RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii running back Nate Ilaoa ran for 151 yards on 14 carries during last night's WAC win over Nevada.
UH’s Ilaoa seals the deal
Hawaii running back Nate Ilaoa had some longer gains last night, but none bigger than his 12-yard burst in the final moments of the Warriors' 41-34 victory over Nevada at Aloha Stadium.
After the defense made a stand at the Warriors' 3 to preserve a lead that had suddenly shrunk to a single score, the Warriors still needed to push the ball out of the shadow of the end zone to run out the clock and seal the win.
Ilaoa got the call on the next two plays, picking up 2 yards on the first attempt, then bursting through the line for the key first down.
"You're on your 3 or 4 and we've been having trouble holding the ball, so it's a lot on your shoulders," Ilaoa said. "But the line did a great job blocking -- my hat's off to them always. I just try to pay them back by getting good runs.
"I was fortunate to get a first down, that's all I was looking for, and get down with the ball."
Those last couple of runs capped a 151-yard rushing night, tying his career high set in last season's finale against San Diego State.
The Western Athletic Conference win also marked the second time Ilaoa broke the 100-yard barrier this season. His previous season high was a 104-yard night in the home opener against UNLV.
Ilaoa, who also caught eight passes for 68 yards, was quick to share the credit for his productive night with the big guys opening the holes.
"They play really well together like five brothers out there," he said, "and I'm fortunate to have five real good brothers in front of me."
Ilaoa was having a typically steady game when he broke loose for 74 yards on a late second-quarter drive that gave Hawaii a commanding 31-14 lead.
On third down, Ilaoa took a pitch and rumbled 28 yards. Then he ripped off a 35-yard gain around the right side two plays later. An 11-yard run set up UH with fourth and 1 at the Nevada 3 and the Warriors scored on the next play to go up by 17.
When the Wolf Pack trimmed the lead to seven late in the game, Ilaoa was entrusted with protecting the ball and the lead.
"It was a nice safe call to get linemen on some people and it was basically on me just to read," Ilaoa said. "The linemen got on their guys and I was able to take advantage."
Fast starts at home: Hawaii has rewarded fans who get to their seats on time, as the Warriors have scored on their first two possessions in each of their three home games this season.
In all, the Warriors have reached the end zone on 13 of 21 first-half possessions at Aloha Stadium and converted one field goal (UH's first score last night). UH has outscored its opponents 93-30 in the first half of those games and took a 31-21 lead into the break last night.
When Nevada scored to take a 7-3 lead in the first quarter, it was the first time UH trailed at home this season.
Typical Caleb: Nevada receiver Caleb Spencer had another big game last night for the Wolf Pack.
The Kamehameha graduate finished with 106 yards on seven receptions to increase his season totals in six games to 354 yards on 32 catches. He made two key grabs for 43 yards in a fourth-quarter scoring drive that ignited the Wolf Pack's comeback from a 41-21 deficit.
"We didn't get it done at the end and that's all that matters," said Spencer, the 6-foot, 180-pound senior, who had many friends, family and well-wishers in the stands. "I knew it was going to be a close game and I knew that our defense would give us a chance at the end."
Injuries, unofficially: UH no longer makes official injury reports of its athletes due to a new school policy. But the following Hawaii players were observed in various states of discomfort during the course of last night's game:
Receiver Ian Sample seemed to have a sore hamstring, but went back in the game. Receiver Aaron Bain was dehydrated, and was taken to the locker room. Linebacker Timo Paepule had his left arm iced. Offensive lineman Hercules Satele left the game after what appeared to be a left knee injury. Outside linebacker Karl Noa had his right knee looked at by UH staff. Linebacker/safety Brad Kalilimoku had ice applied to his back rib area.