Hawaii’s Defense Stifles Nevada To Win, 24-21
Wolf Pack’s offense runs into a scheme it couldn’t get around.
Warriors secondary had a big game.
One of the big questions heading into the Nevada vs. Hawaii game was if the Warriors’ solid secondary could at the very least slow down the Wolf Pack passing attack led by Carson Strong slinging the ball to Romeo Doubs.
The answer was the Hawaii defense dominating the Nevada passing game. The Warriors coaches used a scheme that dropped eight defenders in coverage to not get beat the passing game. Hawaii was content in allowing the Nevada ground game to gash them, and it did as Toa Taua rushed for a season-high 131 yards and Devonte Lee chipped in with 81 yards on 14 carries.
You colddddddd, @TheToaTaua.
— Nevada Football (@NevadaFootball) November 29, 2020
The passing game was efficient with Strong completing 20 of 25 passes and two touchdowns but the downfield effect was not there with just 168 yards. That was why Hawaii was able to win 24-21.
Nevada was clearly out-coached as the offensive staff did not make adjustments to the passing game. Romeo Doubs was held to just one catch for 10 yards and also was his only target on the day. Tight end Cole Turner took advantage of the defense with six catches for 48 yards and a score.
“We beat a very good football team tonight. The guys executed a great gameplan. The game plan was to take (Nevada wide receiver Romeo) Doubs out of it,” Hawaii head coach Todd Graham of the scheme. “We knew in doing that, they were going to have some run yards. Every time they ran the ball, we thought that was a good thing. I know we gave up too much run because of some missed tackles and things like that, but I was very pleased with our overall team and how we played tonight. I thought we took a giant step forward and I’m really proud of our guys.”
Despite the offense being a shell of its self, Nevada had chances to win this game but their defense and lack of discipline hurt them a lot. The Wolf Pack had eight penalties for 79 yards.
The first big penalty was a personal foul in the second quarter by Lamin Touray which put Hawaii inside the 10-yard line and they scored a touchdown one play later. Another personal foul in the third quarter allowed Hawaii to continue on to score a touchdown on a 99-yard drive.
Then the final costly defensive issues came on the final drive of the game. Before Hawaii got the ball, Calvin Turner returned the kick to 47 yards to the Wolf Pack 46.
Turner was a key aspect all game long as he is clearly becoming the league’s top newcomer and is valuable in the return, receiving, and rushing game. He ended the day with 105 yards from scrimmage, a touchdown, and that 47 yards on that kick return were arguably his most valuable yards.
Nevada was down just three points and forced a 4th-and-6 for Hawaii but it was Turner who made a key first down with a nine-yard reception. Then on 3rd-and-7, Hawaii went for the end zone and there was a pass interference call that gave the Warriors a first down and then they just took the victory formation three times for the win.
This game showed two things. Even when the Wolf Pack don’t play well and despite missed chances, they were still in contention to win and head coach Jay Norvell noted that in his post-game press conference.
“Obviously, very disappointed,” Norvell said. “We had several opportunities to respond and win the game and we just fell short in every phase really: offense, defense and special teams. We’ve been doing a good job in responding in those areas when we had to win a game like this, but we didn’t do it tonight. I’m really disappointed in our inability to take advantage of our field position.”
A lot of the credit for this Hawaii win goes to defensive coordinator Victor Santa Cruz who came up with a gameplan to shut down one of the most explosive teams in the country.