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UNLV Football Game Preview: Battle of the Ninth Island

Hawaii comes to UNLV, as the Rebels try to get revenge after last year’s close loss.

NCAA Football: Hawaii at UNLV Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information

UNLV Rebels (2-7, 0-5 MWC) vs Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (6-4, 3-3 MWC)

Kickoff and Date: 1:07 pm PT, Saturday, November 16th, 2019 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Stream and Listen: Facebook and ESPN Las Vegas 1100AM/100.9FM

Series History: The Rainbow Warriors hold the overall series lead at 16-12. UNLV has won nine of the last 15 meetings. They have won three of the last four overall and the last five played in Las Vegas.

Ninth Island Showdown

This is the third ever Ninth Island Showdown, the annual rivalry game between UNLV and Hawaii, where the winner will get the Golden Pineapple. The first game was in 2017 and UNLV won 23-17, Hawaii won last year’s game 35-28 in Hawaii. Las Vegas is a popular site among Hawaii visitors and many transplants from the islands now call Las Vegas home, thus giving Sin City the nickname, “The Ninth Island.”

Significance of the Game

After earning its seventh loss, UNLV is now ineligible for a bowl game. The Rebels still have three more games left, and all three have significance. As mentioned earlier, this is the Ninth Island Showdown, but this is also UNLV’s first game since its seventh loss. The Rebels are coming off a bye week and had plenty of time to digest the awful showing, a 37-17 loss, in Fort Collins. Tony Sanchez is likely a dead man walking and with a new regime likely in, some players might be headed into the transfer portal. We will see how UNLV will come out in this game, are they still motivated to finish the season strong or are they packing it in?

Three Keys to a UNLV Victory

Run, Run, Run

The run game for UNLV has seen its peaks and valleys during the season. Right now, they have not been at its best earlier in the season. UNLV needs to realize that they have to establish its rushing attack. If UNLV can effectively and efficiently run against Hawaii, they can set the pace of the game. UNLV cannot afford to get in a shootout and if they can run the ball well, they can slow the game down and control the tempo. Charles Williams needs at least 25 rushes and they need to get the other backs, Chad Magyar and Courtney Reese, touches and involved in the offense.

Cause Chaos

Hawaii’s offense in recent years has been both a blessing and a curse. They put up a lot of points, but they also turn the ball over a lot. In particular, Cole McDonald has thrown 12 interceptions so far this season and Hawaii averages almost two-and-a-half turnovers a game. UNLV’s front seven must put pressure on McDonald and get him uncomfortable. The Rebels will have to create some turnovers to steal some valuable extra possessions. The turnover battle has been a crucial stat in many of UNLV’s games and they might put themselves in a spot to win if they can create havoc.

Create Your Luck

There is an old saying that you create your own luck. Meaning if you do the right things, the luck will fall in your favor. UNLV will need a lot of things to fall its way if they want to defeat the Rainbow Warriors. It starts with the Rebels controlling what they can control. UNLV cannot have costly penalties, dropped passes, or bad throws. It goes back to the little things, which UNLV needs to do right. This will not automatically guarantee a win for UNLV, but if they can do the little things right and control themselves, UNLV will have a much better chance of winning.


Hawaii has an explosive offense and they will exploit the many holes in the UNLV secondary. I am sure UNLV will very hard, but I think UNLV is at too much at a disadvantage at so many positions and facets of the game. The line for this game shows the Rainbow Warriors favored by only six-and-a-half points, but I think the margin will be much larger at the end of the day. My Prediction: Hawaii 47, UNLV 24.