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“And the Winners are…”

by Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

Sure, there’s next week’s New Mexico Bowl still to be played. But we thought we’d look back at the University of Hawaii’s 2020 regular season to see which players and moments stood out from the rest. The envelope, please…

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: CALVIN TURNER. Really, can there be any doubt? Turner joined the UH program after transferring from Jacksonville University, which had dropped football. The former option QB became Hawaii’s Swiss army knife on offense, playing running back, receiver, wildcat QB and kickoff/punt returner. He scored 9 total TDs (4 rushing, 5 receiving). Although he’s a senior, he is eligible to return for another season. But will he?

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: MELQUISE STOVALL. Last season, Stovall was shown the door by the UH coaching staff. Given a second chance by Todd Graham, the talented receiver was a big contributor to the UH offense in 2020. Stovall snared 29 receptions for 231 yards, and added 47 rushing yards on 5 carries. He was particularly effective in the final two regular-season games, with 15 receptions totaling 130 yards.

MOST INSPIRATIONAL PLAYER: PENEI PAVIHI and KOALI NISHIGAYA. We have a tie. Linebacker Pavihi returned to the field after missing the entire 2019 season with a knee injury. His numbers weren’t jaw-dropping – 16 total tackles, including 4 tackles for losses and 1.5 sacks – but just having this ultimate Warrior back in action was a welcome sight. As for Nishigaya, the freshman walk-on RB out of Saint Louis School worked his way up the depth chart and scored his first career TD in the regular-season finale against UNLV.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: CHEVAN CORDEIRO. We were tempted to give Calvin Turner the nod here, but we couldn’t ignore the fact that Cordeiro was both Hawaii’s leading passer (1,947 yards, 11TDs) and leading rusher (450 yards, 7 TDs). Cordeiro should be even better next season with a year’s experience with the new offense.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: DARIUS MUASAU. The First-Team All-Mountain West selection compiled 95 total tackles in this abbreviated eight-game campaign (including 8.5 tackles for losses and 3.5 sacks). Just imagine what Muasau would have done over the course of a full 13-game season! (His projected 155 total tackles would rank second only to Jeff Ulbrich, who had 169 tackles in 1999.) And the Mililani alum is still just a sophomore.

SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: ADAM STACK. Before the season began, how many of you figured Adam Stack would be Hawaii’s punter? The Kamehameha product and Oregon transfer displaced incumbent Stan Gaudion as the team’s top punter and recorded a 43.8 average (38.2 net), with no touchbacks and 8 punts downed inside the 20.

GAME OF THE YEAR: HAWAII 24, NEVADA 21. Was this the victory that earned UH the New Mexico Bowl invite? On Nov. 28, the Wolf Pack came to Aloha Stadium with a spotless 5-0 record and one of the top passing attacks in the nation. But a strong defensive effort by Hawaii held QB Carson Strong to nearly 200 yards under his per-game average. It was one of the only times this season that the Rainbow Warriors played a complete game.

ACHIEVEMENT OF THE YEAR: EIGHT GAMES. In a season where COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the sports world, Hawaii managed to play all eight games on their schedule. In the MW, only UH and Nevada were able to play all eight games.

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