Another blowout loss, the student section emptying in the second half, and angry fans: This was not the way homecoming week at San Jose State should have ended, but the Spartans dropped to 1-5 (0-2 Mountain West) on the season with a 34-17 loss to the visiting Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (3-2, 2-0 MW).
This was Hawaii’s first road win in the Mountain West Conference since beating San Jose State 13-0 on the road on Nov. 15, 2014. The way the home team played in the second half surely must have brought back bad memories of that 2014 loss, with an interception and other drives stalling in Hawaii territory.
“We just had trouble executing on the offensive side of the ball, and the defense kept stopping them,” commented San Jose State head coach Ron Caragher.
Kenny Potter completed 16 of 30 passes for 160 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions for San Jose State, and he was sacked five times. However, the defense countered with two takeaways by recovering two Hawaii fumbles, one of which was returned for a touchdown and San Jose State’s only points in the second half. Substituted in the final drive, backup quarterback Josh Love completed two of three passes for 15 yards and was sacked once.
“I made critical errors that I don’t believe I should make as a football player, and that loss is completely on me,” said Potter.
For Hawaii, Dru Brown completed 24 of 33 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns and was sacked twice. Brown also had a rushing touchdown. Hawaii had just 144 rushing yards on 31 carries, an aberration against a San Jose State run defense that has given up on average over five yards per carry.
San Jose State, on its opening drive, went 86 yards on nine plays, including a 36-yard reverse by Tim Crawley where he dodged tacklers before finally being dropped at the Hawaii 43-yard line. Deontae Cooper had six carries on this all-rushing drive but was stopped for no gain on third-and-1 from the Hawaii 2. Bryce Crawford hit the 20-yard field goal for a 3-0 Spartan lead.
Hawaii responded with its own long drive, including a 13-yard pass by Brown to Marcus Kemp on third-and-10 from the Hawaii 47. However, Hawaii settled for a 24-yard field goal by Rigoberto Sanchez for a 3-3 tie.
Aided by a roughing the passer penalty against Hawaii cornerback Jalen Rogers on third down, San Jose State went 85 yards on 12 plays for a touchdown and 10-3 lead to start the second quarter. The drive ended with Potter completing an 8-yard touchdown pass to Justin Holmes at the corner of the end zone. However, Hawaii would not give up. After the San Jose State defense dropped Diocemy Saint Juste for a loss of 2 yards on a run play, Brown needed just four passes to drive 77 yards for the tying touchdown, including the 24-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Collie, a transfer from BYU and younger brother of former NFL wide receiver Austin Collie.
On the next drive, San Jose State went three-and-out. A holding penalty against Holmes and tackle of loss on running back Malik Roberson made a 10-yard pass on third down by Potter short of a first down conversion. San Jose State forced a fourth-and-1 from the Hawaii 38, but Brown faked the handoff and escaped for a 62-yard go-ahead touchdown as the San Jose State defense overcommitted to the run.
“The defense sells out fourth and one, and, if you want to stop the defense, you have rules. Their quarterback kept the ball, and our last man in the line of the defense came down,” said Caragher.
With Hawaii now leading 17-10, things only went downhill. San Jose State began its next drive on its 48, thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushing the kickoff back to the Hawaii 20, a 20-yard kickoff return by Rahshead Johnson, and 15 yards being added to the return off another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. However, Potter’s attempt at a deep pass landed in the hands of Jamal Mayo, for Mayo’s first career interception with Hawaii. Hawaii punted on its next drive, and San Jose State drove all the way to the Hawaii 42, but Potter’s pass to Billy Freeman instead was an interception by Rogers at the Hawaii 7. The defense stepped up, with Isaiah Irving getting the first sack of the game that dropped Hawaii to its 2. On third-and-15 from the Hawaii 2, Saint Juste was dropped for a loss of a yard.
On the ensuing punt, Thai Cottrell returned the ball 22 yards to the Hawaii 30, only for San Jose State to go backwards 5 yards on the next three plays and fail to convert on fourth-and-15. Five passes by Brown later, including a 39-yarder to Ammon Barker, Hawaii took a 24-10 lead. San Jose State walked off the field with that deficit but not before being flagged for having 12 players on the field on the first play of its possession.
To begin the third quarter, both teams exchanged punts. Inside five minutes left, Hawaii drove to the San Jose State 49, but Irving had a 16-yard strip-sack of Brown, and Frank Ginda scooped the ball and ran the fumble back 19 yards for a touchdown to pull San Jose State within 24-17. Unfortunately, this fumble return for touchdown was the only score for San Jose State in the second half.
This was Ginda’s first career touchdown in college; he last scored a touchdown in high school as a running back. Ginda praised Irving for stripping the ball.
“I felt all the love, and everything come to me, and there is no better feeling than that,” said Ginda.
Hawaii’s next drive ended not just as a three-and-out but a fumble, as Ginda popped the ball free from Barker, and Bryson Bridges recovered the fumble at the Hawaii 31. However, San Jose State went two yards backwards on the next drive that ended with a 50-yard Crawford field goal attempt blocked.
Again, Hawaii came up empty on the next drive, and San Jose State got the ball back inside 30 seconds to go in the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter at the San Jose State 19, Potter threw his third interception of the game on a deep pass attempt, this time picked off by Trayvon Henderson at the San Jose State 44. San Jose State again forced a fourth-and-1, but a delay of game penalty against Owen Roberts gave Hawaii a first down at the San Jose State 30, and Steven Lakalaka went up the middle for a touchdown that put Hawaii up 31-17.
“You’re allowed to move and attempt to confuse the offensive lineman,” responded Caragher regarding the call. “The umpire said we tried to simulate that snap count. I’m not blaming anyone. He said we made a shift call and said we simulated the opponent’s snap count.”
Thanks to a 17-yard run by Roberson, San Jose State drove to the Hawaii 41, but Potter threw four incomplete passes to stall the drive there. A wild snap on second-and-goal from the San Jose State 6 pushed Hawaii back 17 yards, and Hawaii settled for a 35-yard Sanchez field goal to go up 34-17. Because there were nearly seven minutes left, that field goal essentially put the game away for Hawaii. San Jose State’s next drive again stalled in Hawaii territory, and Hawaii was able to run nearly two and a half minutes off the clock before punting with nearly 90 seconds left in the game.
With this loss, San Jose State is two losses away from ineligibility for a bowl game and the fourth straight losing season under Caragher. This is also San Jose State’s seventh loss in eight home games against Hawaii since 1999.