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Hawai’i hands Nevada its first loss of the season in 24-21 defeat

Nevada v Hawaii Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

The streak is over.

The Nevada Wolf Pack’s undefeated season was relinquished by the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors in a 24-21 defeat in Honolulu, Hawai’i, on Saturday night.

Saturday’s loss drops Nevada to a 5-1 record. It was Nevada’s first game out of its home state this season. Hawai’i improves to an even 3-3 on the year with two weeks remaining.

Saturday was not the first time the Rainbow Warriors ended an undefeated stretch put together by the Pack. Hawai’i also robbed Nevada of its undefeated campaign in 2010, when the team won their first six games. The Pack finished 13-1 that year.

San Jose State, whose game versus Boise State was cancelled today due to rising COVID-19 cases, is the only remaining undefeated squad in the Mountain West at 4-0.

The Wolf Pack totaled 376 total yards on the evening. They rallied together 208 rushing yards on 36 carries — the team’s first 200-yard rushing performance on the season. Nevada entered Saturday averaging 25.6 carries and 96.8 yards per game, both ranking among the bottom-10 nationally.

Hawai’i was top-15 nationally in pass defense (186.4 ypg), while Nevada was in the top-5 through the air (363.8 ypg). It was a strength-versus-strength litmus test for both teams.

The Rainbow Warriors won the battle.

They held Carson Strong to just 168 yards passing on 25 attempts (6.72 ypa). He threw 300-plus yards in his first four games of the season and 288 against San Diego State last week — which snapped a string of a six-game streak of 300-yard performances.

It was Strong’s fewest passing yards since Nov. 23, 2019 against the Fresno State Bulldogs, where he recorded just 154 yards (on 31 attempts with three touchdown passes).

Strong tossed two touchdowns on the evening, giving him 16 on the year against just two interceptions.

Nevada star wideout Romeo Doubs, who had at least 100 yards and one touchdown in each of the team’s five games this season, was held to just one catch for ten yards on the evening.

Toa Taua led the rushing attack, putting together a season-high 131 yards on 20 carries (6.6 ypc) with a rushing score. The junior tailback eclipsed 2,000 career yards, needing just 14 to do so entering the evening.

Devonte Lee tallied career-high 81 yards on 14 carries (5.8 ypc).

Hawai’i totaled 365 yards with 23 first downs. Chevan Cordeiro completed 26-of-32 (81.3 percent) of his passes for 246 yards and a touchdown. He also totaled a team-high 62 rushing yards on 15 carries. Miles Reed tallied just 31 yards on 2.1 yards per carry.

Calvin Turner Jr. led the team in receiving with a team-high 10 receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown. Melquise Stovall hauled-in five receptions for 44 yards. Stovall is the younger brother of Nevada receiver, Melquan. Rico Bussey added 46 yards on four receptions.

The Rainbow Warriors did a great job sustaining their drives, going 9-for-14 (64.3 percent) on third down.

Penalties also wreaked havoc on the Wolf Pack throughout the game, who picked up eight for 79 total yards.

Lee had a 25-yard rush — which would have placed Nevada inside Hawaii’s five-yard-line — wiped away on a fourth-and-one after an unnecessary roughness penalty on its opening drive, forcing a punt.

Both teams left donuts on the scoreboard at the end of the opening quarter. Hawai’i got on the board in the second quarter after a 31-yard field goal from plackicker Matthew Shipley.

After a 13-play, 81-yard drive, Nevada etched onto the scoreboard after a five-yard connection to Turner on the fade route — taking the 7-3 with 2:57 to go in the first half.

A late hit on Cordeiro put the Rainbow Warriors inside the redzone on their following drive. A seven-yard pass to a wide open Turner put Hawai’i ahead 10-7 with :59 ticks to go in the half.

Nevada threw for just 70 yards, but ran for 126 in the first half. Cordeiro entered halftime with a 14-for-15 line for 141 yards and a touchdown. The Pack nearly doubled Hawaii’s time-of-possession in the first half (19:15 to 10:45).

On its second possession of the final half, Hawai’i strung together a 10-play, 99-yard drive — capped-off by a four-yard touchdown score by Reed. The drive lasted just four minutes, two seconds and involved two costly 15-yard Wolf Pack penalties.

Nevada’s ensuing drive ended in a one-yard score from Taua, cutting the lead to 17-14, but Cordeiro re-upped Hawaii’s advantage to double digits after a two-yard quarterback keeper with 9:31 remaining.

Nevada still had one last fight left in them. Strong connected on an 18-yard touchdown pass to Horton, who made an acrobatic grab, with five minutes and 38 ticks remaining on the clock. It was Horton’s second touchdown grab of the season.

With the lead resting at 24-21, Nevada needed one final stop to get the ball back. With no timeouts remaining, the Pack defense forced a third-and-7 with their back buried inside their own red zone. A pass interference penalty by corner AJ King in the endzone placed the ball at the two-yard-line, icing the waning moments of the game.

Up next:

Nevada travels back to Reno for its senior night against the Fresno State Bulldogs. Its fourth-and-final home contest of the season will be on Saturday, Dec. 5 on FS1 or FS2. The time has not been announced yet.

Hawai’i will faceoff against the undefeated San Jose State Spartans on Saturday at 1 p.m. It will be its third straight game against an undefeated opponent.