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Opponent Preview: SJSU

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Web Editor.

Our preview of 2021 University of Hawaii football opponents continues, this time with a look at the Mountain West Conference defending champions, the San Jose State Spartans. Although the COVID-19 pandemic cut their already-abbreviated season by two games, that didn’t stop the Spartans from being the surprise team of the league. The question now: Can they build on last year’s success?

Game Date: Saturday, Sept. 18 2021 @ Hawaii (6:30 p.m. HST)

2020 Record: 7-1 (Mountain West Conference champions)

Head Coach: Brent Brennan (5th season, 15-30 overall, 11-20 in the MW)

♦ The all-time series between Hawaii and SJSU is remarkably close, with UH holding a slim 22-20-1 advantage. The Spartans’ 35-24 victory over the Rainbow Warriors last season snapped Hawaii’s four-game win streak over their division rival. The Spartans raced out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and never trailed. San Jose State benefited from a strong running attack, finishing the game with 288 ground yards.

♦ The two schools will once again compete for the Dick Tomey Legacy Trophy. The late head coach remains a beloved figure at both institutions, having served as Hawaii’s head coach from 1977-86 and SJSU’s head coach from 2005-09).

♦ Head coach Brent Brennan last season led SJSU to the program’s first outright conference title since 1990, when the Spartans were in the Big West. The Spartans won the championship by beating Boise State, 34-20. It was their first-ever win over the Broncos. Brennan was honored as the Lombardi Foundation Coach of the Year for his efforts. He served as a graduate assistant at Hawaii at UH in 1998 and was a first cousin of the late COLT Brennan.

♦ The Spartan defense is led by 6’3, 270-lb. junior lineman Cade Hall, the reigning MW Defensive Player of the Year. Hall was named a 2020 All-American by USA Today, Walter Camp and Sporting News. He had 10 sacks last season, which was tied for second in the country. He was recently selected as the MW Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. His father, Rhett Hall, played eight seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl championship with the San Francisco 49ers.

♦ Hawaii will be the second stop of a three-game road swing for the Spartans. SJSU will visit USC on Sept. 4, enjoy a bye week, visit UH and then travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan the very next week to take on Western Michigan.

♦ The MW media aren’t forecasting a repeat of last season’s success for the Spartans. A media poll predicted SJSU to finish second in the conference’s West Division, with 5 first-votes. Nevada is the favorite to win the division after receiving 19 first-place votes.

♦ SJSU’s offense will be led by Nick Starkel, a 6’3, 215-lb. graduate transfer who averaged 298.4 passing yards for the Spartans last season. Starkel started all eight games and threw for 2,174 yards and 17 TDs. Before joining SJSU, Starkel had played for Arkansas and Texas A&M.

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