Hawaii (2-5, 03 MW) take son Nevada (4-3, 1-2 MW) in Reno. The game starts at 1:00pm PT / 10:00am HT in Mackay Stadium. The game is their 20th meeting in which Nevada leads the series 11-8 so far. In fact, the Wolf Pack won the last four games and if the Rainbow Warriors want to make a bowl they must end that streak.
Losing to New Mexico last week in tragic fashion forces Hawaii to win five out of their final six games in order to avoid another losing season. They led for nearly four quarters but the defense relented and gave up a last minute touchdown that gave the Lobos a 1 pt lead. While the defense looks nothing like it was to start the season neither has the offense.
The offense for just the third time this season eclipsed 300 yards of offense and finally ended their scoring drought on the road. Backup quarterback Ikaika Woolsey led the squad to a 415 yard output that got heavy contributions from the backfield. The backfield tandem of Paul Harris and Steven Lakalaka combined for over 200 yards.
There have been signs throughout the season of what this team can do but nothing has come together. If they have any hope of leaving the sewer of FBS competition they need to figure things out now. Here are a few things Hawaii needs to do to send the Nevada Wolf Pack packing.
Keep the balling rolling: Can a ball roll in the air? I think not! Apparently the way to go for the Warriors is on the ground. The receivers have a lot of raw skills but can’t seem to put it together on a consistent basis. On the other hand the running backs have been good, especially Paul Harris. He fills a big playmaking hole left by Diocemy Saint Juste, who has been battling injuries all season. Harris leads the team with 77 carries for 421 yards and 3 touchdowns. When you’ve only eclipsed 300 yards twice against proper opponents you better stick with what has worked. Each game Hawaii has failed to accrue 100 yards on the ground they have lost by a double digit margin this season.
Keep things short and simple: Even though Ikaika Woolsey took the helm last week against New Mexico, the team did outstanding offensively. They posted their highest offensive output against an FBS team. Early on, they worked hard to keep 1st down opportunities short. They established the run and kept routes short to help with Woolsey's accuracy problems. Starter Max Wittek might be a better passer but has yet to help the team put together a similar effort against an FBS team this year. Wittek takes more shots down the field and he might be well served to try get the ball out quicker.
Stay Disciplined: Any team will struggle to overcome giving away free yards. Discipline will always be a priority for every football team but even more so to the ones that struggle. Hawaii is in a rut and their penalty numbers surely do not help. They rank 77th giving 59 yards on penalties per game and 107th in total penalties per game with 7.86. If there is one thing that really kills a team is penalties. Just take a look at the last Hawaii drive against New Mexico. Two false starts and a holding penalty pushed the team back 20 yards and led directly to the interception that ended the game. They team must control what they can and discipline should once again be a priority.
Stop the Run: Hawaii’s 115th ranked rush defense that gives up 226.6 yards per game on the ground plays right into the Wolf Pack's hands. The home team rank 26th nationally in rush offense with 207.4 yards per game. Don Jackson and James Butler lead the team on the ground combining for 1235 rush yards with 9 ground touchdowns. In 2015, Nevada has won every game that they have accrued 200 yards on the ground. When they fail to achieve this mark they have lost by an average of 13.5 points per game. It will be tough with the Hawaii defensive line banged up but Tom Mason must figure it out.
Prediction: It's getting harder to believe in this team. They never seem to build off of their success from week to week. It always seems like they take one step forward and two steps back. It's time for the 'Bows to put together a full team effort and make this game watchable. I think the revelation that the Hawaii rush attack is paramount to their success will help give the team more possession time. More possession time will mean more rest for the defense and lead to better overall play. I see an unusual strong performance all around from the offense, defense and special teams coming today. Hawaii will come out strong but sadly fall short yet again. I see a 31-24 loss for the Rainbow Warriors here. While the team would have wanted a W, they will come out of this game with their heads held high because they finally played a complete game.