By Kyle Galdeira
After a promising start, the Hawai‘i offense sputtered, and Nevada seized the opportunity by outscoring the Rainbow Warriors 30-8 over the final three quarters as the visitors claimed a 40-22 win Saturday night on Hawaiian Financial Federal Credit Union Field at Aloha Stadium.
Sophomore quarterback Cole McDonald led Hawai‘i with three touchdowns and 259 yards through the air, but completed just 19 of his 37 pass attempts.
Hawai‘i junior receiver John Ursua hauled in seven catches for a game-high 123 yards and a score, while Dayton Furuta rushed 16 times for 55 yards to lead the ‘Bows on the ground.
With the loss, the Rainbow Warriors dropped to 6-3 and 3-1 in Mountain West Conference play.
The Wolf Pack (4-4, 2-2 Mountain West) was guided by do-it-all bruising back Toa Taua, who rushed 18 times for 126 yards and a score, caught two passes for three yards and completed his two pass attempts for 14 yards. Nevada quarterback Ty Gangi completed 21-of-29 throws for 247 yards and a touchdown.
“Credit to Nevada, they made a lot of football plays, they played well, played hard and we did not on any side of the ball,” said UH coach Nick Rolovich. “There wasn’t really a lot to smile about. There was a big dry spell, and our goal (on offense) is 35 points, and we didn’t get there tonight. We missed opportunities, and you don’t necessarily feel like you got beat, you feel like you lost.
“We knew Nevada would be tough, and I know this would have been a much closer game if we executed tonight. We have to continually grow in coverage recognition, accuracy and running the ball.”
Faced with a 33-14 deficit midway through the fourth quarter, Hawai‘i could not answer as multiple attempts on fourth down failed; the team converted one of five attempts when going for it on fourth down. The Rainbow Warriors converted just three times on 15 third downs, and managed only seven points off of three Nevada turnovers.
“If we focus in all practice long, and really dial in, we won’t have lapses in drives where we’re so slow and not coming down with passes,” said Ursua, who alluded to multiple dropped passes by UH receivers throughout the night.
Nevada’s mammoth defensive lineman Korey Rush caused havoc in the backfield, and four of his five tackles went for losses, including three sacks.
Hawai‘i took advantage of an early Nevada miscue, and following a muffed punt-return attempt by Romeo Doubs midway through the opening frame, the ‘Bows took over at the opponent’s 28-yard line. McDonald made the turnover count, and with 7:11 to play in the first quarter, the quarterback connected with Cedric Byrd on an eight-yard strike to give UH its first lead of the contest.
Nevada would threaten to tie the game on its ensuing possession, but the UH defense held, and forced to Wolf Pack to settle for a 23-yard field goal off the foot of Ramiz Ahmed. After forcing the Rainbow Warriors to punt, Nevada went 60 yards in a minute and 15 seconds, and surged ahead 10-7 as Elijah Cooks hauled in a 29-yard rainbow pass in the end zone from Gangi.
Hawai‘i wasted little time answering, and as the first-quarter clock expired, McDonald tossed a bomb to a streaking Ursua, who hauled in the pass between the hash marks and eluded two defenders en route to completing the 70-yard touchdown strike that put the home team up 14-10 at the end of an offense friendly opening frame.
Ahmed booted a 27-yard field goal to move Nevada within a point of the lead early in the second quarter after the UH defense made another stellar stand in the red zone. The Wolf Pack would then take the lead on its next drive as Devonte Lee went untouched for five yards on the ground, and the touchdown put Nevada ahead 20-14 with 6:24 to play in the first half, and the advantage stood at halftime.
(Photos by Andrew Lee / Hawaii Media Source)