University of Hawaii head coach Todd Graham didn’t want to spend the long offseason with the bitter taste of a season-ending defeat in his mouth.
His Warriors football team provided plenty of sweetener with a sound 38-21 thumping of Nevada-Las Vegas at nearly empty Aloha Stadium. The victory leveled UH’s season mark at 4-4 and provided some hope that the program is moving in the right direction. The loss was the sixth in as many tries for UNLV this season that also lost two Mountain West Conference games to the COVID virus. It figured to be a long flight home for the Rebels, who finished at the bottom of the standings once more.
They can thank UH quarterback Chevan Cordeiro and former Jacksonville quarterback Calvin Turner for that. The talented twosome accounted for 143 combined yards on the ground with Turner catching two of Cordeiro’s passes for 77 more. More importantly, Cordeiro scored twice on the ground and completed 20 of 33 passes for 221 yards and no scores. He also threw a pick.
Turner had a nice night out of the Wildcat, scoring once on the ground and setting up another UH TD with a 71-yard catch and run to start the second half. UNLV quarterback Max Gilliam came off the bench to try to rally the Rebels. He did a good job, completing 16 of 27 for 187 yards and one score to Kyle Williams. Charles Williams had 148 yards on the ground and two scores on 22 carries. Gilliam also had 57 yards on the ground, but it wasn’t enough.
Hawaii began the fourth quarter with a two-touchdown advantage and dominated the first six minutes of the period before settling for a 34-yard field-goal try by Matt Shipley. Problem is, he missed it, giving the Rebels nearly nine minutes to make a miracle run for their first win of the season. But after moving the ball out to near midfield, the UH defense forced a turnover on downs with 5:44 left. No Christmas miracle for the Rebels on this trip to Honolulu.
Shipley made sure with a 44-yard field goal to extend the margin to 38-21 with 3:05 left to build a three-score advantage. Cordeiro exited the field with 252 yards passing and 88 yards rushing to secure the victory. Hawaii had 278 yards on the ground as a team and scored five touchdowns via the rush.
With Hawaii up 21-7 to start the third quarter, both teams broke the plain twice in the 15-minute period. After giving up a touchdown late in the second quarter, Hawaii answered with one to start the second half. UH wideout Koali Nishigaya scored from 4 yards out as Shipley added the PAT to make it 28-7 UH with 13 minutes left in the third. The score was set up on a 71-yard pass from Cordeiro to Turner, who made a living out of big plays in this abbreviated campaign.
UNLV countered with one of its own on a 2-yard run by Charles Williams. Daniel Gutierrez knocked through the point-after to cut UH’s lead to 28-14 with 9:34 left in the third period. Hawaii scored again on a 12-yard run by Cordeio to extend the lead to 35-14. But not to be outdone, UNLV had a 49-yard scoring run by Williams to trim the UH advantage back to 14 points with 12 ticks left in the third.
A slow start wasn’t a problem this week for the Warriors as they broke out to a 21-0 lead on an electrifying 54-yard run by Cordeiro just 2:24 into the game. UH running back Dae Dae Hunter had a 1-yard scoring run only 1:33 into the second quarter and Turner had a 28-yard TD dash with 1:45 left before intermission. Shipley hit all three PATs to make it 21-0.
UNLV inched a little closer with a 19-yard scoring pass from Gilliam to Kyle Williams as Gutierrez added the point-after to make it 21-7 with 53 seconds remaining until half. Both teams had a chance to move the ball into scoring position, but neither did as the second quarter came to an end.