RWP = Rainbow Warrior Perspective
HAWAII VS. NEVADA
Location: Reno, Nevada (Mackay Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 4th at 10:00 a.m. (Hawaii Time)
Television: Spectrum Sports PPV (Hawaii only)
Streaming: Team 1 Sports app (mainland only)
Radio: ESPN Honolulu
Head-to-Head: This series dates all the way back to Christmas Day in 1920, over a century old! Albeit with most of those meetings occurring after 2000, of course. Nevada leads the series 15-12, though Hawaii has won three of the last four in the series. Hawaii won last year’s contest 31-16 in Honolulu.
Spread: UH +3.5
Three things to look for:
1. The free-falling Warriors
After falling down 17-0 against San Diego State a few weeks back, Hawaii rallied and nearly defeated the Aztecs. I hypothesized that this might’ve been a turning point toward something positive for the 2023 Warriors. Instead, Hawaii was blasted by a New Mexico team floating towards the bottom of the standings. Then Hawaii returned home to face San Jose State and was crushed 35-0. Shutout. At home. The run-and-shoot-yourself-in-the-foot offense was terrible.
Hawaii is absolutely free-falling. The player and coaching interviews will tell you the team isn’t checked out, but the results suggest otherwise. With Nevada, Air Force, Wyoming, and Colorado State remaining on the schedule, 2-11 feels a near certainty for this team. Does Hawaii have the fight, talent, and coaching to pull out a result? Saturday’s contest against Nevada might be last call for this miserable season.
2. You know who might’ve actually turned a corner? Nevada
What a wild ride the 2023 season has been for the Nevada Wolf Pack. The season started with an expected beat down from USC but followed it up with a 33-6 home loss to the Idaho Vandals. Now, mind you, the Vandals are one of the better FCS programs this fall, but still. Blowout losses to FCS teams in early September are an absolute vibe killer for FBS teams. Nevada fans and media rightfully began to question whether head coach Ken Wilson was the right man for the job.
Those questions still linger, but unlike the 2023 Hawaii Warriors, Nevada might’ve found a spark. The Wolf Pack defeated San Diego State 6-0 at Snapdragon Stadium. Not pretty, but progress. This past weekend the Wolf Pack defeated New Mexico 34-24, yes, the same Lobos that eviscerated Hawaii. After starting 0-6, Nevada has found some confidence.
Vegas isn’t totally convinced, evidenced by the near 4-point spread for this game, but despite sharing the MWC cellar together, the vibes are totally different for Nevada and Hawaii right now.
3. Brendon Lewis
A potential factor as to why Hawaii is only a slight underdog this weekend? Nevada quarterback Brendon Lewis, the team’s leading passer and leading rusher, left the New Mexico game with a lower-body injury. Nevada’s offense has struggled mightily in 2023, ranking 117th-nationally in total offense. Lewis accounts for 60% of the offense’s entire output for 2023.
His backup? Former Saint Louis School quarterback A.J. Bianco, a name familiar to Hawaii fans. He was committed to play for Hawaii, but decommitted after the Todd Graham fiasco. He would be in line to start if Lewis cannot play, although Lewis is probable for the game. How effective? To be determined.
Nevada’s defense ranks 125th-nationally, but the early season struggles are probably accounting for most of those ugly numbers. This unit has been playing much better as of late. Hawaii’s sack-prone, turnover-giving offense is in no position to feel confident about this matchup. Lewis now being 100% creates a little optimism that Hawaii can push the Wolf Pack, but it’s hard to believe in the 2023 Rainbow Warriors at the moment.
We are straight not having a good time, man. Just when you think Hawaii’s found rock bottom, the team digs deeper and finds depths we didn’t know existed. Last week’s 35-0 beat down was deflating. Forget Cordeiro and all the other storylines, that was a lifeless effort that left fans feeling like the team has folded up tent and went home.
No disrespect to Nevada, the Wolf Pack is indisputably playing better than the Warriors right now. That said, Hawaii’s remaining opponents are undefeated Air Force (oh my god), a trip to Laramie, Wyoming to play the Cowboys, and a home finale against an improving Colorado State with NFL caliber star players. This weekend’s game might be Hawaii’s last chance to taste victory.
As I stated in the San Jose State’s recap, I don’t think things are going to improve in-season. It’s going to take recruiting and the transfer portal to fix these problems, and possibly even some assistant coaching changes. I hope to be proven wrong. Give me Warriors 13, Wolf Pack 20.