you have to go back to 2002 for the last time the Warriors started at 3-1 or better.

Like now, the Warriors had a third-year sophomore at quarterback. But Timmy Chang had a lot more experience in the run-and-shoot offense at that point than Cole McDonald does now.

UH began 2002 with a 61-36 win over an Eastern Illinois team quarterbacked by Tony Romo, lost 35-32 at BYU, and then won its first two WAC games, 31-6 at UTEP and 42-10 at home against SMU.

It ended up as a pretty good year for the Warriors. They went 10-4, including 7-1 in the WAC. The other three losses were at Boise State, to 14th-ranked Alabama and against Tulane in the first Hawaii Bowl.

Coupled with the 9-3 of 2001 (quarterbacked by current coach Nick Rolovich), it was the first time Hawaii put together consecutive winning seasons since Bob Wagner’s teams did three in a row from 1988 to 1990. This time, Hawaii would post winning records again in 2003 and 2004 — the most in a row since Dick Tomey’s squads from 1978 through 1982.

Sometimes it was quite the rollercoaster — like the blowout losses at Fresno and Boise in ’04 that put UH at 4-5 before it ran the table the final four games (with Chad Owens putting on the greatest punt-returning show, game-after-game, I’ve ever seen). When you take a step back and look at the entire picture, though, June Jones’ run-and-shoot offense found consistency with a quarterback, Chang, who sometimes seemed very inconsistent.

What we’ve learned since is that while the main key player in the run-and-shoot offense is, indeed, the quarterback, the QB relies on his receivers making the same read that he does — and that usually takes time to develop. On some of those passes where it looked like the only receiver in the area was a safety or other defender, and the ball went into his hands, the intended receiver (or, in some cases, Chang) made the wrong read.

The NCAA records Chang set for career passing yards and touchdowns have been eclipsed. But he still holds the FBS mark for most career interceptions with 80.

It’s important to note, however, that he threw 2,406 passes, which also still stands as the national career record. And, perhaps even more telling, Chang threw 200 consecutive passes without an interception — a streak that started in the last game of his junior year and ended four games into his senior season.

UH’s current starting quarterback, McDonald, has yet to throw an interception in 152 attempts to start his college career (he threw nine pickless passes as a backup last season).

McDonald’s the kind of player that values the letter W over any numbers next to his name. But even after Saturday’s missed opportunities on offense that contributed to UH’s loss, that zero under INT for McDonald is extremely impressive.

It’s quite conceivable that McDonald could break a record this Saturday against Duquesne that was set by Colt Brennan in 2006. During six games from Sept. 30 to Nov. 4, Brennan threw 182 passes in a row without any being caught by the guys in the other-colored jerseys.

There have been a few close calls — drops by defenders. But McDonald’s streak is still incredible, especially when you consider he isn’t always throwing “safe” passes (he can zip it into just the right spot to a receiver who looks like he is covered). Also, this group of starters has only been working together in the run-and-shoot since last spring. Chang and Brennan and their receivers had much more experience with the scheme than the current Hawaii offense does.

John Ursua accounted for all three of Hawaii’s touchdowns at Army. / Photo by Bryan Bennett, Special to the Star-Advertiser


  1. Chicken Grease September 17, 2018 12:39 am

    But Timmy Chang had a lot more experience in the run-and-shoot offense at that point than Cole McDonald does now.

    If this is the case, then maybe Cordeiro would have the Warriors at 4-0 right now.

    I’m angry.

  2. Nelekona September 17, 2018 6:17 am

    Chicken Grease…Appreciate your insight and you have every right to provide them; but you are incorrect. We were out coached during the Army game and Cole McDonald won the job outright. I was angry when we lost, but very happy with this team thus far. Chill out Chicken Grease…we’re doing alright 🙂

  3. Chicken Grease September 17, 2018 6:55 am


    “Outcoached” is not getting as close as 28-21.

