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Hawaii ends road skid in 27-14 victory over Nevada

The defense leads the way as Timmy Chang picks up his first road win as Hawaii head coach

NCAA Football: Hawaii at Fresno State Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

One week after hitting absolute rock bottom after a blowout home loss to San Jose State, Hawaii football picked up Timmy Chang’s first road win as Hawaii’s head coach in what was possibly their most complete performance of the 2023 season. Playing at Nevada in Mackay Stadium, where the Warriors have had little success over the years, defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro’s defense put together an inspired effort en route to a 27-14 victory over Nevada.

Was that a positive first half?!

Dreadful first half performances: it’s become a depressing joke and narrative about the 2023 Hawaii Warriors. Now, Hawaii did have yet another opening offensive drive result in a punt. In fact, both teams combined for five consecutive punts to start the game until Hawaii’s Elijah Palmer recovered a fumble from Nevada’s Brendon Lewis, who wouldn’t be seen again and was replaced by Saint Louis School graduate A.J. Bianco.

Hawaii’s defense blanked the Wolf Pack in the first half, holding them to 69-yards of total offense. 69! The offense added two scores before the break, including a late strike from quarterback Brayden Schager to wide receiver Pofele Ashlock for a 26-yard touchdown. Hawaii shockingly led 17-0 at the break and had easily their best first half of the 2023 season.

The defense was stellar

Defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro and his defense have taken a beating on social media and message boards lately. The New Mexico game was a complete shocker, totally gouged by a team that’s struggled against pretty much everyone, including the Nevada team the Warriors played on Saturday afternoon.

On Saturday, Yoro and company put together their best effort of the season both tactically and in sheer effort. The defense held Nevada to 69-yards of total offense in the first half and forced the Wolf Pack to punt seven times. The stat sheet will show that the Warriors forced two turnovers, but Nevada also turned it over on downs three times. The unit forced 6 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. A dominant performance.

The highlight of the game was safety Peter Manuma’s interception that put the Warriors in prime scoring position.

Timmy Chang gets his first road win

It’s not some secret that Hawaii football historically struggles on the road. The travel obstacles the Rainbow Warriors face is unlike anything any other program in college football faces. As a result, reasonable fans are not expecting a great track record away from Oahu. It comes with the territory.

That said, the growing fact that head coach Timmy Chang had yet to register a road win nearly 23 games into his coaching tenure was factual but increasingly annoying.

Finally, it’s over. Chang gets his first road win at Mackay Stadium, in the very building he built the early part of his coaching career. Hopefully there are many more to come.

Final Thoughts:

Last week’s home blowout loss to San Jose State might’ve been the lowest point for the Hawaii football program since the Norm Chow era. The Spartans are a solid team, but 35-0 at Clarence T.C. Ching Complex? Frankly, I suggested the Warriors might’ve quit.

Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. Hawaii showed resilience and toughness in Reno when really, it would’ve been expected that Hawaii fold up tend and call it a season. Instead, the defense flourished, and Brayden Schager was effective enough for the offense to succeed. The running game rushed for 136 yards on 35 attempts, more rushing attempts than we’re accustomed to. Wide receiver Pofele Ashlock finished with nine catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns and continues to be unbelievably reliable for a freshman.

The sequence in which Steven McBride fumbled a punt, and then Virdel Edwards II was ejected for mouthing off to an official was a reminder that Hawaii still has much to learn, but in the end this team found a way to win in a season where that’s been difficult.

Next Saturday November 11th, Hawaii hosts previously undefeated Air Force at 6:00 pm HST.