By: Matt Hanifan
Matchup: Hawai'i (3-1) @ Nevada (3-1)
When: Saturday, September 28, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mackay Stadium
TV: ESPN 2/Watch ESPN
Hawai'i head coach Nick Rolovich is 1-2 versus Nevada, the program where he was previously the offensive coordinator from 2012-15.
The Rainbow Warriors run-and-shoot offense is led by quarterback Cole McDonald.
McDonald has given the ball away a lot, throwing an FBS-worst nine interceptions, after throwing 10 total all of last season. The 2018 All-Mountain West Honorable Mention honoree has thrown for 1,317 yards and 13 touchdowns -- both ranking top ten nationally and atop the Mountain West conference.
The 6-foot-4 redshirt junior has thrown four-plus touchdowns and 300-plus yards in three of the team's first four games. The lone game where he did not was against Washington, throwing for 218 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
The rushing attack by the Rainbow Warriors is led by running back Miles Reed. The redshirt sophomore has totaled 342 yards, and 4.6 yards per carry. The 5-foot-8 thumper has 212 yards and two scores on 4.7 yards per carry in the first four games on the season.
Nevada secondary will have contain the two major weapons on the edges: Cedric Byrd II and Jojo Ward. The two wideouts have caught a combined 12 of McDonald's 13 touchdown passes, notching six apiece -- tied for the conference lead with Nevada wideout Elijah Cooks -- combining for 761 receiving yards on 56 catches.
Byrd II has racked up a team-high 33 receptions for 411 yards, compared to 23 receptions for 350 yards. Jared Smart is another name to keep an eye on, hauling in 26 catches for 324 yards and a touchdown.
Hawai'i is sixth in the nation in passing offense (352.8 passing ypg), while No. 103 in rushing offense (120.0 rush ypg). Nevada will have to stop the passing game to have a chance tonight.
The Rainbow Warriors defense ranks No. 106 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 33.5 points per game in its first four contests.
Teams have totaled 18 touchdowns -- T-15 worst in the nation -- along with 28-plus points in three of four games, including 30 in two of the four affairs.
Defensive back Kalen Hicks has totaled a team-high 29 combined tackles on the season.
The pass rush hasn't been effective at all through the first four games, totaling only 5.0 sacks and 1.2 sacks per contest. Defensive lineman Kaimana Padello is the only Rainbow Warrior to reach multiple sacks on the team. Kana'i Picanco, Eugene Ford and Solomon Matautia have all notched sacks this season.
While allowing a decent 244.8 yards through the air, the Hawai'i rush defense has allowed 194.3 yards per game, No. 106 worst in the nation.
- Hawaii: 21
- Nevada: 38
Both teams are going to put up points, we know that. Since Nevada is going to hand the ball off to Carson Strong -- after sitting out versus Hawai'i due to an undisclosed injury -- I expect Nevada to air it out. If Nevada is able to force multiple turnovers versus this explosive offense led by McDonald, I expect them to pull away with the victory. They are 8-1 in Mackay versus Hawai'i, being victors in the last five matchups. I look for that streak to continue Saturday night.