Hawaii Bests San Diego State 14-11 To Clinch West Division Title
The Aztecs come up just short and the Rainbow Warriors clinch a berth against Boise State in the 2019 Mountain West Championship.
For the first time since joining the Mountain West, Hawaii wins the West Division Title.
Honolulu, HI- It all came down to a last-second, fourth-quarter Aztecs field goal attempt. Again.
Kicker Matt Araiza had TWO attempts as Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich called for a time out just before Araiza missed the first 48-yarder with 2 seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
It appeared ominous- as though Rolovich accidentally gave the kicker a second chance to nail it for the tie. Instead, after the ball was teed up again, Araiza’s second kick missed right again. Given the distance, the wind and the pressure: this kick was no walk in the park.
With the second miss the Aztecs’ 2019 Mountain West Championship hopes were dashed and Hawaii won the West Division.
The Rainbow Warriors were favored to win the game, but many in the Aloha Stadium crowd of 21,592 were on the edge of their seats all too uncertain. Hawaii rarely beats San Diego State, and locals called this the biggest game in a decade, and despite a deceptively low score the outcome was completely uncertain – until the very last second.
Indeed, it was a monumental breakthrough for the Rainbow Warriors. The win sends Hawaii back to Boise for a redemption match against the Broncos on the blue turf on December 7th.
Their last match led to a 22-point loss and a final score of 59-37, although this next time around the Rainbow Warriors might find that extra gear.
Hawaii Defense played well beyond anybody’s expectations, and on offense the two-headed quarterback hydra of Cole McDonald and Chevan Cordeiro provided enough impact to secure the 14-11 win.
McDonald threw long with the surgeon-like precision, finding receivers with an almost ethereal accuracy. Redshirt freshman Cordero took over late in the game and found his stride to outdo the elite Aztec defense to advance the ball and manage to produce a second touchdown with a talented sequence of run plays.
Hawaii scored first on an 8-yard touchdown pass from McDonald to Jason-Matthew Sharsh with 3:30 remaining in the first quarter. Hawaii defense had forced an Aztecs punt and had to start 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 the first quarter.
The Aztecs nearly evened the score just before halftime. The drive began on a defensive interception by none other than Luc Barcoo who miraculously caught a tipped pass. Agnew drove 41 yards to the Hawaii 10 yard line before they got stopped on 4th down, and they settled for a 27-yard field goal by Araiza with 18 seconds remaining in the second quarter to make it 7-3 Hawaii going into the half.
Hawaii received to start the second half with a slight 7-3 advantage. The Warriors managed only three possessions in the opening two quarters, with each drive beginning inside their 10. Hawaii defense forced three punts in the first half, holding the Aztecs to 161 yards in a defensive struggle.
Each team ate up clock in their drives to score once each after the end of the third quarter. Hawaii’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 yard line with Cordeiro making his game debut.
His opening snap was almost a safety. In fact, most people would say it was a safety. There was also a near fumble on a run-option three plays later. After all of that Cordeiro screwed his head on straight and led the Warriors to their second touchdown on an 11-yard run by Fred Holly III. Ryan Meskell made the extra point to make it 14-3 Hawaii with 5:15 remaining in the quarter.
The Aztecs went on a long drive next, led by quarterback Ryan Agnew. They scored on a gutsy quarterback run by Agnew. They then followed up with successful 2-point conversion run whereby Agnew was first tackled by Hawaii’s defense, and then brutally tackled forward by the Aztecs offensive line. As he got up, having broken the plane, he was dazed, confused, limping and grinning.
That cut the margin to 14-11 with 12:58 remaining in the game, and suddenly things were looking up for the Aztecs.
San Diego State held Hawaii on its next offensive and forced a punt. The Aztecs took over at their own 20 with 7:55 on the clock. After the Aztecs failed to convert 4th down on Hawaii’s 12 yard line with 5:28 remaining the Bows took over. Cordeiro then ran the clock, but before having to punt, the Warriors erased nearly four minutes leaving 1:31 in the game.
The Aztecs took over at their own 19 with 1:23 and got all the way to Hawaii’s 31 yard line to set up a 48-yard field-goal attempt. They had a real chance at this point.
They had a good look at tying the game and taking it to overtime, however Matt Araiza missed right (twice) and Hawaii secured the victory.
In such a low-scoring result one would think this was not an exciting game.
This was not the case. Stats were unimpressive- SDSU quarterback Ryan Agnew completed 25 of 39 passes for 229 yards, but the two Hawaii quarterbacks only managed 215 yards (McDonald going 13-for-19 for 144 yards, a TD and a pick and Cordeiro 9-for-16 for 71 yards). Cordeiro actually led the way on the ground with 59 yards on eight carries.
But this was a hard-fought game, with all of the intensity of a much higher scoring match.
Coach Nick Rolovich hopes his players will have better success against Boise State their second time around in the Mountain West Championship game, inspired by the Aztecs win.
The Aztecs went on to defeat Wyoming in the 2016 Mountain West Championship after losing to them in the regular season- so there is Mountain West precedent of such an outcome.
Hawaii is now 8-4 and 5-3 in the Mountain West. San Diego State is now 8-3 and 5-3 in conference.
Hawaii closes out the regular season on Nov. 30 in a non-conference match against Army at Aloha Stadium. The Aztecs return home next week to host former conference rival BYU.
Congratulations to the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, your 2019 Mountain West Conference West Division Champions!