Nevada Wolf Pack blown out at home by Hawaii
RENO — The Nevada Wolf Pack’s performance Saturday night was even more miserable than the cold and wet weather at Mackay Stadium.
A Homecoming crowd had to endure the elements and a stunning 54-3 Wolf Pack loss to the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in the Mountain West opener for both teams. It is the largest home defeat for the Wolf Pack since a 55-0 loss to Santa Clara in 1950 and the most points the Pack has allowed at home since a 61-14 loss to Fresno State in 2001.
“I just told the kids that we’ve played five football games and we have to find some consistency,” Norvell told 630-AM after the game. “Mental toughness is a tricky thing and we’ve showed a lot of it at times (this year) and tonight we showed very little.
“We just made so many mistakes that it’s hard to keep count. I expect us to take accountability for how we played and we’ve just got to find a way to make them better.”
Almost nothing went right for the Pack, which fell to 3-2 overall and 0-1 in the Mountain West. Hawaii (4-1, 1-0) held the Wolf Pack offense to 16 first downs and just 205 yards while the Rainbow Warriors piled up 26 first downs and 512 yards.
Wolf Pack quarterbacks Carson Strong and Cristian Solano were just a combined 18-of-31 for 105 yards while the Wolf Pack running game mustered just 98 yards on 36 carries.
Three Hawaii quarterbacks combined to complete 31-of-36 passes for 373 yards and five touchdowns while the Rainbow Warriors ground game piled up 139 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
This one was over quickly.
The Wolf Pack staggered into its halftime locker room, trailing 31-3. It is the largest deficit the Wolf Pack has faced in a conference game at halftime since it trailed Boise State 42-0 in a Western Athletic Conference game on Nov. 29, 2003.
Norvell’s biggest halftime deficit in a Mountain West game the past two seasons before Saturday night was just 17 points. The Pack trailed both Fresno State and Boise State by identical 31-14 halftime deficits in 2017.
Hawaii dominated the first 30 minutes on offense, defense and special teams with more first downs (12-9), more yards (284-133) and fewer penalties (6-2) than the Wolf Pack.
The statistics were much closer than the scoreboard.
It was a blocked Wolf Pack punt midway through the second quarter that seemed to deflate the home team. Hawaii’s Justice Augafa Augafa blocked a Quinton Conaway punt (after a high snap) and Andrew Choi scooped it up at the 2-yard line and dove into the end zone as the Rainbow Warriors took a 21-0 lead.
Hawaii had taken a 14-0 lead on a pair of Cole McDonald touchdown passes to Cedric Byrd. McDonald connected with a wide open Byrd down the middle of the Pack defense for a 36-yard score and a 7-0 lead with 8:17 to play in the first quarter to open the scoring. McDonald then led the Rainbow Warriors on an 80-yard, nine-play drive early in the second quarter, finding Byrd for a 2-yard score in the back right corner of the end zone for a 14-0 lead with 10:40 to go before halftime.
The Wolf Pack offense, meanwhile, struggled right from the start. Strong, the starter, completed 7-of-13 passes for just 46 yards and was removed from the game before the Pack’s final drive of the first half.
Strong was on the field for five drives, four of which resulted in punts.
The other Strong drive ended on 4th down at the Nevada 48-yard line as the Wolf Pack handed Hawaii another gift.
Trailing 21-0 with just under seven minutes to go in the half, the Pack elected to go for a first down on a 4th-and-2 play from its own 48-yard line. The decision backfired as a Strong pass fell incomplete, giving Hawaii a short field.
The Rainbow Warriors, as they did most of the night, took full advantage of the field position, finding the end zone in just three plays, thanks to another Pack gift.
Wolf Pack cornerback Daniel Brown was called for pass interference on the drive, giving Hawaii the ball at the Nevada 9-yard line. Running back Miles Reed did the honors from there, exploding up the middle untouched for a 9-yard score and a 28-0 Hawaii lead just 5:33 before halftime.
Solano, Strong’s replacement, moved the Pack offense well on his lone drive of the opening half, going from the Nevada 20 to the Hawaii 14 with just over a minute to play. Solano, who started last week and led the Pack to a 37-21 win at UTEP, completed 4-of-6 passes for 27 yards on his first drive. He would finish the night just 11-of-17 for 59 yards.
Solano’s first drive, though, stalled at the 14 as Solano was sacked for a 4-yard loss back to the 19, forcing the Pack to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Brandon Talton with 36 seconds to go in the half.
The Rainbow Warriors, though, wisely called a timeout with 46 seconds to go during the Pack’s field goal drive. And that decision also paid off in another three points for the Rainbow Warriors.
McDonald drove his teammates 45 yards in just five plays for a 44-yard field goal by Ryan Meskell with two seconds to go in the half for a 31-3 lead at the break. Byrd also had a 29-yard run to the Wolf Pack 42-yard line to key the drive.
Hawaii kept piling on the points early in the third quarter, taking a 38-3 lead. The Rainbow Warriors went 63 yards in just five plays as McDonald was 4-for-4 on the drive for 55 yards. He connected with Jason-Matthew Sharsh for the touchdown from 12 yards out with 11:02 to go in the third quarter.
Solano stayed in at quarterback to open the second half and finished the game. His first drive of the second half resulted in a punt and his second drive ended in the hands of Hawaii defensive back Kalen Hicks in the end zone for an interception.
Hawaii once again took full advantage of the Wolf Pack gift as McDonald engineered an 80-yard, eight-play drive for yet another touchdown and a 45-3 lead.
The final play of the drive resulted in McDonald’s fourth touchdown pass (20 yards) of the game and third to Byrd. It was Byrd’s sixth catch of the game.
The Rainbow Warriors removed McDonald from the game at three quarters. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior finished 25-of-30 for 312 yards and four touchdowns and now has 17 touchdown passes this season in five games.
Hawaii, which last won in Reno in 2007, added a safety and another touchdown to close out the scoring. The final Hawaii scoring drive was led by backup quarterback Chevan Cordeiro. Cordeiro engineered a 75-yard, nine-play scoring drive, ending with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Robert Funkhouser.
The Wolf Pack will now get a week off before hosting San Jose State on Oct. 12 at Mackay Stadium.