When: Saturday, Sept. 21st at 5.05 p.m. PT
Where: Mackay Stadium, Reno, Nevada
TV: Mountain West Network; Oceanic Pay-Per-View
Radio: ESPN 1420 AM; Wolf Pack Radio Network (Flagship: ESPN Radio 94.5 FM/630 AM)
Nevada 2013 record: 1-2-0, 0-0 in MWC
Hawaii 2013 record: 0-2-0, 0-0 in MWC
Hawaii All Time Record vs Nevada: 8-9-0. (1-5 in Reno)
Last Meeting: Sept. 22nd 2012 in Honolulu. Nevada won 69-24
Nevada - Brian Polian (1-2). This season is Polians first year as head coach of Nevada.
Hawaii - Norm Chow (3-11). This is Chows second year at the controls of Hawaii.
Hawaii goes on the road to open mountain west play against Nevada. Coming off a bye week the Warriors will be much healthier heading to Reno where they hope to register their first win of the season. Nevada heads into this game after defeats to two of the top 15 teams in the country in UCLA and FSU with a win against the UC Davis sandwiched in the middle. Nevada is as many as 14-point favorite.
The quarterback position promises to be intriguing in this contest with Taylor Graham remaining under center for Hawaii. After a poor performance in the opener, week two seen a better performance from Graham with much better decision making. He looked after the ball and didn't throw up any interceptions. With a capable Sean Schroeder waiting in the wings Chow is standing by his man and it will be interesting to see what affect Graham can have throwing against a mountain west defense for the first time. Graham seen much better protection from his line in the last game after the change on the right side. David Griffin will again be the starter at right tackle. If Graham has less pressure and more time in the pocket he has the potential to be a danger to the Nevada D.
Nevada's situation at quarterback makes for sour reading for Wolf Pack fans. Starter Cody Fajardo is officially day to day in his recovery from an injury suffered against UC Davis. He started the season well throwing for 164 yards and running for 106 with 2 TDs against UCLA. Not only does Fajardo remain a doubt but his back up, Devin Combs who started the game vs FSU injured his knee towards the end of the first half and is ruled out for this game. All of this means that third stringer Tyler Stewart could be the man handed the start. Stewart is a freshman who has only seen significant game time in the second half of the FSU game where he threw an interception. The offensive line, led by senior left tackle Joel Bitonio has been steady through three games giving up only three sacks (0 last time out).
Running back is also a concern for the Wolf Pack. The top two running backs on the team Don Jackson and Kendall Brock are struggling with injuries, and their status is up in the air. Neither had any game time last week and it remains to be seen if either feature this time out. Even if one or both do contribute with any carries the bulk of the load will be placed on red shirt freshman Chris Solomon, who rushed for 110 yards vs FSU.
There's better news for the Rainbow Warriors with Joey Iosefa returning to the line up. After missing the first two games Iosefa will be raring to go and he should see a lot of time on the field after having the extra week to recover thanks to the bye week. Steven Lakalaka will be demoted after leading UH with 13 carries and 39 yards at Oregon State. Diocemy Saint Juste has been named ahead of Lakalaka on the depth chart and will see more than the one carry he had in the last game.
Billy Ray Stutzmann is another big name returning to the Hawaii offense. The receiver is another boost to the unit and he will be worked back in gradually. Scott Harding and Chris Gant are the stand out receivers through the first two games of the season and both should see a lot of targets from Graham. Graham likes to spread the ball about so watch for names like Keith Kirkwood and Donnie King getting in on the act and having decent numbers on the stat sheet. Jordan Pu‘u-Robinson comes in for his first game at tight end, behind starter Harold Moleni.
Brandon Wimberly and Richy Turner both have team leading 15 receptions on the season for Nevada. Turner has 201 yards and 1 TD and Wimberly has 124 yards and 2 TDs. These two are going to be the biggest threats to the Hawaii secondary with contributions expected out of Aaron Bradley and tight end Kolby Arendse. Two freshmen in Hasaan Henderson who has five receptions for 55 yards and Jerico Richardson who is yet to have a reception this year will both be eager to get more opportunities.
Even though Hawaii have conceded an average of 436 yards a game there is some positive things happening to the defense. The Warriors lead the mountain west and rank 40th nationally allowing 124.5 rushing yards per game. The defensive line will be boosted by the return of freshman Kennedy Tulimasealii . There have been some good things for Hawaii through the first two games of the season with five sacks. Brenden Daley will be back in for the start at linebacker after being carted off the field with a concussion against the Beavers. His replacement in that game was Julian Gener who stepped up massively leading the team with 11 tackles and returning an interception for a TD. One of last years stand out players Art Laurel will continue to be a threat rushing the quarterback from either the strong or weak side.
Nevada boast a defensive end in Brock Hekking who is a real threat to Taylor Graham. The junior has a team leading eight sacks in his career at Nevada. A sophomore in Lenny Jones has seven sacks in his two years on the team playing on the opposite side to Hekking. The line-backing core is led by the man in the middle Jordan Dobrich who is also a team captain this season. Dobrich has 18 total tackles in 2013.
The defensive backfield for the Wolf Pack have been a little more solid than the front seven. After three games they have given up a total of 720 receiving yards compared to the 840 yards given up on the ground. Safeties Bryan Lane Jnr and Bryson Keeton both have an interception and have the ability to pick Graham off if he is not on his game. There are no real injuries worrying Nevada on its defense and it should be that little bit better again an extra game into the season.
Hawaii will be looking for a big game from its secondary with the prospect of playing against a third string quarterback. Safety John Hardy-Tuliau leads the group with 10 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss. Marrell Jackson should start at free safety after missing the OSU game through injury. Jackson had an interception against USC and Hawaii will look for more of the same this time out.
This should be an entertaining game with both teams looking to start conference play with a win. The smart money would say that Nevada should win out but I'd be inclined to say Hawaii will cover the spread for the third successive game. However, if the Wolf Pack are forced into starting Tyler Stewart at quarterback then this could be a real close game that UH should be looking to win. It certainly could go either way.