Playing a college football game in Honolulu is always long trip for the visiting team, but what the New Mexico Lobos are doing this week is uniquely longer. New Mexico had its late-scheduled season opener against Colorado State canceled, and then a previously scheduled home game against San Jose State was moved to San Jose.
After the 38-21 loss to the Spartans, the Lobos relocated to Las Vegas to practice and prepare for this week's game against Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors opened their 2020 season with back-to-back road games, first a 34-19 victory over Fresno State, followed by a 31-7 loss to Wyoming last Friday, and are now set to welcome the road-weary Lobos to Aloha Stadium.
New Mexico at Hawaii
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 7, at 11 p.m. ET
TV: Spectrum PPV (in Hawaii), Team1Sports App (Elsewhere)
Spread: Hawaii -15.5
When New Mexico Has the Ball
Many weren't sure what to expect of the New Mexico offense under first-year, first-time head coach Danny Gonzales. And though the Lobos didn't score enough to win their opener, there were plenty of encouraging signs. Quarterback Tevaka Tuioti completed 20 of 35 pass attempts for 294 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. He also led the team with 14 rushing attempts, 69 yards and a score. Bobby Cole provided the most production from the running back position with 40 yards on eight carries, including a 19-yarder, while top returning rusher Bryson Carroll was held to just eight yards on his eight attempts, though he added 40 receiving yards on three receptions as well. Overall, the Lobos managed 149 rushing yards at 3.7 yards per attempt.
Tuioti spread the ball around as a passer. He connected with receiver Andrew Erickson three times for 72 yards and a touchdown, and he hit Cedric Patterson III on a 39-yard score. Top returning receiver Jordan Kress, who was limited in fall camp, was held to 27 yards on three receptions, and also had two carries for nine yards. Emmanuel Logan-Green led the team with six receptions, of which he gained 47 yards, and added four yards on three rushing attempts.
When Hawaii Has the Ball
Hawaii also has an offense in transition under a new head coach, Todd Graham. The move from the Run-and-Shoot used under former head coach Nick Rolovich has resulted in an average of 223.0 rushing yards per game, which currently ranks third in the Mountain West. The Rainbow Warriors have yet to average more than 168.2 rushing yards in a season or finish higher than seventh on the conference leaderboard since joining the league back in 2012. Running back Miles Reed leads the team with 163 rushing yards and 28 carries. Backup Calvin Turner has added 97 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while freshman Dae Dae Hunter has chipped in with 65 yards and a TD. Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro currently ranks second on the squad with 117 rushing yards — 116 of which he gained in the win over Fresno State — and his two rushing touchdowns vs. the Bulldogs have him tied with Turner for the team lead.
Cordeiro has completed 54.4 percent of his pass attempts for 339 yards and an interception, without a touchdown, so far. That's a stark difference compared to the 337.1 passing yards Hawaii averaged last season, which ranked No. 5 nationally. Jared Smart, a former 1,000-yard receiver and a huge part of that success last season, currently leads the team with 11 receptions and 121 yards. Transfer Rico Bussey has been a welcome addition, having caught eight passes for 86 yards, and the versatile Calvin Turner — a former quarterback at Jacksonville University — has chipped in with four receptions and 47 yards.
There were fewer unknowns for New Mexico defensively coming into the season given Danny Gonzales' history as a defensive coordinator under his current DC Rocky Long while at San Diego State. Nevertheless, the first showing was disappointing as the Lobos surrendered 481 passing yards and five touchdowns, while allowing an average of 9.8 yards per pass, in the loss to San Jose State. New Mexico currently ranks last in the Mountain West in total defense (579.0 ypg) and yards allowed per play (7.52).
Hawaii struggled defensively under the previous coaching staff and hasn't finished in the top half of the Mountain West in total defense since 2014. However, there are reasons to be optimistic the Rainbow Warriors can improve based on the first two games under Todd Graham. The unit currently ranks seventh in the league in both total defense (401.0 ypg) and yards allowed per play (5.53). The bad news, however, is Hawaii must play the remainder of its season without its most experienced player in starting safety Eugene Ford, who suffered a season-ending leg injury against Wyoming.
It's difficult to project what the performance in a single game (or two) can tell us about the next. Nevertheless, based on Hawaii's early results compared to the rough start for New Mexico, and adding in the difficulties of relocating an entire football program to a neighboring state, and then traveling more than 3,000 miles to play the game itself, the Rainbow Warriors should have an edge.
Prediction: Hawaii 37, New Mexico 21
Podcast: Week 10 Preview and Predictions
(Chevan Cordeiro photo by Matt Burn/University of Hawaii)