HAWAII @ NEVADA
RWP = Rainbow Warrior Perspective. Matt Hanifan will have the Nevada perspective for this game in a separate post
Location: Reno, Nevada (Mackay Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 16th at 4:30 p.m. (Hawaii Time)
Television: CBS Sports Network
Streaming: TV subscribers should be able to watch on the CBS Sports app, or this link.
Radio: ESPN Honolulu
Head-to-Head: Nevada leads the series 14-11. The Wolf Pack pretty much owned Hawaii from 2011-2018. To be fair, most teams owned UH during the Chow era. Hawaii, however, has won the two most recent contests. The 54-3 massacre in 2019 might’ve been the most humbling moment of the Jay Norvell era. In 2020, Hawaii ended Nevada’s perfect season, upsetting the Wolf Pack 24-21 in what ended up being one of the last games ever at Aloha Stadium. Needless to say, Nevada might be in a bitter mood this week.
Three things to look for:
1. Will Chevan Cordeiro play?
We will start with the obvious. Hawaii is coming off a celebratory bye week. The program shocked #18 Fresno State under the unlikeliest circumstances. The Warriors were without quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, who picked up an injury against New Mexico State in Las Cruces. Star cornerback Cameron Lockridge left the game on a cart after the opening kickoff. The Warriors rallied anyway. Later in the week, UH finally received clearance to have some fans at the next home game against New Mexico State. After a seemingly endless barrage of bad news, the Warriors have been feeling better about the state of things the last two weeks.
This week presents an opponent that requires refocus. Nevada is flying high after winning comfortably at Boise State two weeks ago, then hammering New Mexico State this past Saturday. Quarterback Carson Strong and the offense will present another daunting task for the Warriors defense. That said, even if the defense performs well, forcing 6 turnovers like the defense did against Fresno is unsustainable. Hawaii will need the offense to keep pace to stay in range for an upset.
Freshman quarterback Brayden Schager played admirably against Fresno State in crunch time. Still, 11/27 for 116 passing yards and 2 touchdowns isn’t exactly lighting up the stat sheet. The Warriors will need star quarterback Chevan Cordeiro this week. Hawaii, thus far, has been predictably coy about this status. The depth chart shows Cordeiro and Schager with the ambiguous “OR”. We’re unlikely to have an answer until just before kickoff.
Obvious, I know, but any recipe for an upset in Reno needs Cordeiro on the list.
2. Can Hawaii plague the Strong-led Wolf Pack again?
Another Mountain West clash for the Warriors, another elite offense. Hawaii just vanquished Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener, who ranks 4th-nartionally in passing yards per game. Only five spots behind him at 9th? Nevada quarterback Carson Strong. (FYI, Chevan Cordeiro ranks 18th-nationally).
There is a decent chance Strong is drafted in the top 5 of next spring’s 2022 NFL Draft. His accolades are well-documented. Strong has passed for 1,595 yards, thrown for 14 TDs and 3 interceptions and completed nearly 70% of his passes through five games. A college football flamethrower. Star wide receivers Romeo Doubs, Melquan Stovall, and Justin Lockhart are all averaging near or over 14 yards per catch. Tight end Cole Turner will play on Sunday’s. This passing attack is among the best in college football.
Nevada’s rushing attack was hit and miss until the Boise State game. Time will tell if that was a turning point for Toa Taua and Devonte Lee, or if Boise State’s rush defense just sucks.
All those intimidating numbers aside, Strong and the Pack have some bad recent memories of Hawaii. Last season, Hawaii held Strong to 168 passing yards, Doubs had one catch for 10 yards in a 24-21 victory for the Bows’. The year before? Strong was replaced by Cristian Solano before halftime in a 54-3 massacre in Reno. History taken into account, Hawaii is unlikely to be spooked by this Nevada team.
Last season, Todd Graham cooked up a preventive defense that puzzled Nevada, dropping 8 defenders into coverage at times. Can Graham cook up a similarly effective plan this time around?
3. Don’t sleep on Nevada’s defense
Nevada’s pass defense statistically leaves something to be desired, ranking 98th-nationally. Hawaii can exploit this, assuming Cordeiro is available or Schager is up for spinning it, but the Wolf Pack defense is not devoid of playmakers.
Nevada ranks 2nd-nationally in Team Sacks. Senior defensive tackle Tristan Nichols is tied for 1st-nationally in sacks, and defensive end Sam Hammond isn’t far behind, tied for 28-nationally. The Pack defense might concede yards in bunches, but the gamble in pressure has paid off . Whoever starts for the Warriors at quarterback, they’ll need to have that internal clock set to the right time, because the Wolf Pack front seven is coming.
The Wolf Pack rank 79th-nationally in turnovers gained. Hawaii ranks 3rd-nationally. Two flawed, but opportunistic defenses. The Wolf Pack collect sacks and tackles for loss, Hawaii collects turnovers. Frankly, the Warriors would probably be okay with that trade off continuing Saturday. Either way, while the Wolf Pack offense catches the headlines, their defense has some quality as well.
Hawaii proved plenty of naysayers wrong against 18th-ranked Fresno State, including myself. No Cordeiro. Lockridge, a key corner, out with injury. No fans. Felt like the stage was set for a Bulldogs beatdown. Instead, Todd Graham’s Warriors rose to the challenge for a signature win.
Nevada opened a 16-point favorite. Might swing lower if Cordeiro plays, or higher if he doesn’t. Todd Graham befuddled his former apprentice Jay Norvell last season, muzzling Carson Strong and the vaunted Wolf Pack offense. As with any other Hawaii football team, taking this show on the road is a different story. To be fair, Hawaii exercised some demons in their last trip to Reno. It was bitterly cold, snowed during the game, and Cole McDonald still destroyed Nevada.
Alas, that’s in the past. Nevada is a little banged up, Romeo Doubs isn’t a 100%, but obviously Cordeiro’s status is the big topic for Saturday. If #12 is involved, along with more fortuitous bounces, Hawaii could give Nevada a scare. Without him, this might be too much for Brayden Schager. Hawaii did have the benefit of a bye week prior to this game.
I’m going to totally cop out on this one. Give me...
(With Cordeiro) Hawaii 31, Nevada 40
(Without Cordeiro) Hawaii 20, Nevada 40