Senior quarterback Max Wittek had a career high passing performance, and the Rainbow Warrior defense came up with four crucial defensive stands, however neither effort was enough to beat Nevada. Hawaii fell 30-20 in Reno to the Wolf Pack, which is now the team’s 5th consecutive loss. The Rainbow Warriors drop to 2-6 overall and are still winless in the Mountain West at 0-4.
Hawaii started off hot, just as they were able to do last weekend. Kicker Rigoberto Sanchez nailed a 50-yard field goal giving the Rainbow Warriors an early lead. Sanchez’s field goal was the longest since 2007 for a UH kicker. Hawaii Safety Danny Mulanga would snag his first career interception on the ensuing Wolf Pack possession, giving Hawaii a short field to work with. On the second play of the drive, Wittek connected with receiver Devan Stubblefield for a 29-yard touchdown putting Hawaii up 10-0.
The Rainbow Warriors continued their excellent start. A crucial red zone stop by Tom Mason’s defense set up Wittek and company to march down on 10 plays on 73 yards, capped off by a 9-yard Wittek-to-Stubblefield score putting Hawaii up big 17-0 in the early going.
The Wolf Pack finally answered with a 46-yard kick return by Elijah Mitchell giving Nevada excellent field position. A 9-play drive ended in a 1 yard James Butler rushing touchdown. Butler jumped over the pile on 3rd down, the play was reviewed and confirmed that Butler had indeed crossed the plane of the goal line, cutting into Hawaii’s lead 17-7.
After a penalty on the extra point called against UH, Nevada opted to try for an onside kick in UH territory and was successful in recovery. Hawaii’s defense came up with another key stop, holding Nevada to a 40-yard Brent Zuzo field goal, putting the Wolf Pack behind by just a touchdown.
Midway through the 3rd quarter, Hawaii and Nevada traded field goal putting the score at 20-13 in favor of the Rainbow Warriors. Hawaii would enter the 4th quarter with a 7-point advantage.
Just 58 seconds into the 4th quarter, the Wolf Pack began to mount their comeback. This scoring drive lasted nearly 5 minutes, and was completed with a 5-yard pass from Tyler Stewart to Jarred Gipson who executed on a nifty play-action fake. The score was knotted up at 20.
After a Wittek interception on the ensuing possession, the Rainbow Warrior defense made another great stand, holding Nevada to a 30-yard Zuzo field goal. The Wolf Pack grabbed their first lead of the game up 23-20.
Wittek would throw his 3rd interception of the game, giving Nevada the ball on UH’s 21-yard line. The Wolf Pack would capitalize on the short field position with a second 1-yard touchdown plunge by Butler, giving Nevada a 30-20 lead.
Down two possessions with just over two minutes remaining, it appeared UH may have some fourth quarter magic of their own, as Wittek and Kemp hooked up at the edge of the end zone. However, after replay review, Kemp was not able to drag a toe in bounds. With the pass ruled incomplete, the Rainbow Warriors faced 2nd and 10 from the 17-yard line. On the very next play, Wittek was sacked and stripped by Ian Seau. Seau recovered the ball, putting a finishing touch on his dominant performance, which consisted of four sacks of his own.
Wittek passed for a career high of 291 yards on 27 of 40 passing attempts. He threw for two touchdowns, but was intercepted three times and lost a crucial fumble on the final drive. Junior running back Paul Harris paced the UH ground attack going for 61 yards on 16 carries while Stubblefield had a career game reeling in two scores on 91 yards and a career high eight receptions.
Mulanga had himself an excellent defensive performance recording 10 tackles along with his 36-yard interception return. Linebacker Julian Gener was a force on defensive tallying nine stops including two tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
Norm Chow and company look to get back on the winning side this coming Saturday, as they host Air Force (4-3, 3-1 MW), in a Halloween showdown at Aloha Stadium. The Falcons blew out Fresno State 42-14 at home this past Saturday.