Hawaii vs. UNLV: Three Keys to a Rebels Win
The Rebels host the Warriors in the Ninth Island Showdown. Here’s our preview of how UNLV can earn the victory.
How can the Rebels earn a rivalry win?
WEEK 12: Hawaii Warriors (6-4, 3-3 Mountain West) vs. UNLV Rebels (2-7, 0-5 MW)
WHEN: Saturday, November 16 — 1:00 PM PT/11:00 AM HT
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium; Las Vegas, Nevada (35,500)
TV: The game will be available on Spectrum PPV in Hawaii only.
RADIO: The UNLV broadcast can be found in and around Las Vegas on 1100 AM and 100.9 FM.
SERIES RECORD: Hawaii leads the series 16-12. In the last meeting on November 17, 2018, the Warriors defeated the Rebels, 35-28, in Honolulu.
LAST WEEK: UNLV was on a bye after losing at Colorado State the week before, while Hawaii outlasted San Jose State at home, 42-40.
ODDS (via OddsShark): Hawaii -7
SP+ PROJECTION: Hawaii by 11.5 (75% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: Hawaii by 10.1
In their quest to break a three-game losing streak, the UNLV Rebels will have their hands full on Saturday afternoon against the Hawaii Warriors, in the latest iteration of the Ninth Island Showdown.
Nick Rolovich’s run-and-shoot didn’t seem to miss a beat even with a change at quarterback last week, but the Rebels should have plenty of opportunities themselves to light up the scoreboard against a suspect Warriors defense. Here’s how UNLV can score an upset over Hawaii.
Three Keys to a UNLV Victory
1. Use the ground game to play “keep away”.
Neither team has been especially good at defending the run of late, evidenced by the fact that Hawaii and UNLV have given up 5.71 and 6.16 yards per carry, respectively, in Mountain West play. Hawaii, however, has averaged 6.01 YPC on offense in conference action while UNLV has sputtered with just 3.16 YPC, so turning that around will be paramount.
Charles Williams will get his touches one way or another, but Chad Magyar’s reemergence could be huge. Since breaking out against Vanderbilt a month ago, the sophomore running back has seen just ten, three, and five carries in the Rebels’ last three games, but finding a way to make him successful, keeping the Hawaii offense off the field, could be the path to an upset.
2. If necessary, gamble to stay on the field.
One thing that both UNLV and Hawaii have in common is that neither team is shy about setting their punt unit aside to keep the offense on the field. The Warriors and Rebels are the Mountain West’s two most aggressive teams on fourth down and while it’s worked out more often than not for UNLV, converting 15-of-29 such tries, it’s been a definitive strength for Hawaii since they are 15-of-24.
When it comes to sidelining the Hawaii offense, Tony Sanchez shouldn’t get gun shy if the right opportunity presents itself. If you see a punt on something like 4th-and-2 anywhere on Hawaii’s side of the field, something is going wrong for UNLV. Better to go out on your shield in a high-scoring affair.
3. Eliminate the drops.
At the end of October, Pro Football Focus put together a list of rankings of each FBS team’s wide receivers and the note for UNLV was particularly galling: The Rebels had dropped 22.8% of their catchable throws to that point, the fifth-worst figure in the country, and it’s hard to imagine the situation has since improved much.
Considering that Hawaii doesn’t have the same level of pass defense as prior foes like Wyoming, Boise State or San Diego State, it looks like an opportunity for Kenyon Oblad to match Chevan Cordeiro on the stat sheet but he’ll need more help from his receivers to do so.
One thing seems certain: If you get a chance, take the over. Neither defense seems likely to offer much resistance, but it’s difficult to imagine that UNLV could match the Warriors touchdown for touchdown over a full sixty minutes. It might largely be a shootout between two rising quarterbacks, but I imagine Hawaii’s newfound prowess with running the football will make a difference late.
Hawaii 45, UNLV 35