    Hawaii’s last possession was an easy score, based on all the good they have done this year so far. Warriors beat the Colorado air, badly, they showed they could beat the triple option badly eith Navy.

    So what in the HELL happened here?

    That possession was an easy score. The only explanation Might very well be conspiracy (“O.K. O.K., military academies. Sounds good. You let us beat Navy, we’ll let Army beat us.”).

    Duquesne no longer looks like the easy W. No game, now, looks like an easy W.

    You no like see Cordeiro get a chance? He would have National-Championship-Tua’d that last possession. OT.

  4. AllG September 17, 2018 7:54 am

    Take it easy Chicken MacDonald has Quaterbacked the R n S as good or better then any QB in UH history to this point, you can’t put the blame on him. Could the offense had played better of course. The Defense also could have gotten us more possessions they were on the field way too long and needed to get more stops. They thing that really screwed up our offense is the were able to get to the QB only rushing 3 and dropping 8 which shouldn’t happen we you have 6 blockers including the RB. I believe that’s the out coaching #2 talking about.

  5. Aiea 7 September 17, 2018 9:24 am

    believe #2 is right, we were out-coached. when army started to drop 8 in the secondary, the play calling should have been adjusted to run the ball more. what happened to holley, he hardly played and macdonald hardly ran the ball. 5 offensive linemen should be able to open holes against 3 defensive linemen. we did this on one series but later abandoned this strategy. nor sure why. we were only back by two touchdowns and there were ample time to catch up running the ball. the play calling needs improvement, they appear to do things mechanically, conditions of the game and how the defense is playing should dictate the offensive play calling.

  6. iGrokSpock September 17, 2018 9:42 am

    Cole has plenty of games to continue to learn, gain knowledge about the nuances of the run and shoot, and expand his game. Experience matters and he has been phenomenal thus far.

    I am not a robot, and I hope that I make more sense than some of the posters on this, and other threads.

  7. Nelekona September 17, 2018 11:41 am

    Chicken Grease….of course I want to see the local boy succeed. Cole clearly beat him out. Additionally, Cordeiro is no Tua! Not even close.

  8. lunch buddy September 17, 2018 1:45 pm

    Great article Dave… Would love to see more of you in the paper!
    As for Cole, to think he is only a sophomore. One thing people will come to understand how Cole is the type of kid who wants to learn and get better and he is a hard worker. He has grown so much from when he came on campus. He has become a true QB and a student of the game!
    keep in mind, he never was in this type of offense before. Also, we are stacked at QB.

  9. Idunnonuttin September 17, 2018 5:55 pm

    Tua is a good player. Cole is surrounded by junker players. Alanama has more better players.

    Different team.

  10. Idunnonuttin September 17, 2018 5:56 pm

    That should be Alabama.

    Correction: team

  11. Hynwarrior September 17, 2018 6:21 pm

    Nelekona. They gave him first shot and he ran away with it. Cordeiro didn’t even get a chance yet. What Cole doesn’t have that Cordeiro has is pocket presence. He stays in the pocket too long and doesn’t feel the pressure and then gets sacked.

  12. Akamai Okole September 18, 2018 10:07 am

    Watch the game tape…oh, wait.


  13. H-Man September 18, 2018 12:21 pm

    Yes, Cole’s run without an interception is great. But the stats that stood out in the Army game were Time-of-Possession (TOP) and net rushing yards – Army TOP 41 min Hawaii 19 min (rounded up) / Hawaii net rushing yards 41. These two stats are inter-related. Hawaii had to pass way more than it wanted because it failed in establishing an effective running game, thus allowing Army’s defense to focus on defending the pass and keeping Hawaii out of the end zone. Yeah Cole passed for 321 yard without an INT, but Army won the game on the ground by simply keeping the ball away from Hawaii. If the coaches cannot figure a way to improve this, then Hawaii will really struggle to win games in the Mountain West, no matter how many passing yards Cole puts up. Teams like San Diego State will win with great defense and a really good running game.

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