The season finale may have created more questions than it answered as the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors hosted the Hawaii Bowl on Saturday. After an 8-5 regular season that featured plenty of highs along with some intermittent lulls, the ‘Bows fell 31-14 to Louisiana Tech.
The game was not much of a highlight reel for Hawaii, which enjoyed an explosive offense all year. But the Bulldogs held the ‘Bows to just 226 yards of total offense and neither Chevan Cordeiro, nor Cole McDonald did much to distinguish themselves in what is now certain to be a quarterback battle entering 2019.
McDonald got the start and was ineffective through three drives, giving way to Cordeiro. The freshman didn’t fare all that much better, despite putting together one touchdown drive and leading Hawaii to a 7-3 lead. McDonald came on late after Louisiana Tech scored 24 unanswered and threw one touchdown of his own.
It was a pretty lackluster effort from both and the Bulldogs clamped down defensively. That was their strength all season and it proved to be the difference at Aloha Stadium.
Towards the end of the season, an unlikely quarterback controversy emerged after McDonald seemed like the team’s certain signal caller of the future. But his efficiency and effectiveness dropped dramatically after a midseason injury.
McDonald’s numbers through six games were staggering. He had 2,100 yards and 24 touchdowns in those performances, each leading the nation. He had come out of nowhere to fully take hold of the responsibility and, at 5-1, Hawaii seemed poised for a big year.
But McDonald came back and lost four straight games with the offense never scoring more than 23 points. That led to Cordeiro getting some more opportunities as a true freshman. His comeback win over UNLV really set the wheels of a quarterback battle in motion.
Cordeiro has a lot of promise and his ceiling is high. The poise he showed when given the opportunity at such an early stage of his career is reason for optimism. He’s going to be a good leader at some point. Just determining when that is will be the tough call.
For 2019, I give the nod to McDonald. He’s no longer and unknown quantity. Prior to his injury, there was no bigger surprise in the country. The team was able to cover up some of its defensive deficiencies thanks to his productivity. Giving him another opportunity to get back to that level seems only right.
Nick Rolovich has proven that he can create high-powered offenses with multiple quarterbacks. He turned Dru Brown into a dual threat and then had Hawaii rolling through opponents for most of the 2018 season.
The good thing about both McDonald and Cordeiro getting reps against conference foes is that whoever ends up winning the job next year will have experience and success under their belts.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.