3 takeaways from Hawaii’s 21-7 win over UNLV
Maybe, just maybe, Saturday’s victory over Nevada-Las Vegas wasn’t the University of Hawaii’s last appearance in Sam Boyd Stadium after all.
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UH could return to Sam Boyd Stadium
LAS VEGAS >> Maybe, just maybe, Saturday’s victory over Nevada-Las Vegas wasn’t the University of Hawaii’s last appearance in Sam Boyd Stadium after all.
The 49-year-old facility is scheduled to close after this season, but the possibility loomed the Rainbow Warriors could be back before then.
The Las Vegas Bowl also uses Boyd Stadium and its final game, before moving to the debuting $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium in 2020, will be Dec. 21, matching teams from the Mountain West and Pac-12.
Traditionally, it has taken the MWC champion.
After earning bowl eligibility with its 21-7 comeback win over UNLV, UH plays San Diego State on Saturday for the West Division championship of the MWC. The winner of that game plays the Mountain Division winner for the overall championship.
If UH were to win the West and take the overall title, it could be a candidate for the Vegas Bowl. Or, if it lost in the title game and Boise State were to emerge as the highest-ranked Group of Five team and go to the Cotton Bowl, it would open up a spot in Las Vegas. Green-clad UH fans accounted for about half of the announced crowd of 21,317 at Saturday’s UH-UNLV game.
A spokesman for ESPN Events, which owns and operates 16 bowls, including the Las Vegas and SoFi Hawaii bowls, declined comment except to say, “They (the Rainbow Warriors) are still eligible to win the (MWC) championship” and have yet to be released by MWC for assignment.
Saturday, ESPN Events invited Brigham Young (6-4) to appear in its Dec. 24 game at Aloha Stadium following the Cougars’ 42-10 win over Idaho State. BYU’s opponent will be a team from the MWC or American Athletic Conference.
“We’re going to have a quality opponent for BYU, I just don’t know who (yet),” said Pete Derzis, ESPN senior vice president, college sports programming and events. “Hawaii has San Diego State next and we just need to let these games play out.”
Another role reversal for UH QBs
In the game of “musical quarterbacks,” neither of Hawaii’s top two passers is singing the blues.
Cole McDonald remained supportive after being displaced as the Hawaii football team’s starting quarterback for the previous week’s game against San Jose State.
On Saturday, McDonald replaced Chevan Cordeiro, who was intercepted twice in the opening quarter against UNLV. After the game, Cordeiro said: “We needed the win. That’s all we needed to do. I’m just happy we got the win.”
Offensive coordinator Brian Smith noted it is not easy for head coach Nick Rolovich, a former UH passer, to pull a quarterback.
“Those are hard decisions for Rolo,” Smith said. “The fortunate thing is we have two really good quarterbacks. When someone does struggle a little bit, there’s another kid who can play really great for us.”
Okeke enjoys Vegas homecoming
UH safety Ikem Okeke had a chance to make an even bigger impact during UNLV’s homecoming game.
Okeke, who was born and reared in Las Vegas, made four solo tackles and was credited with two pass breakups.
“I dropped them,” Okeke said of the potential interceptions that were stylized into breakups. “Both of those ended up being stops. If I caught ’em, it’d still be good.”
Okeke, a senior, leads the Warriors with three interceptions.
Cornerback Cortez Davis and linebacker Paul Scott came up with the first interceptions of their UH careers.
Davis picked off Kenyon Oblad’s overthrown pass and raced 43 yards the other way for a touchdown to break a 7-all tie in the third quarter.
“Big play,” Rolovich said. “We’ve been happy with Cortez for the majority of the year. For him to make a play to break that thing open — it was kind of stale there for a while — I’m happy for him. He’s really appreciated Hawaii, this team, his role as a student very well. … He deserves it.”
Okeke said Davis fulfilled the defense’s weekly goal. “TOTD,” Okeke said of turnovers and touchdowns. That’s what we work on in practice.”