Hawaii QB McDonald back taking first-team snaps

“I’m back.”

Those two words summarized the status of the University of Hawaii football team’s quarterback and offensive leader Cole McDonald following Tuesday’s two-hour practice at the Ching Athletic Complex field.

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An undisclosed injury kept McDonald from playing in Saturday’s 17-13 victory over Wyoming at Aloha Stadium. But McDonald, dressed in full uniform, competed in all the team drills on Tuesday. He is expected to start Saturday at Brigham Young.

“It feels good,” McDonald said. “It’s nice to be out with the boys and throwing again.”

McDonald, who threw 24 touchdown passes against two interceptions in the Rainbow Warriors’ first six games, said it was difficult to not play.

“It was so hard for me,” McDonald said. “I like being out on the field with the boys playing ball. That’s what I’m out here to do. I don’t think there’s anything better than having that camaraderie with the guys on the field, and just winning games. That’s what I find the most memorable.”

McDonald said it was a “game-time decision” not to play.

“I just couldn’t get ready,” McDonald said. “My body needed some more time. So that’s what we decided.”

McDonald, a third-year sophomore, spent the game offering tips to true freshman Chevan Cordeiro, who was playing in his first UH game.

“I’ve been there,” McDonald said of the first-game experience. “I know how it feels. I just tried to help him out as much as I could. … I was there to cheer the guys on. I was happy for them and their accomplishments and what they did in that game. It was really fun.”

Quarterbacks coach Craig Stutzmann said McDonald “knows this is his team. He’s the starter. He was confident in being able to really help Chevan throughout the game.”

Cordeiro threw the decisive 38-yard scoring pass to JoJo Ward to boost the Warriors to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the Mountain West.

“To be able to know you have two good (quarterbacks) that you can win any game with, it’s invaluable,” Stutzmann said. “Now you have video evidence. It’s great, not just for (Cordeiro) or the coaching staff, but, really, the whole team. No matter who we go in with — and we preach it all the time — it’s the next man up, and he was the next man up.”

McDonald easily meshed with the first-team offense during Tuesday’s drills.

“He looked good out there,” Stutzmann said of McDonald. “There were some different wrinkles we tinkered with. The anticipation is still there. He threw the ball really well. He moved around really well. It’s nice to have him back.”

Stutzmann said McDonald and Cordeiro are part of a close-knit quarterback group that also includes Jeremy Moussa, Kolney Cassel, Justin Uahinui and Larry Tuileta. It was Cassel who wore McDonald’s No. 13 jersey to hide McDonald’s availability. The ruse worked so well it fooled the parents of Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, who sponsored 1,200 youths for the game.

“They were blown away when they found out that wasn’t Cole McDonald,” Stutzmann said. “They couldn’t stop laughing.”

Stutzmann said the quarterbacks often go out for meals together.

Sttuzmann said McDonald and Cordeiro have polar personalities, but “they get along very well. They’re like brothers. It’s like two puppies in our quarterback room. Sometimes you’ve got to tell them, ‘Hey, stop playing around with each other.’ They’re good friends and competitive friends, but they get along. That’s the main thing.

Maxwell watch list

McDonald has been added to the watch list for the Maxwell Award.

The award, which has been presented since 1937, goes to college football’s most outstanding player.

“That’s cool, I guess,” McDonald said. “I don’t know much about it. I don’t really look at awards. I focus on the team. I focus on the game.”

This season, McDonald has completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,100 yards and 24 TDs. He has been intercepted twice in 240 pass attempts.

“Stats don’t mean anything,” McDonald said. “The awards will come as long as the team is winning.”

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The Warriors are 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the Mountain West heading into Saturday’s nonconference road game against Brigham Young.

“Quarterback is such a glorified position,” McDonald said. “It’s based on how everyone else is around you. If the O-line’s not good, I’m not going to have time to throw. If the receivers can’t get open, I have nobody to throw to. It’s just a testament to the team and how gifted and good these guys are around me, and how good they make each other and myself.”