Nevada will face a Hawai’ian punch | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada will face a Hawai’ian punch

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

Defense, which was non-existent in the first two games, is a big reason why Nevada has righted its ship and won three straight games.

The Pack defense, which has allowed only 11.3 points a game in the past three weeks, faces its biggest test of the season when it meets offensive juggernaut Hawai’i tonight in a Western Athletic Conference football game.

Kickoff is set for 9:05 p.m. at Aloha Stadium, and the game can be seen on KREN-TV.

This has been a series dominated by home teams. A visiting team hs yet to post a win in the past six years. Hawai’i has outscored Nevada 144-77 in 2000, 2002 and 2004. and Nevada has outscored Hawai’i 90-62 in 2001, 2003 and 2005.

‘They (Hawai’i) are looking very good,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “They’ve played good defense, and of course their offense can score from anywhere on the field. It will take a disciplined effort on our side.”

Hawai’i coach June Jones, whose team is 2-0 at home and 0-2 on the road, has been impressed with the Wolf Pack defense and its ability to force turnovers and play good pass defense.

“They hustle and they play hard,” Jones said. “They run to the football, and when it’s on the ground, they are there.

“I’m sure Nevada will put a few wrinkles in their defensive scheme, just as they always do. They will add more looks. But for the most part, we’ll see most of the same stuff we saw against them last year.”

Hawai’i boasts tremendous skill personnel at quarterback and wide receiver.

Colt Brennan, who leads the WAC in quarterback efficiency at 170.78, is 10th in the nation in that category. Brennan has completed 109 of 156 for 1,443 yards and 14 scores. He’ll be going against a pass defense ranked second in the WAC, led by cornerback Joe Garcia, defensive end J.J. Milan and linebacker Ezra Butler.

Davone Bess, who had more than 1,000 receiving yards last season, has caught 31 passes for 360 yards and three scores. Jason Rivers has stepped up and become Brennan’s second-favorite receiver with 17 catches for 248 yards and three scores. Ian Sample has 10 catches for 162 yards and two scores, and Ryan Grice-Mullen, who mised last week’s game and is doubtful this week, has 15 catces for 260 yards and two scores.

“Davone (Bess) is playing with a lot of confidence,” Jones said during his Monday press conference. “He makes quick moves and avoids a lot of tackles after he catches the ball. It’s hard to cover him, and it’s hard to play man-to-man. The receivers are beginning to execute and make their reads very well, especially in the last two games.”

No doubt Nevada will play more five and six defensive back packages than it has all year, and Kenny Wilson, assistant head coach, said that Devon Walker, Jon Amaya or De’Angelo Wilson will be used depending on the down and distance situation.

“Running after the catch is a big part of what they do,” coach Wilson said. “We have to negate the run after the catch. They are going to catch the ball, but we have to make the stops right away.”

Coach Wilson said that Brennan is even better than he was a year ago.

“His (Brennan’s) arm is stronger,” Wilson said. “He is throwing the ball with more velocity. Since last year’s game (at Nevada), he’s playing with more confidence.”

Even though Hawai’i throws the ball most of the time, Ault said that first and foremost the Pack have to respect the run. Nate Ilaoa averages 61.2 yards a game, and is dangerous on draw plays and shovel passes.

Meanwhile, Hawai’i looks to shore up its run defense, which allowed 234 yards against Eastern Illinois. The Rainbow Warriors rank fifth in the WAC against the run, yielding 160 a game.

Nevada’s running game, whether it be senior Robert Hubbard or freshman Brandon Fragger has been superb. The Pack are averaging 162 yards a game. Hubbard has a bruise in the knee area, and didn’t practice much on Tuesday. Fragger scored two touchdowns and ran for 146 yards in the 31-3 win over UNLV, which kept the Fremont Cannon in Northern Nevada for another year.

The Wolf Pack have run the ball so well that quarterback Jeff Rowe has had to put the ball in the air sparingly. Rowe attempted just 14 passes last weekend at UNLV, but no doubt he’ll have to throw it a few more times against the Hawai’i defense led by safety Leonard Peters.

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281

NEVADA (3-2, 0-1) at HAWAII (2-2, 0-1)

When: Today, 6:05 p.m.

Where: Aloha Stadium (50,000)

TV: KREN-TV (Dan Gustin and Chris Vargas)

Radio: ESPN Radio 630 AM

The prediction: Hawai’i 44, Nevada 36