The University of Hawaii football team and its slim conference title hopes took a fatal blow in a sloppy 51-31 loss at Utah State on Saturday.
The Rainbow Warriors fell to 4-5 overall and 1-3 in Mountain West Conference play, while Utah State improves to 6-2 and 4-1 in Mountain West games, maintaining its top spot in the conference’s Mountain division.
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Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro made his first start since a Sept. 25 game against New Mexico State where he suffered a shoulder injury. Cordeiro appeared briefly appeared in a game against Nevada on Oct. 16 but only to punt and had not thrown a pass in a game in over a month.
The Aggies struck first on Elelyon Noa’s 3-yard touchdown with 10:05 remaining in the first quarter. After a Cordeiro interception in the end zone, Utah State doubled its lead on Justin McGriff’s 45-yard reception for a score with 3:11 left in the opening quarter.
After the teams exchanged field goals, Hawaii cut the deficit to 17-10 with 2:36 left in the second quarter on Cordeiro’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Dedrick Parson.
Utah State took a 20-10 lead into halftime after Connor Coles’ 22-yard field goal with seven seconds left in the second quarter. The Aggies had no trouble scoring to open the second half, extending their lead to 27-10 with 13:18 remaining in the third quarter on Derek Wright’s 46-yard touchdown reception.
The Aggies continued to pour it on with touchdowns from Carson Terrell and Brandon Bowling to lead 41-10 late in the third quarter. Hawaii cut the lead to 41-25 with a pair of Cordeiro touchdowns to Koali Nishigaya and Calvin Turner to close third.
Coles’ second 22-yard field goal of the day gave Utah State a 44-25 lead with 10 and a half minutes remaining, but a 74-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Eugene Ford cut the deficit to 44-31 with 8:20 left.
Just when it seemed like UH had some life, Bowling returned the ensuing onside kick for a touchdown to give USU a 51-31 lead, a score that stood until the end.
For the second straight game, Parson led Hawaii in rushing yards and receiving yards, tallying 115 yards on seven receptions and 36 yards on 10 carries.
Noa was the game’s leading rusher with 111 yards on 23 carries.
Cordeiro ended up completing 23 of his 39 passes for 296 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Linebacker Darius Muasau had a game-high 16 tackles for Hawaii, but the ‘Bows defense gave up a whopping 564 yards of total offense, led by Bonner’s 21-for-30 passing day with 361 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Next up for Hawaii is a game against No. 21 San Diego State. It will be the first time that fans are permitted to attend in full capacity, good for a turnstile count of 9,000 if UH achieves a sellout. Kickoff between the Rainbow Warriors and Aztecs is set for 5 p.m. The contest will also be televised nationally on FS1.