The Nevada Wolf Pack travel to the islands to the play the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors on Saturday at 9:00 p.m. PT on Nevada Sports Net!
The two programs are a combined 3-9 with an 0-3 Mountain West record — so it will be a showdown between not only two of the worst teams in the West Division or the Mountain West, but across the entire Division-I.
Both teams suffered tight losses on last second field goals last weekend; Nevada to Colorado State, 17-14, in Jay Norvell’s return, while Hawai’i dropped to San Diego State 16-14. Both are also trying to get on the right foot with first year head coaches that took over for programs in peril in the offseason — who will win their first conference game on Saturday? Let’s dive into the preview and find out!
Week 7: Nevada (2-4, 0-2 MWC) vs. Hawai’i (1-5, 0-1 MWC)
When: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 9:00 p.m. PT
Where: Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex in Honoluly, Hawai’i
TV: Nevada Sports Net
Spread: Nevada -6.5
Series History: Hawai’i leads 15-11
Last Meeting: Nevada won 34-17 (Oct. 16, 2021)
When Hawai’i is on offense:
Hawai’i’s quarterback situation hasn’t been much prettier than Nevada’s.
It has mainly opted to use Brayden Schager, who’s struggled at certain points throughout 2022. On the year, he’s completed just 58.5 percent of his passes for 855 yards, two touchdowns to four interceptions.
Their running back room is led by Dedrick Partson, who’s cconjured together 336 yards on the ground on 4.1 yards per carry with seven scores. Nasjzae Bryant and Tylan Hines wil also get carries out of the backfield, too.
Schager has done a good job spreading the ball around, as seven players have hauled in double-digit passes. Dior Scott and James Phillips have recorded 17 apiece; Phillips for 148 yards while Scott has had 129 yards.
Caleb Phillips leads the team with 174 yards on 13 catches, while Jonah Panoke has reocrded 15 catches for 172 yards. Only Jalen Walthall and Zion Bowens have recorded receiving touchdowns through six games.
Nevada’s defense has struggled against great offenses but have performed better against bad offenses. That’s sounds incredibly cliche, but it’s true!
The Pack are coming off a week where they held the dormant Colorado State offense to 255 yards — 177 on the ground — with just 13 first downs while also limiting them to 17 points, despite taking the loss.
Dom Peterson is the clear focal point up front. The former All-Mountain West defensive lineman has recorded 16 tackles on the season, with 5.5 tackles-for-loss and four sacks. Drue Watts, Marcel Walker and Thomas Witte have also caused havoc in the backfield within the front seven. Watts has five tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including two sacks and 28 total tackles; Walker has three takcles for loss while Witte has 2.5.
Though the strongest part of the Nevada defense is its secondary, led by Bentlee Sanders and Tyson Williams — its two-leading tacklers.
Transitioning from safety to nickel has been seamless for Williams this season, getting more involved with the running game and playing closer to the line of scrimmage. He’s reccorded 36 tackles, with five for loss, one sack and one interception on the season.
Sanders has hauled in an FBS-most five interceptions through six contests, adding a team-most 39 tackles and two tackles-for-loss.
When Nevada is on offense:
Nevada’s sported a below average offense, too, placing second-worst in the Mountain West in yards per play, in yards per carry, fourth-worst in total offense and fifth-worst in first downs per game plus scoring.
While there’s been no official ruling six weeks into the season — Nate Cox looks to have secured the starting quarterback nod for the Wolf Pack. He’s completed 53.7 percent of his attempts for 746 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
The Wolf Pack have mainly centered their focus around the ground game, which hasn’t been all that efficient either. Toa Taua and Devonte Lee have led the way, both averaging four yards per carry through six games. Taua’s totaled 430 yards and seven scores, while Lee — who’s rushed for 210 yards — has found the endzone four times.
Jamaal Bell maintains his team-most 23 receptions for 234 yardds. B.J. Casteel is second with 18 catches for 199 yards and a score, while Taua’s third in receptions with 16 for 146 yards and one touchdown. Taua and Casteel are the only two Pack players who have a receiving touchdown through six games.
The Hawai’i defense got off to a very rocky start, surrendering 227 combined points over its first five games — no, that’s not a typo. And yes, that’s over 45 points per game!!!
But the Rainbow Warriors held San Diego State in check on the road last week, limiting the Aztecs — who have also been a very inefficient offense — to 16 points, despite giving up 417 yards (95 rushing) and 22 first downs.
Hawai’i sport a 3-3-5 base scheme, with Andrew Choi, Blessman Ta’ala and John Tuitupou commanding the three down linemen. Tuitupou, Ta’ala and Choi have combined for 323 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss and three sacks on the season — including Tuitupou leading the team with two sacks.
Though its strengths rests on its back-eight — led by leading tackler Penei Pavihi, who’s the only Rainbow Warrior player with 30-plus tackles. Other faces to watch out for are NICKEL Malik Hausman, who leads the team in interceptions, linebacker Isaiah Tufaga and corner Virdel Edwards II, two of their other top tacklers.
Hawai’i has been one of the nation’s worst rushing defenses, so this is a prime spot for the Wolf Pack to capitalize on their ground-heavy attack. Both teams have struggled significantly to score the ball, so don’t expect this to be a high scoring game. Expect both to try to shorten this game by playing smash-mouth ball — but if it comes to that, I give Nevada the advantage. Prediction: Nevada 24, Hawai’i 21 (Season record: 4-2, ATS: 1-5)