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Nevada surging as Hawaii swoons


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POSTED: Saturday, October 31, 2009

RENO, Nev. » Hawaii and Nevada have tended to use just about all 60 minutes to decide their meetings.

The last three encounters between the Warriors and Wolf Pack came down to late-game drama, with Hawaii pulling out three straight wins.

» In 2006, the Warriors defense protected a 41-34 lead by stopping the Pack on four plays from the UH 3-yard line.

» Dan Kelly provided one of the defining moments of Hawaii's Sugar Bowl run in 2007 with his “;Iceman”; field goal(s) in the final seconds of a 28-26 win.

» Last year, Greg Alexander stunned the Pack with a touchdown pass to Malcolm Lane with 20 seconds left to lift the Warriors in a 38-31 thriller.

The folks who make their living forecasting college football games have no such expectations for the series' latest entry.

As of yesterday afternoon, the sportsbook at the Grand Sierra Resort — where the Warriors are spending the weekend — listed Hawaii as a 28-point underdog entering today's Western Athletic Conference meeting with the Wolf Pack at Mackay Stadium.

The wide spread illustrates the divergent paths Hawaii (2-5, 0-4) and Nevada (4-3, 3-0) have followed since the season's opening weeks.

Hawaii hasn't tasted a win since a 2-0 start, with struggles in all three phases contributing to the program's longest losing streak since 1998. Nevada, meanwhile, righted itself after losing three straight to begin the season, winning its last four behind one of the nation's most explosive offenses.

The Wolf Pack have averaged 612 yards in total offense during the winning streak to rise to second in the country. The Pack also lead the nation in rushing offense thanks to the combination of running backs Vai Taua and Luke Lippincott chewing up yards between the tackles and quarterback Colin Kaepernick exploiting the perimeter.

“;I think this is the best offense we've faced, I really do,”; Hawaii head coach Greg McMackin said. “;They've got all kinds of talent to run the football, they've got excellent receivers and Kaepernick has really improved himself as a passer.”;

Where Kaepernick's dual-threat ability stretches defenses and tends to dominate the highlights, the Pack's production begins with a beefy offensive line.

“;They are the best O-line we've seen as far as just knocking guys off and finishing blocks and being relentless,”; UH defensive line coach Dave Aranda said.

On the other side of the ball, UH quarterback Bryant Moniz will throw into a Nevada defense that ranks next to last in the country in pass defense. But the impact of the Pack's ability to put up points extends to its defense, as the Pack picked up shootout wins the past two weeks.

“;I think they have no fears on defense because they know their offense can put up points,”; Moniz said. “;They can play a little more aggressive, try to go for interceptions, take a lot of risks.”;

Moniz retained his starting job after being cleared coming off of a mild concussion he suffered in last week's loss to Boise State.

The Warriors have struggled to find the end zone in WAC play, averaging 13.8 points in four conference losses. They've been held to single digits in two of their last three games as the big-play potential exhibited early in the season has largely evaporated.

In their first three games, the Warriors had 12 pass plays of 30 yards or longer, with three going for touchdowns. They have only four such plays since and no downfield touchdowns. Their average of 6.2 yards per pass attempt in WAC games is second-lowest in the league.

While moving the chains can help contain the Nevada offense, keeping pace with the Pack — and creating a chance to continue the trend of tight finishes in the series — could hinge on the Warriors' ability to pick up yards in chunks.

“;Bryant's doing a good job, but we're not helping him in other areas,”; offensive coordinator Ron Lee said. “;We're dropping a lot of balls, we're not getting a lot of big plays. We're going to need that, we're going to need some big plays.”;

 

WAC football

Hawaii (2-5, 0-4 WAC) at Nevada (2-4, 0-3)

When: Today, 10:05 a.m.
Where: Mackay Stadium
TV: PPV, Dig. 255
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Line: Nevada by 28

PROBABLE STARTERS

HAWAII

Offense

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
Z7Jovonte Taylor5-9170
Y2Jon Medeiros5-9185
LT77Aaron Kia6-5290
LG64Ray Hisatake6-3315
C55John Estes6-3300
RG74Raphael Ieru6-2315
RT51Austin Hansen6-4285
H1Greg Salas6-2200
X21Kealoha Pilares5-11200
QB17Bryant Moniz6-0190
RB23Leon Wright-Jackson6-1215

Defense

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
DE98Liko Satele6-2260
DT92Rocky Savaiigaea6-2305
DT49Tuika Tufaga6-2285
DE58Fetaiagogo Fonoti6-2255
STUB59R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane5-11225
MLB50Mana Lolotai6-0230
BUCK53Blaze Soares6-1245
CB2Lametrius Davis6-0190
SAM9Spencer Smith5-11205
FS19Richard Torres5-8175
CB10Kawika Ornellas5-9170

Specialists

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
PK20Scott Enos5-9180
P31Alex Dunnachie6-3235
Snap45Luke Ingram6-5210
Hold11Inoke Funaki5-11205
KR7Jovonte Taylor5-9170
PR1Greg Salas6-2200

NEVADA

Offense

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
T74Steve Haley6-5305
G62John Bender6-8325
C63Kenneth Ackerman6-4280
G75Chris Barker6-4305
T73Alonzo Durham6-4285
TE85Virgil Green6-5240
Z82Tray Session6-3175
X4Brandon Wimberly6-3195
F14Chris Wellington6-1190 
RB34Vai Taua5-10220
or7Luke Lippincott6-2215
QB10Colin Kaepernick6-6215

Defense

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
E55Dontay Moch6-1245 
T93Zack Madonick6-1285 
T95Nate Agaiava6-2285 
E99Kevin Basped6-6240 
SAM52James-Michael Johnson6-2240
MIKE36Mike Bethea6-2245
WOLF33Brandon Marshall6-1235 
CB11Antoine Thompson6-1195
SS25Mo Harvey6-3210
FS49Jonathon Amaya6-2190
CB28Isaiah Frey6-0190

Specialists

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
PK Ricky Drake6-0190
KO Ricky Drake6-0190
Punt48Brad Langley6-0200
LS40Jared Silva-Purcell5-11200
Hold15Luke Collis6-2210
PR34Vai Taua5-10220
KR5MIke Ball5-10225
 14Chris Wellington6-1190