This weekend, San Jose State looks to continue their dream season. Standing in their way is not their toughest test, but an unpredictable Hawaii team. The Rainbow Warriors have lost in blowout fashion to Wyoming and San DIego State, yet have wins against Fresno State and Nevada, which are both teams’ only losses.
San Jose State hopes to not fall into that pattern and set up a winner-takes-all matchup for a spot in the MW Title game, yet the recent series history of the rivalry shows it might not be easy.
Let’s start with 1999. A 5-3 Hawaii squad faced a 3-5 Spartan squad and the teams combined forces for as Alex Kirshner of Banner Society described it, “the wildest points explosion ever”, as both teams combined for 29 points from 3:05 left in the 4th quarter until 1:35 left. The Rainbow Warriors won the wild game 62-41 on their way to the Oahu Bowl.
Four years later, an upset-minded Spartan team had time run out at them on the one-yard line in this wild sequence in their 13-10 loss.
Four years later, in 2007, the stakes were higher than they had ever been in this rivalry, with Hawaii looking for their first 7-0 start since 1981 and ranked #16 in the polls, San Jose State represented a coming out party in a nationally-televised Friday Night Game.
After falling behind 14-0, San Jose State outscored Hawaii 35-7 in the next two quarters to take a two-touchdown lead into the 4th quarter. However, Colt Brennan led the Warriors back, scoring two touchdowns in the final four minutes to force overtime. Hawaii eventually won on a 9 yard touchdown pass to Jason Rivers as San Jose State could not answer. The rest was history as you well know, with Hawaii going to the Sugar Bowl. In all, Colt Brennan ended the game with 75 pass attempts and
The next two games were less chaotic than the 2007 edition, but still had their share of excitement. In 2008, the Spartans got revenge, as a Jared Strubeck field goal with 1:49 left gave the Spartans their first win in the series since 2000. The next year, the game again ended in overtime as Leon Wright-Jackson’s five-yard touchdown was the deciding score in a 17-10 game.
In 2011, the game returned to the Friday Nights, with the Tessitore Effect in action to add more insanity. Both teams turned the ball over six times and a bizarre play set the stage for a San Jose State win, as Duke Ihenacho returned a Hawaii extra point for a two-point score for the Spartans, turing an eight-point game into a five-point game. A 37-yard Matt Faulkner TD pass to Chandler Jones with 36 seconds left pushed the Spartans to a 28-27 win in the last meeting in the WAC for the schools.
Even after moving to the Mountain West, the chaos ensued. In 2014, a 2-8 Hawaii team kept their Division title hopes alive, (yes you read that correctly), with a 13-0 win over the Spartans. In 2018, it took the 4-0 Warriors five overtimes to beat a winless San Jose State team.
They say anything can happen in a San Jose State-Hawaii game. Well, no one says that, but history indicates that again. And with so much at stake, especially San Jose State’s Mountain West destiny and attractiveness to bowls, this history makes it a matchup to keep an eye on in a weekend, mostly barren of ranked matchups.