HAWAII VS. NEVADA
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii (Clarence T.C. Ching Complex)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 15th at 6:00 p.m. (Hawaii Time)
Television: Spectrum Sports PPV
Streaming: The Team1Sports app is the route for mainlanders.
Radio: ESPN Honolulu
Head-to-Head: Nevada leads this series 15-11 in what has mostly been a back-and-forth series dating back to 2000. The Wolf Pack won last year’s game 34-17 in Reno, led by stars Carson Strong and Romeo Doubs.
Three things to look for:
1. Misery loves company?
The 2022 football season has been a miserable affair for Hawaii and its fans. After weeks of bad football and losing, Hawaii added a mostly welcome but still difficult to swallow twist to their misfortunes: heartbreak. Hawaii came out of the bye a 23.5-point underdog to San Diego State, only to nearly upset the Aztecs on Saturday. Hawaii’s special teams and defense will be kicking themselves for allowing that late field goal.
This week, Hawaii plays its first home game in nearly a month, welcoming Nevada to Manoa. Much has changed for the Wolf Pack since last season’s contest. Jay Norvell left and took his ball and friends with him to Ft. Collins. Needless to say, that wasn’t well received in Reno. Former Nevada head coach Chris Ault called it the “Green Infection”. Understandably, things were tense when Norvell returned to Reno last weekend. Colorado State won the game 17-14. Rock bottom for Nevada.
Saturday’s game at Clarence T.C. Ching Stadium will feature two teams in the midst of humbling rebuilding seasons. Opportunity for Hawaii to win? I think so, but also an opportunity for more disappointment.
2. Is Hawaii’s defense poised to improve?
Don’t get me wrong: Hawaii’s rushing defense ranks 128th-nationally even after the performance in San Diego. The numbers are still ugly, I’m not claiming that substantial progress has been made. San Diego State’s offense sucks, but Hawaii’s defense saw improvement against the Aztecs. Running back Jordan Byrd, one of the most explosive players in the conference, was held to 22 rushing yards on 10 carries. The Aztecs averaged 2.7 yards per carry on the evening.
Sure, Hawaii also conceded 322 passing yards, but Hawaii’s defensive line passed the eye test for the first time this season. Surprising considering defensive end Mataio Soli medically retired during the bye week.
Nevada’s rushing offense ranks 95th-nationally, and their passing offense 118th. Their struggles are real. SP+ still projects the Wolf Pack to score 30 points. Can the Hawaii defense take another step forward and halt the Nevada offense? No offense to Nevada (pun intended), but it doesn’t get much easier after this week for Hawaii’s defense.
3. Time for Timmy’s offense to shine
Much of the angst surrounding this football team has been centered around the offense. Hawaii fans have been through good times, bad times, uneven times, but are in no way accustomed to terrible offense. Hawaii’s offense didn’t register a passing offense until the 5th game of the season.
Finally, against San Diego State, we saw progress. Yes, yes, 14 points isn’t a breakout by any means, but keep in mind that San Diego State’s defense features at least three future NFL players. Wide receivers Zion Bowens, Koali Nishigaya, and Chuuky Hines returning from injury allowed the offense to operate at a higher level. The final offensive drive showed off what the Brayden Schager-led offense is capable of. Quick, timely passes to Koali Nishigaya and Jalen Walthall. Big runs from Dedrick Parson. The offensive line opened up running lanes.
This week, Nevada sports a defense that ranks 105th in rushing defense and 52nd in passing defense. At home, there is opportunity for growth this week. Time for running backs Dedrick Parson and Tylan Hines to shine? Timmy Chang needs to tap into his expertise this weekend.
Despite nearly upsetting San Diego State as a massive underdog, and Nevada losing at home to previously winless Colorado State, Vegas still has the Wolf Pack as a favorite for this weekend’s game. The spread is floating around +4.5 to +6 for the Warriors.
I think this game will go down to the wire, and probably will be decided by a turnover or two. Nevada running backs Toa Taua and Devonte Lee will be relied upon, tough physical backs. Hawaii will need to wrap up and tackle well. It’ll be close, but I think the Warriors take another step forward this week. Give me Warriors 20, Wolf Pack 17.