Last week’s loss at Purdue can be easily summarized: missed opportunities.
Nevada won the turnover battle, 4-0, but struggled mightily to move the ball on the ground while allowing the final 21 unanswered points in a 24-14 loss. The potential game-tying 27-yard field goal with 4:16 remaining went wide left.
It was just Purdue’s fourth win against an FBS team since the end of the 2012 campaign.
Following Purdue’s third turnover of the first half, the Wolf Pack (2-2, 0-0) had the ball at the Boilermaker 49 with a 14-3 lead in the second quarter. Alex Boy was forced to punt from the 33. Touchback.
Purdue then marched 80 yards on seven plays in 102 seconds to start the 21-0 run by the hosts.
Nevada will now hop on a plane to Hawaii for the Mountain West opener on Saturday night, looking for a sixth straight win over the Rainbow Warriors. First-year Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich was the offensive coordinator at Nevada from 2012-15.
It will be the team’s third long trip in four weeks, starting with the trip to Notre Dame. Last week, the Wolf Pack was in the Eastern Time Zone at Purdue. This week, it’ll be in the Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone, three hours behind the Pacific Time Zone.
At the culmination of the weekend, Nevada will have traveled 8,624 miles and covered six time zones in a nine-day window.
An early wakeup was a concern last week with a 9 a.m. PT kick. That won’t be a worry this week. Instead, the question now becomes, can the team stay awake? Kick in Honolulu is at 9 p.m. PT – or midnight in West Lafayette, Ind., home of Purdue University.
About the Rainbow Warriors
Coach: Nick Rolovich (first season, 1-3)
2016 Record: 1-3, 0-0 Mountain West
2015 Finish: 3-10, 0-8 (last in Mountain West – West)
Quarterback: The ‘Bows have a situation at the quarterback position. Senior Ikaika Woosley is the familiar name. He started 12 games as a sophomore, the final four games of last year and the first four games this year. His 4,233 career passing yards are No. 9 all time at Hawaii. However, sophomore Dru Brown is slated to make his first career start against the Pack. He’s appeared in three games, completing 16-of-30 passes for 205 yards with one pick and zero touchdowns. He’s clearly the better runner of the two, rushing for 77 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries this season. The starting stage likely won’t affect the junior college transfer. Brown played the entire second half of losses at Michigan and Arizona.
Weapons: Redshirt senior running back Diocemy Saint Juste is the lead back for a unit averaging 168 yards per game. His 259 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and two rushing touchdowns both lead the team. Senior receiver Marcus Kemp is the largest threat for opposing defenses. Kemp has 18 grabs for 353 yards, only 32 receivers in the nation have more. He also has four touchdowns already. He’s incredibly explosive after the catch, averaging 19.6 yards per reception.
What to look for?
-Playing a team after its bye can be tough. And this is the third straight week Nevada is playing an opponent coming off its idle week. Two weeks ago, Buffalo had a week off before getting smacked in Reno, 38-14. Last week, Purdue rested before getting the Pack at home. The Pack has also struggled on the road under Brian Polian, dropping 14 of 21 contests away from Mackay, including both this year. The opponents are certainly a factor, however. Five of the 14 losses are to power five schools (Purdue, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Arizona and Florida State). Still, if you remove those games, the Polian-led Pack is 7-9 on the road.
-Can the ground game get going? Nevada’s offensive line had all kinds of issues holding up against a Big 10 front last week. Purdue entered last week with the nation’s 104th ranked rushing defense (albeit through two games), and held the Pack to just 68 yards on 33 carries. James Butler and the ground game should have an easier time this weekend against a Hawaii defense that’s struggling across the board. The Rainbow Warriors are allowing 264 rushing yards per game. Only four teams in the nation have been worse. Collectively, Hawaii is allowing 49.2 points and 535.5 total yards per game. Both are 126th (of 128) in the nation. The ‘Bows’ strength of schedule is worth noting when considering the numbers. Hawaii played Cal in Australia and true road games at No. 7 Michigan and Arizona. However, UT Martin did hang 36 on Hawaii in Honolulu.
-The secondary is the strength of the defense (although senior linebacker Alex Bertrando has been a surprise). Last week, against a pass-heavy offense, Nevada allowed completions on 21-of-30 attempts for 300 yards. It remains to be seen how often Hawaii will go after the Nevada defense through the air with opponents having success on the ground. Nevada has allowed 254.8 rush yards per game, which is good for 121st in the nation. And that average is down from last week after holding the Boilermakers to 166 yards on 44 carries (3.8 yards per attempt). Hawaii is running for 168 yards a game, which ranks 10th in the Mountain West.
-Nevada entered last week with the nation’s No. 114 third-down defense before allowing Purdue to convert 11-of-15 third downs. In all of college football, only Colorado State and Arkansas State have allowed more conversions. The inability to get off the field is demoralizing for defenses. Nevada has to improve in that facet if it wants to break the seven-win ceiling this year and make a run at a spot in the Mountain West title game.
I was feeling pretty good about last week’s “upset” pick. Then the wheels fell off. The season goes on. Hawaii has lost nine straight Mountain West games, including all eight last year. It will be at home against a Nevada team that has not been a good road team, but has won two straight in Honolulu (2012, 2014). With Hawaii’s defense as bad as it’s been, and the Rainbow Warrior’s offense improved from a season ago, this could be one of the highest scoring games of the year. During the five-game winning streak over Hawaii, Nevada has averaged 251 rushing yards a contest. If the ground game flirts with that number on Saturday, Nevada will fly home a winner.
Nevada 35, Hawaii 30