Nevada (2-2) at Hawaii (1-3)
Saturday, October 1st, 9:00pm
Line (Atlantis): Nevada -3.5; O/U: 58.5
All-Time: Nevada leads 12-8
TV/Online/Radio: None/None/ESPN 94.5, Wolf Pack Website
After a heartbreaking loss at Purdue, the Wolf Pack play their most important game to date in Honolulu on Saturday night.
If you'd have told me that Nevada went on the road and won the turnover battle 4-0, I'd have poured myself some victory Crown Royal cocktails. Instead, I sit here befuddled. The defense made some huge plays to force turnovers, but still gave up 466 yards of Total Offense and recorded just one sack. Outside of the first TD drive and the penultimate drive, the offense was inept earning just 135 yards. Special teams continued the trend of giving up a lot of return yardage (a 45-yard kick return and 42-yard punt return), which is a concerning just four games into the season.
This could've been a defining game for Brian Polian and his program, instead the definition was excrement. With 5:46 left in the 1st Half and holding a 14-3 lead, Nevada had a tremendous chance to bury the Boilermakers and nearly make the game unreachable. Instead, they had an incomplete pass on 3rd and 7 from the 33 and Polian decided to punt on 4th, which resulted in a touchback and a net of 13 yards. Purdue then marches down the field in 7 plays and stole momentum just before the Half. I hated the punt call when it happened and it looked even worse as the day progressed.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of this game was the playcalling. Outside of Cal Poly and the vanilla offense that night, I've enjoyed what Tim Cramsey has brought to the table. As this game wore on it was obvious that Nevada couldn't run the ball yet the Pack were still forcing the running game, which led to their downfall and catching this L. To make matters more frustrating, the Silver & Blue didn't use backup Ty Gangi in any sets from the TD drive in the 1st Quarter until the long, scoreless drive in the 4th. If you're having trouble running and you're set on doing so, it makes sense to me change up the look and give the defense something else to think about. That's to say nothing of the atrocity that was 1st and Goal series at the 3 with six or so minutes left.
Does anyone have contacts within the Reno Police Department? If so, please forward it to me as I want to file a Missing Persons Report for Jarred Gipson. A quarter of the way through the season, he has just four catches and not many more targets. Any person that follows me on Twitter knows how much I think of him and whether it's Tyler Stewart or the playcalling, he's just not getting the rock. The senior TE from Houston deserves better than this and he adds a different dimension to the offense, it really is mind blowing that they can't find a way to get him involved.
I'm not a coach by any means, but if I'm an opposing Defensive Coordinator I would just stack the box with eight or nine defenders and make Stewart have to beat you through the air as seemingly Nevada's only real threat is in the backfield with James Butler and Jaxson Kincaide.
On to Hawaii
The Rainbow Warriors finally had a chance to catch their breath last week after an absurdly long month of plane rides. With trips to Australia, Ann Arbor and Tucson with a home game wedged in, Hawaii had a long September. Frankly, it's hard to figure out what kind of team they are as fatigue likely has played a factor and they haven't played anyone from the G5 yet.
Hawaii head man Nick Rolovich certainly knows a lot of Nevada's personnel, which brings an interesting flavor to this match-up. I don't know how to quantify this but it should play a factor. Rolovich started Ikaika Woolsey the first four games but has tabbed sophomore Dru Brown as his starter for Saturday. Brown has been Woolsey's relief this season, appearing in three games and completing 16 of 30 passes for 205 yards and an interception.
The Rainbow Warriors have a legitimate wide receiver threat in Marcus Kemp who has caught 18 balls this season for 353 yards and four scores. They're led on the ground by wonderfully named tailback Diocemy Saint Juste, who has 50 carries on the season for 259 yards and two TD's. Hawaii has run the ball effectively, averaging 4.5 yards per carry on 150 tries on the year.
Offensively, Rolovich's team is balanced. Defensively, they've gotten torched and this is where I have difficulty previewing this game. Cal and Michigan, while different, are elite offensive teams and Arizona isn't far behind them. Hawaii has given up 49.3 points per game, 1,056 yards on the ground and 1,086 in the air. I don't think Hawaii's defense is that bad for the Mountain West, but that murder's row of offenses will make any G5 defense look sub par.
Polian's teams have consistently tried to run the ball in his 3.25 seasons here and Hawaii has given up 6.36 yards per carry this season. The key for Nevada will be to get good yardage on 1st and 2nd downs as the Pack has really struggled in 3rd and 7+ this season on offense. Both of these teams have been good in the Gold Zone, the Rainbow Warriors are 8/9 while Nevada is 14/17. Hawaii has given up 21 tries in the Gold Zone and 19 of those have led to scores.
This is a must-win game for Polian and the Pack. If they want to have any chance of competing for the West Division title, this is a game they cannot drop. I think the Mountain West really gave Nevada the finger this season with this schedule, not only scheduling Hawaii after the Purdue trip but also not giving them a bye week after. This game is important for Polian on many different levels but I'd expect Rolovich to have some thing up his Hawaiian shirt sleeve.
Around the MWC
The conference has two teams ranked this week. San Diego State is 24th in the Coaches' Poll and 19th in the AP Poll. Boise State enters the AP Poll at 24th...Fresno State blew a 31-0 1st Half lead to Tulsa, eventually losing in 2OT...Air Force got a nice win on the road in Logan last week...The MWC boasts five teams (Fresno State, Hawaii, New Mexico, San Jose State and UNLV) that have not beaten an FBS team this season...Utah State heads to Boise State, after smashing the Broncos by 26 a year ago...The Border War takes place this weekend, with Wyoming headed to Fort Collins...
Fremont's Bet (2-1): Another week, another three time zone trip for the Pack, their third in four weeks. I anticipate this being a close game and I don't know what to expect from Brown at QB for Hawaii. I assume the Rainbow Warriors used their bye week to it's full advantage and let's not forget Nevada was down 17-0 before they came back and won last year and were down 10-6 at the Half in the last game game in Honolulu. I expect another low scoring affair, so let's roll with the Under of 58.5.