Nevada Football: Wolf Pack Vs Hawaii-Three Keys And A Prediction
The Nevada Wolf Pack start conference play at home as they host the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Can The Wolf Pack Start Conference Play at 1-0?
The Nevada Wolf Pack return home to Reno this Saturday night where they will take on the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. For both Nevada and Hawaii, this is the first Mountain West conference game of the season and both teams are looking to start conference play on a winning note.
Nevada’s offense played well last week against UTEP with quarterback Cristian Solano filling in for the injured Carson Strong. The Wolf Pack rolled up over 400 yards of offense against the Miners and 200 of those yards were gained on the ground. The Wolf Pack defense also performed well as they were able to get some critical turnovers late in the game against UTEP last Saturday night.
The Wolf Pack this Saturday will take on a Hawaii team whose offense is averaging close to 33 points per game so far this season. The Rainbow Warriors offense is a prolific unit that is led by quarterback Cole McDonald and a trio of talented wide receivers. The Hawaii offense is one of the best units in the Mountain West and the Wolf Pack defense will have their hands full this Saturday.
Here are the three keys and a prediction for the contest between Hawaii and Nevada.
Can Carson Strong keep the Nevada offense playing well?
Cristian Solano started at quarterback last week against UTEP while Carson Strong was kept out of the game due to numerous injuries he suffered in the games against Oregon and Weber State.
Solano played well as he went 13 of 19 passing for 182 yards while throwing two touchdown passes and one interception. Solano also ran for 100 yards on 10 carries as the Wolf Pack offense had its best performance since the season opener against Purdue. Malik Henry also played in the game as he went 2 for 2 passing for 21 yards.
Before he was kept out of the UTEP game, Carson Strong was struggling in his last two starts as he threw four interceptions and zero interceptions. Strong is back at quarterback for Nevada but Wolf Pack head coach Jay Norvell said this week that all three Nevada quarterbacks may play this week. If Strong is going to get the majority of snaps at quarterback against the Rainbow Warriors, he has to play like he did against Purdue for the Wolf Pack to have a good chance of defeating Hawaii.
Slow down Cole McDonald and the Hawaii offense
Cole McDonald’s play so far this season has demonstrated that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the Mountain West conference. After four games, McDonald is completing 66 percent of his passes and averaging 329 yards passing per game while throwing 13 touchdown passes. The play of McDonald is why Hawaii is second in the Mountain West passing offense and ranked sixth nationally in that category.
The trio of receivers the Rainbow Warriors have are stellar as Cedric Byrd II (33 receptions, 411 yards, six touchdowns), JoJo Ward (23 receptions, 350 yards, six touchdowns) and Jared Smart (26 receptions, 324 yards and one touchdown) are three of the best receivers in the conference.
This offense is going to present a tough challenge for the Wolf Pack defense especially in the secondary where they have struggled against good passing teams such as Purdue and Hawaii. But it is important for this Wolf Pack defense to try to slow down this Hawaii offense. The plus side for Nevada on defense is that they have recorded six interceptions so far this season and McDonald has thrown nine interceptions already this season.
If the Wolf Pack can force Hawaii’s offense to turn the ball over then Nevada will have more than a good chance to defeat the Rainbow Warriors on Saturday.
Nevada’s offensive line must win the line of scrimmage
The Wolf Pack offensive line so far this season has been inconsistent. However, they did play well last week in the win against UTEP.
Nevada’s offensive line has a favorable match-up against a Hawaii defense that while strong in the secondary, is weak when it comes to stopping the run. The Rainbow Warriors are giving up more than six yards a carry which statistically ranks them 106th in the nation in rush defense.
Nevada’s offense must take advantage of a porous Hawaii run defense by getting running backs Toa Taua, Jaxson Kincade and Kelton Moore involved. With the possibility of Nevada using all three running backs, it could be beneficial if two of the more mobile quarterbacks for Nevada, Solano and Malik Henry get involved in some run-pass option type of plays.
Bottom line is that Nevada must get the running game going against Hawaii on Saturday night.
Prediction and Score:
This should be a fun contest between Nevada and Hawaii and a game I expect to be a close contest. Hawaii’s offense is once again very prolific and Cole McDonald is a talented quarterback with some talented wide receivers at his disposal.
Nevada offense did get it going last week against UTEP with Cristian Solano at the helm but with Coach Norvell going back to Carson Strong, it is important for Strong to have the offense continue to play well.
Hawaii has the passing offense to attack a vulnerable Wolf Pack secondary but I think Nevada’s rushing attack and the defense forcing turnovers will be the reason why the Wolf Pack defeat Hawaii on Saturday night.
Score: Nevada 35 Hawaii 31