In what appeared to be the toughest remaining game on Hawaii’s schedule, the Warriors faltered on Saturday evening in a 34-17 loss to the Carson Strong-led Nevada Wolf Pack. Coming off a bye week in which Hawaii enjoyed a victory over formerly 18th-ranked Fresno State, a win aided by winning the turnover margin emphatically, Nevada flipped the script on Hawaii and won the turnover battle 5-0. Frankly, Hawaii was fortunate to only lose 34-17 considering the massive gap in turnover margin.
Nevada opened the game with a 13-play, 70-yard drive, with the Hawaii defense camping down and holding the Wolf Pack to a field goal. Hawaii’s opening drive wasn’t as long. Hawaii running back Dae Dae Hunter is burgeoning superstar. A 75-yard sprint to the house gave the Warriors an early 7-3 lead.
The remainder of the first quarter was a punt fest. Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro once again was unable to start for the Warriors. Apparently he injured his shoulder trying to make a tackle against New Mexico State weeks ago. That meant true freshman Brayden Schager was forced into action again.
Nevada’s first drive of the second quarter resulted in a 6-yard touchdown run from running back Toa Taua, after quarterback Carson Strong carved up the Warriors into the goal-to-go situation.
Hawaii, however, responded immediately. Again, Dae Dae Hunter is going to be special. Remember the name.
Hunter finished the evening with 8 carries for 174 yards and two touchdowns. That low carries total is a result of Hunter leaving the game injured, missing the entire second half. Really, Hawaii’s chances for an upset bid left with him to the locker room. Hawaii went into the break down 20-17, within reach of the Wolf Pack, but the second half was a turnover-laden debacle.
Brayden Schager tried his hardest, but his true freshman status showed up Saturday evening. Schager finished with 22/39 passing, with 205 passing yards and most notably: four interceptions, three in the second half. It should be noted, protection wasn’t perfect. The Warrior offense also turned over the ball on downs twice in the second half.
Predictably, Carson Strong finished 34/54 for 395 passing yards and 2 touchdown passes. His talent was as advertised. The Wolf Pack offense took advantage of the Hawaii turnovers in the third quarter and put this game out of reach. Hawaii lost 34-17, and considering the eye-popping turnover margin, and fortunate the score wasn’t worse. A testament to Hawaii’s defense that 34 points, in spite of five turnovers, was all the Warriors conceded.
Hawaii seemingly rotated more players than usual on both offense and defense, and appeared to be suffering some from the elevation. Something to watch for when the Warriors travel to Logan and Laramie in the coming month plus.
What is there to say? Schager has potential, but expecting a true freshman to hit the ground running is a harsh ask. No Cordeiro hurts Hawaii. Add in the plethora of turnovers, and again the Warriors are fortunate the score line wasn’t worse than it is. I thought, all considered, the Hawaii defense played well. The Nevada offense is no joke.
Hawaii will return home to face New Mexico State on October 23rd. Yes, the red Aggies again. Hawaii will play in front of the home fans for the first time since the 2019 Hawaii Bowl against Brigham Young.