Hawaii football team edges San Jose State 42-40 for Dick Tomey Legacy Trophy

JoJo Ward celebrated his 71-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass from Chevan Cordeiro in the second quarter, his second of the game. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

If the University of Hawaii football team entertained any real shot at postseason play, the Rainbow Warriors needed a win over visiting San Jose State — preferably with little fanfare.

Check on that first goal. Not so much on the second.


Before a small but boisterous Aloha Stadium crowd of 16,367 Hawaii held off the spunky Spartans 42-40 to get within one win of being bowl eligible with three to play. Hawaii is now 6-4 for the season and 3-3 in Mountain West Conference action. San Jose State dropped to 1-5 in the league and 4-6 overall.

Hawaii travels to the mainland next Saturday to play Nevada-Las Vegas. Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich can only hope his quarterback Chevan Cordeiro is as sharp as he was tonight by completing 23 of 31 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for two more. He replaced a struggling Cole McDonald and acquitted himself nicely.

Up by two to begin the fourth quarter, Hawaii managed to get into scoring position late in the third on a nice blend of run and pass to pick up a first down at the San Jose State 16. It took a few snaps, but UH finally got in the end zone on a 5-yard scoring pass from Cordeiro to Jared Smart as Ryan Meskell hit the PAT to extend UH’s lead to 35-26 with 12:13 remaining in the game.

But the Spartans cut the margin to two on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Josh Love to Bailey Gaither as Matt Mercurio hit the PAT to make it 35-33 with 9:53 remaining. Love had quite a night himself, completing 30 of 45 passes for 375 yards and two touchdowns. But on this night, UH would not be denied as Cordeiro threw it well and Miles Reed had the night of his career to set up a third-down scoring run of 2 yards to make it 42-33 with 4:23 remaining. Reed rushed for 124 yards and one score. It was the first time he gained more than 100 yards in a game in his career.

Another Love touchdown pass, this time for 19 yards to Isaia Hamilton, cut the margin back to three. Mercurio hit the PAT to make it 42-40 with 1:51 remaining. San Jose State attempted an onside kick, but Smart recovered it at the UH 42 as the Warriors ran out the clock to secure the win.

Hawaii began the third quarter trailing by 2, but quickly scored on a 3-yard run by Cordeiro to make it 28-23 with 9:30 remaining. San Jose wasn’t too concerned. Since UH couldn’t stop the Spartans in the opening two quarters, it seemed unlikely the third would be any different. And that was exactly the case as the Spartans marched steadily down the UH defense’s throat completing passes and running free through the secondary. But somehow, UH forced a 25-yard field goal by Mercurio on the 16-play drive, his fourth of the game to make it 28-26 with 1:21 remaining in the period.

San Jose State won the toss and quickly went down the field before settling for a 28-yard field goal by Mercurio with 9:06 remaining in the opening quarter. With Cordeiro directing traffic, Hawaii’s opening drive was even more effective as the Saint Louis product led the Warriors to a touchdown thanks in part to a pass interference penalty that gave the Warriors the ball at the Spartans 25 late in the opening quarter.

Six snaps later, the Warriors were in the end zone on a 5-yard pass from Cordeiro to JoJo Ward on a big fourth-down play with 27 seconds remaining in the period. The 14-play, 75-yard drive removed 8:39 from the clock, the longest this year as the quarter wound down with Hawaii ahead 7-3.

San Jose’s second drive of the game looked much like the first as the Spartans mixed run and pass against a porous UH defense that can’t stop either. The final snap of the 12-play journey was a 6-yard run by DeJon Packer right through the heart of the defense. Mercurio hit the PAT to make it 10-7 with 11:15 remaining in the quarter. He came right back minutes later to tack on a 43-yard field to extend the advantage to 13-7 with 9:59 remaining in the half. It was set up on a fumble by Cordeiro.

He made up for it on the ensuing series with a 71-yard scoring strike to Ward, needing only two plays to take the lead as Meskell hit the PAT to make it 14-13 with 9:08 remaining in the quarter. But it was short-lived as the Spartans needed only six plays to regain the lead on a 20-yard run by Packer for his second score of the night to make it 20-14 with 6:26 remaining.

But back came Cordeiro as he found Ward for a 46-yard gain to set up a 4-yard scoring run by Reed. Meskell made the PAT to make it 21-20 UH with 2:37 remaining in the second quarter. The UH defense couldn’t hold it, however, as the Spartans went through the Warriors like they invented the game en route to a 43-yard field goal by Mercurio with 44 ticks left until intermission. Hawaii went for a Hail Mary right before the marching bands took the field with Nick Mardner dropping a touchdown pass off the ricochet.