The Wolf Pack host the Hawaii Warriors at Mackay Stadium on Satuday at 1pm PST. Here are the keys to the game for Nevada.
1. We're on to Hawaii
Nevada needs to forget about the loss last week and shift their focus to Hawaii. The Pack have really had issues with looking at the record or history instead of the actual football team, such as the UNLV and Wyoming games. After the Wyoming game, the players even admitted that they didn't bring their best and may have been caught judging the Cowboys by their record. I believe there's enough talent on the roster to win games, but it comes down to the preparation and coaching.
2. Limit Penalties on Defense
This is definitely something that every team should strive to do week in and week out, but Nevada especially needs to avoid defensive penalties this week. Why? Well, Hawaii is coming in with the one of the worst offenses in the FBS, ranking near the bottom in PPG, YPG, time of possession, and turnovers. The Pack simply cannot give the Hawaii offense free yards.
3a. Run the Football
I'm not going to lie, I always have this as a key to the game, but my reasoning for it is slightly different this week. Hawaii's defense isn't bad, but it's not great. It's 10th in the conference in PPG, and their run defense has been fluid, allowing 226.6 YPG on the ground. Nevada's tandem of Don Jackson and James Butler need to run well for Nevada to win the game, and I can't stop repeating that. Look at Jackson's stats in wins compared to losses.
James Butler is not much different, either. These two need big games week in and week out for the Pack to win games this season.
3b. Establish a Lead Early
Nevada went down early last week against Wyoming, and the Wolf Pack were forced to throw the ball for the rest of the game in order to come back. Stewart did a good job, but he really hasn't improved much as a passer this season, and it's obvious he can't carry the offense on his back. If the Pack can get an early lead, it would allow their offense to run the ball more and use the pass as a compliment to the run game.
4. Pressure Max Wittek*
*Max Wittek is currently probable with a knee injury, there's a chance he may not play.
Under the assumption that Max Wittek plays, and right now it looks like he will, its unlikely he'll be 100%. Nevada's defensive line was suppose to be the strength of the team, and they really need to step up this weekend. With a knee injury, Wittek will not be very mobile, and Ian Seau and Lennie Jones need to cause havoc in the pocket for Wittek, which could lead to some bad throws and/or turnovers.
5. Stay away from Kennedy Tulimasealii
That name is almost as much of a handful to write as Kennedy is to play against. He is arguably the Warriors' best defensive player, already collecting 35 tackles and 2.5 sacks this season. Hawaii plays a very vanilla defense, and they do not blitz much, which will allow Nevada's lineman to double team Tulimasealli on both runs and passes to keep him in check.
This is a tough one. On one hand, I can see Nevada blowing out Hawaii with huge games from both Jackson and Butler. On the other hand, the Wolf Pack could be headed in a downward spiral and things could get real ugly, real fast. I don't think they're quite in a tailspin, but I don't believe they are a good football team either. I'll take Nevada 17-16 solely because they are the home team.