Football: 10 things to look for against Hawaii
Ten things to look for when the Nevada Wolf Pack takes on the Hawaii Warriors Saturday night in Honolulu . . .
1. Can the Wolf Pack slow down Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz?
Moniz is giving Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore some serious competition for Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors. OK, yes, a Hawaii quarterback will always have eye-popping numbers. Throwing the ball, after all, is all they do on offense. But Moniz, a junior, has been remarkably efficient this year with 18 touchdowns and just four interceptions. His 161.9 passer rating is second to just Moore’s 183.3. A year ago Moniz, with just two full games of experience under his belt, passed for 374 yards and three touchdowns against the Pack. Holding Moniz under 350 yards would be a solid game by the Pack secondary.
2. Can the Wolf Pack beat Hawaii in Honolulu?
There are very few people alive who have actually seen the Wolf Pack beat Hawaii in a football game on the island. It was 1948. The war had just ended a few years earlier. Hawaii wasn’t even a state. Chris Ault had just turned 2-years-old and only had a dozen or so plays drawn up in his offensive playbook. Crazy things happen to the Pack in the middle of the Pacific. It’s not that they play horribly against the Warriors on the island of Oahu. The Wolf Pack always fights as bravely and courageously as the USS Nevada did on Dec. 7, 1941. But the end result (six losses in a row at Honolulu to Hawaii) is also similar.
3. Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares
Get used to hearing those names, Pack fans. The two Hawaii wide receivers are a frequent target of Moniz’s. Salas has 216 catches in his career (the most of any active player in the nation) and Pilares has 166. The two have combined for 95 catches this year for 1,483 yards and 16 touchdowns this year (Salas is 50-757-7, Pilares is 45-726-9). Pilares had 18 catches for 217 yards in one game this year against Louisiana Tech and caught 176 yards worth of passes against USC. Salas caught nine passes for 148 yards and two scores last week in a 49-27 victory at Fresno State. These two can simply wear a secondary out. They are going to get their catches. The key is keeping them out of the end zone.
4. What’s that? A Hawaii running attack?
Make no mistake, the Warriors aren’t going to destroy anybody on the ground. You can’t run off the island, remember. Hawaii is one of the worst teams in the nation (117th out of 120) at running the ball at 75 yards a game. But that’s only because they only run it an average of 19 times a game. The Warriors can run when they want to, averaging a respectable 3.9 a rush (4th best in the WAC). Running back Alex Green can hurt you as evidenced by his 96 yards and three touchdowns last week at Fresno State.
5. The Wolf Pack might stick to the run
The Warriors won’t scare you with their defense. But they do have a secondary that likes to make big plays. Jeramy Bryant, from Carson, Calif., has four interceptions this year and Mana Silva, a former Oregon State player, has three. Richard Torres, from Oahu, has 30 tackles and has defensed three passes and Lametrius Davis, from Portland, has 26 tackles. Aaron Brown, from Puyallup, Wash., doesn’t even start and has 33 tackles, five for a loss and three sacks. That’s a lot of big plays by a secondary after just six games.
6. Expect Vai Taua to have another big night
The Wolf Pack running back has been as good as any back in the country over the last five games. He has rushed for 100 yards or more in each of those five games for a combined total of 786 yards. If the Pack offensive line can find a way to keep Hawaii linebacker Corey Paredes (a WAC-high 73 tackles) off Taua’s back, expect another triple-digit game for the Pack senior. Taua has carried the ball in two previous games in his career against Hawaii and has gone over 100 yards both times. Something to keep in mind: Taua needs 185 yards to become just the fourth player in Wolf Pack history to gain 4,000 yards in his career. Frank Hawkins (5,333 yards), Charvez Foger (4,484) and Chris Lemon (4,246) are the others.
7. Can Pack wide receivers produce touchdowns?
A Wolf Pack wide receiver has not caught a touchdown pass since Tray Session hauled in a TD pass in the first quarter against Cal four games ago. Wide receiver Rishard Matthews also scored a TD in that game but it was after recovering his own fumble. No Pack wide receiver has caught a TD pass in the last three games. Kaepernick has thrown just two TD passes to a wide receiver all year, both to Session.
8. Are interceptions a reason to worry?
Kaepernick has thrown one interception in each of his last three games. It’s the first time he has been intercepted at least once in three consecutive games within the same season in his Pack career. We have not seen the normally mistake-free Kaepernick over the last three games (three interceptions and just two TD passes). Over his 14 previous games before this latest three-game stretch, Kaepernick had thrown 25 touchdown passes against just two interceptions.
9. Expect a ton of offense
The Wolf Pack is the No. 2 offense in the nation at 545 yards a game. Hawaii is sixth at 497 a game. Hawaii averages 7.58 yards on every play. The Pack averages 7.4. The Wolf Pack is seventh in the nation in scoring at 43 points a game. Hawaii is 11th at 39 a game. If you get up off the couch to go get another soft drink, you might miss three touchdowns.
10. Can the Wolf Pack overcome some adversity?
We still don’t know. The Pack has yet to trail in a game this year. The last time the Pack trailed in a game was last December against SMU at Honolulu, a 45-10 loss. The hunch here is that the Pack will do just fine if they ever find themselves behind in a game this year. Don’t forget they were behind in five different games last year in which they rallied to win, including a 14-0 deficit to Hawaii at Mackay Stadium in an eventual 31-21 victory.