Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro helps Hawaii rally for a win over New Mexico

University of Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro came back from the worst game of his young collegiate career to rally the Rainbow Warriors to a 39-33 victory over New Mexico tonight at empty Aloha Stadium in a Mountain West Conference football game.

The back-and-forth victory raised the Warriors’ record to 2-1 for the season and dropped the hard-luck Lobos to 0-2 despite them leading by as many as 13 points early on. Cordeiro overcame two turnovers to complete 33 of 43 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns. He also carried the ball 10 times for 39 yards and another score in an entertaining matchup.

New Mexico lost starting quarterback Tevaka Tuioti to concussion protocol on a targeting hit by UH cornerback Cameron Lockridge midway in the fourth quarter. Tuioti was scrambling on the play when the helmet hit took place. He finished the night completing 17 of 31 for 181 yards and two touchdowns. He had another 71 yards on the ground, but it wasn’t enough as UH rallied for the big win.

UH wideout Nick Mardner caught six passes for 147 yards and one touchdown. Jared Smart also had six grabs for 40 yards. The Lobos countered with a running game that left a mark on the UH defense. Led by backs Nathaniel Jones and Bobby Cole, the Lobos had 279 yards on the ground. Jones and Cole rushed for 96 yards apiece with scoring a touchdown.

The fourth quarter began with New Mexico down 1, but set up deep in UH territory due to a costly turnover by Melquise Stovall near midfield late in the third period. The Lobos eventually had a first-and-goal at the 7, but the UH defense held, just missing an interception on third down. It set up an easy 24-yard field goal by place-kicker George Steinkamp, who knocked it through. It was his third field goal for the game and gave the Lobos a narrow 30-28 advantage with 13:31 left in the game.

Hawaii wasted little time regaining the lead on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Cordeiro to Calvin Turner, who made a remarkable run after catch to the goal line. The successful try for 2 was an even more amazing catch by Smart, who went high in the air against two defenders to grab the pass and then come down with one foot in bounds at the back corner of the end zone. It was upheld in review to give UH a 36-30 lead with 12:19 left.

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Later in the quarter, UH place-kicker Matthew Shipley exteded the Warriors’ margin to 39-30 with a 41-yard field goal with 6:33 left in the game. It ended a nine-play drive that took nearly four minutes off the clock and made it a two-possession game. Steinkamp added a field goal late to make it 39-33 and tried a nice onside kick that UH recovered.

On the ensuing series, backup Lobos quarterback Trae Hall came in and threw an interception to Quentin Frazier on his second pass attempt. It sealed the win for the Warriors.

Hawaii did a nice job after intermission. Down by six to start the second half, the Warriors wasted little time scoring on the opening drive of the third quarter. Hawaii went 75 yards on only five plays. The last one was a 42-yard scoring strike from Cordeiro to a wide open Zion Bowens as the PAT gave UH its first lead of the game at 21-20 with 13:05 left in the period.

On the ensuing kickoff, New Mexico wound up starting from its own 1 because the returner muffed a fair-catch just outside the goal line. UH forced a three-and-out and started its second drive of the half at the New Mexico 40-yard line. From there, the Warriors needed only two plays to extend the lead on a 40-yard strike from Cordeiro to Bowens, who made a nice snag on the play to make it 28-20 with 11:55 left in the quarter.

This woke up a New Mexico offense that hadn’t scored a touchdown since the first quarter, but changed all that on a 26-yard scoring run by Jones as the PAT cut the margin to 28-27 with 9:33 left in the high-scoring third quarter where 21 points was scored in 5:27 of game time.

After forcing a three-and-out, New Mexico set up shop at its own 21 looking to retake the lead. Converting a huge third-and-10 along the way, Tuioti led the Lobos on a methodical march that once again exposed a UH defense that has a hard time getting teams off the field in a timely fashion. The Lobos found themselves with a first down at the Warriors 29 as time wound down in the third quarter.

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But three incomplete passes later led to a 46-yard field-goal attempt by Steinkamp that missed just left. He had already hit two field goals in the first half, but this one slipped just past the left upright with about four minutes left in the third. The huge turnover by Stovall gave New Mexico the ball at its own 49. It was Hawaii’s third turnover of the game.

Already up by 10 after setting a blistering pace in the first quarter, New Mexico found itself on UH’s end of the field once more to start the second quarter. Hawaii forced a 49-yard field goal by Steinkamp that had plenty of distance to make it 20-7 with 14:50 left in the half. The Lobos had two touchdowns and two field goals on their opening four possessions.

It was still early, but UH needed to stop the bleeding and Cordeiro needed to be the tourniquet. But on the ensuing series, the Warriors had another three-and-out. Fortunately for UH, the defense forced the first New Mexico punt of the game, giving the ball back to a struggling offense trying to find its identity.

And Cordeiro did his part to get the offense going, going 7-for-7 in leading UH on a steady 89-yard drive that ended with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Nick Mardner, who made a nice run after catch to make it 20-14 with 3:55 left until intermission. It was an important score, but the defense needed to make sure the Lobos didn’t add more points just before the half.

And thanks to a three-and-out, the offense got the ball back with 2:02 left deep in its own end. No matter, a huge 42-yard completion from Cordeiro to Mardner on a third-and-14 play gave UH the ball at New Mexico’s 45 with 63 seconds remaining the half. Cordeiro converted another big third-down play on an 11-yard keeper that gave the Warriors a first down at the 34 with 25 ticks left.

A 12-yard completion to Rico Bussey led to an ill-advised throw by Cordeiro who was intercepted for the second time in the half by New Mexico’s Jerric Reed II. The first one led to seven points and this one kept UH from a chip-shot field goal try. Bussey should take part of the blame. The Warriors’ receiver set up in the end zone on one knee when he should have driven back toward the ball to keep Reed from the interception.

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Hawaii got down early, with New Mexico needing only 41 seconds to score its first touchdown of the game against a defense that appears as porous as it was a year ago. Tuioti threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Jordan Kress to make it 7-0 with 14:19 left in the first quarter.

The Rainbow Warriors countered with a score of their own on a 5-yard keeper by Cordeiro off the right side to cap off a nice counter drive to square the game at 7-7. The UH quarterback was 6-for-8 for 44 yards on that opening series in what was shaping up to be a good old-fashioned shootout.

Case in point, the Lobos came right back down the field with a nice drive of their own that ended with Steinkamp’s 27-yard field goal to make it 10-7 with 5:34 left in the offensive-minded opening 15 minutes. A Cordeiro pick on the ensuing series on a play where UH thought New Mexico jumped offside set up a 29-yard touchdown pass from Tuioti to Kress to make it 17-7 with 4:10 left in the wild opening quarter.

A quick three-and-out was the last thing the UH defense needed and New Mexico sensed it, going back to a punishing run game that resulted in 84 yards on the ground in the opening 15 minutes that had the Lobos firmly on top 17-7.

For more Hawaii football, visit the Warrior Beat blog.