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More Manoa Magic: Hawaii beats undefeated Nevada 24-21

Defense shines in upset of close-to-being-ranked Nevada

Nevada v Hawaii Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Heading into Saturday’s football game between Hawaii and Nevada, it was easy to ponder about the past considering the circumstance. Nevada, undefeated and on the cusp of national respect, is coming to Oahu to take on a decent Hawaii team. Sound familiar? Many were quick to point out what happened the last time a similar circumstance arose in 2010, when the Colin Kaepernick-led Wolf Pack came to Hawaii with an undefeated record and a mountain of hype following them. Greg McMackin’s Warriors, led by names like Bryant Moniz and Corey Parades, shocked the Wolf Pack that night 27-21, ultimately a loss that prevented that 2010 Nevada team from playing in a major bowl game. A big moment in the series.

Surely history would not repeat itself? Hell, Hawaii proved in 2019 that the past is just that: the past, blasting Nevada 54-3 in Reno after years of struggling at Mackay Stadium.

Turns out, there is still some Manoa Magic to be spread.

The late-night football game started as many Hawaii games seem to start: slow. A punt fest, the first quarter concluded with no points. Hawaii’s defense befuddled Nevada quarterback Carson Strong by dropping 8 defenders into coverage, sacrificing the pass rush but forcing Strong to fit passes in small windows. Ultimately, this led to a lot of check down completions. Nevada rushed the ball well on the evening, but Hawaii was okay with allowing that. As long as Strong and superstar wide receiver Romeo Doubs weren’t scorching the secondary, the Warrior defense was content to allow some leakage in rush defense.

That said, the Hawaii offense once again started slow. Nevada held a 7-3 late in the half, and seemingly out of nowhere, the dormant Warrior offense came alive. Of course, Calvin Turner Jr. gave the Warriors a 10-7 lead right before the break.

The second half opened with both offenses punting on their initial possession.

I kid you not, both teams would score on every single drive for the remainder of the game (save for Hawaii’s final drive). The defensive struggle was over, and Hawaii’s Chevan Cordeiro grew up right in front of everyone’s eyes (from home, of course). Hawaii scored on a 10-play, 99-yard statement drive to take a 17-7 lead with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter. Cordeiro finished 26/32 for 246 passing yards, 1 touchdown pass, 62 rushing yards, and 1 rushing touchdown on the evening.

Nevada retaliated with a touchdown drive of their own, but again Hawaii forced the Wolf Pack to run the ball. Wide receiver Romeo Doubs finished the night with 1 catch for 10 receiving yards. Unthinkable coming into the evening.

After that, both teams traded scoring drives, both killing the clock in the process. With 5:38 remaining in the game, Hawaii led 24-21. Nevada did precisely what they couldn’t allow to happen: a long kick return. Do you even have to ask? Of course it was Calvin Turner bringing the ball out to midfield. Turner would then take a 16-yard carry into Nevada territory a few plays later. Hawaii was killing clock, but faced a crucial 3rd-and-7 with 1:30 remaining. A defensive pass interference penalty was the result of the play, and from there Hawaii knelt the clock out. A decade later, another upset: Hawaii defeats undefeated Nevada 24-21.

Hawaii and Todd Graham really needed this win. The second half performance against Boise State was encouraging, but moral victories only carry so much weight. With three conference losses, it’s unlikely Hawaii claws its way back into the conference race (it might even be impossible with only two weeks remaining?). This win, however, gives Graham and co. the optimism needed to propel the Warriors in the off-season.

Can Hawaii finish strong? Well, it’s 2020, so it’s complicated. NEXT UP: a trip to...somewhere...to play San Jose State. Santa Clara county is preventing sporting events from occurring in the area, this is affecting Stanford, the San Francisco 49ers, among others, including San Jose State. The game is slated for December 5th at 1 pm PT, but the game obviously will not be played in San Jose. Stay tuned for updates early in the week. Should the game happen, can Hawaii play spoiler again?