Nevada traveled to Honolulu, Hawai’i, Saturday, Oct. 20, to play the University of Hawai’i Warriors. The Wolf Pack opened the contest two and a half point underdogs. Nevada not only won the game, but won by a score of 40 to 22.
Quarterback Ty Gangi lead the offense completing 21 of his 29 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown. He would complete the game with a 155.3 passer rating — his third-highest rating of the season.
The Pack defense was led by defensive lineman Korey Rush who finished the game with five tackles — four for loss — and three sacks. Rush led the defense to hold Hawai’i to only one fourth down conversion on five attempts.
A sack on third down forced Hawai’i to punt on their opening drive. Nevada return man Romeo Doubs fumbled the punt, giving Hawai’i the ball back on the Nevada 28-yard line. Hawai’i struck fast when quarterback Cole McDonald found wide receiver Cedric Byrd for an eight-yard touchdown pass.
Nevada bounced back following the quick strike with Gangi leading the Pack downfield setting up a 23-yard kick from kicker Ramiz Ahmed with 4:14 left on the clock in the first quarter.
Following a short possession by Hawai’i, Nevada opened shop on their own 40-yard line. The Pack caught a huge break following a pass interference call, which directly led to Gangi throwing to wide receiver Elijah Cooks for a 29-yard touchdown, giving Nevada a 10-7 lead.
In the closing seconds of the opening quarter, McDonald found wide receiver John Ursua streaking down the center of the field for a 70-yard touchdown pass to put Hawai’i up by four.
The opening drive of the second quarter saw a healthy dose of running back Toa Taua. Taua had three carries, each for at least six yards, even completing a nine-yard pass to running back Jaxson Kincaide. Despite Taua’s impressive drive, Nevada stalled out on the drive, Ahmed would put up another three cutting the Hawai’i lead to only one.
The Wolf Pack got the ball back after a turnover on downs from Hawai’i. Gangi found Cooks for a 19-yard gain following the turnover which helped to set up a five-yard touchdown run by running back Devonte Lee.
With a minute left in the first half, Taua fumbled the ball as Nevada was approaching the red zone. Hawai’i couldn’t capitalize on the turnover, taking a sack and tossing an incomplete pass before heading into halftime.
The Warriors had the ball to open the half but squandered their chances after an eight-play drive petered out. Nevada capitalized on this failed opportunity by running an eight-play drive of their own. It ended when Gangi found Cooks once again for a 40-yard touchdown pass. Ahmed missed the extra point attempt, but the scoring drive still elevated the Pack to a 26-14 lead.
Nevada’s defense was tested on the following drive with Hawai’i knocking on the door of the end zone. The Warriors had four attempts at a touchdown, but Nevada held strong, forcing a turnover on downs.
After the turnover on downs, Taua broke off a 31-yard run to the outside, breaking tackles and setting up great field position for the Wolf Pack offense. Gangi then connected with Mannix for a 36-yard gain immediately following the Taua run. The play would have gone as a Nevada touchdown, but was called back after a block in the back penalty. Ahmed attempted a long 56-yard field goal, after Gangi and the offense failed on three consecutive attempts at a first down, but came up short.
Hawai’i once again had a chance at prime real estate following a muffed punt by Nevada special teams. Luckily for the Pack, their defense once again stood strong, holding Hawai’i to another turnover on downs.
The Pack continued their great offensive performance by methodically marching down the field with a nine play, 81-yard drive. Running backs Lee and Taua were the workhorses of the drive, touching the ball on eight of the nine plays. Taua capped off the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run, pushing the Wolf Pack to 33 points.
With Hawai’i struggling on offense, head coach Nick Rolovich benched McDonald in favor of freshman quarterback Justin Uahinui. The change at quarterback didn’t do much for the Warriors with Hawai’i turning the ball over on downs once again.
After the unimpressive game debut for Uahinui, McDonald returned to the offense. Leading them downfield, McDonald found wide receiver Jojo Ward for a two-yard touchdown pass with 3:15 left in the fourth quarter. Hawai’i also converted the two-point conversion attempt when wide receiver John Ursua threw for the conversion on a short pass through a mob of Wolf Pack players, inching Hawai’i up with another seven.
Nevada responded with a score of their own after receiving great field position off a recovered onside kick. Devonte Lee scampered into the end zone for a six-yard touchdown run, putting up six more for the Wolf Pack. Following an Ahmed PAT, this would be the final score of the game.
Nevada returns to action against the San Diego State Aztecs on Saturday, Oct. 27. This will be the Pack’s first home game since suffering a heartbreaking loss to Boise State earlier this month.
San Diego State enters this game 6-1 on the season and possessing the 12th overall defense in the nation. They also hold the fifth-ranked rushing defense but are only ranked 58 against the pass. If Nevada head coach Jay Norvell plans to compete in this game, he will need to attack this weakness with Gangi at the helm.
The last time Nevada hosted SDSU was Nov. 12, 2016. The Aztecs defeated the Pack 46-16. Nevada has not defeated SDSU at home since Nov. 1, 2014 — the Pack’s only win against the Aztecs since Sept. 28, 1995.
Ryan Freeberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.