Football: Nevada piles up big yardage in win over Hawaii
The Nevada Wolf Pack football team put a silencer on its Pistol offense Saturday at Mackay Stadium.
“If you would have asked, ‘What do you think you rushed for today?’ I would have said it was 185-190 yards,” head coach Chris Ault said of the Pack’s best-in-the-nation running attack. “When I saw it was 312 I couldn’t believe it. But it was a quiet 312.”
Different decibel level, same result. The Wolf Pack churned out a workmanlike 31-21 victory over the Hawaii Warriors in front of a crowd of 13,889.
“We struggled on offense a little bit but we also got the job done,” said wide receiver Tray Session, whose only catch of the game went for a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The Wolf Pack, 5-3 overall and 4-0 in the Western Athletic Conference, has now won five games in a row for the first time since 2006. They are also 4-0 in WAC play for the first time since joining the conference in 2000.
Still, this is the same offense, after all, that averaged 612 yards and 51 points a game over the first four games of this winning streak.
“We played all right on offense,” running back Vai Taua said. “But we have some work to do.”
The Pack’s 496 total yards of offense is its lowest since Missouri held them to 364 on Sept. 25. The 31 points is also the lowest output since Missouri held them to 21.
“Offensively we weren’t in rhythm like we have been the last few weeks,” said Kaepernick, who had another standout day, running for 114 yards and two touchdowns and passing for 184 yards and two more scores.
“Our expectations are this high,” said Ault, holding his right hand about shoulder high. “I’m just disappointed in some fundamental things that we had been doing well all season.
“Kap’s audibles were not on the money today. We just got in a rut and couldn’t get out of it.”
That Pack rut was 14 points deep less than seven minutes into the game. Hawaii (2-6, 0-5), losers of six in a row, jumped out to a 14-0 lead on a pair of touchdown passes by quarterback Bryant Moniz.
Moniz found Kealoha Pilares from 18 yards out just four minutes into the game for a 7-0 lead. He then hooked up with wide receiver Jovonte Taylor for a 71-yard touchdown pass and a 14-0 lead before the Pack offense had even picked up a first down.
“We just got everybody together on the sideline and said, “Is this a game where somebody scores 70 points or are we going to step up?'” Pack linebacker Mike Bethea said. “We stepped up and did the job.”
The final numbers, though, aren’t impressive for the Pack defense. Moniz passed for 374 yards and three touchdowns as Hawaii gained 492 total yards.
But a closer look reveals that the Pack held Hawaii to just seven points over the game’s final 53-plus minutes.
“Take away those first two touchdowns and our defense made some nice improvement today,” Ault said. “Coming into this game we needed to see some results and some improvement on defense and we did.”
The defense also came up with big plays. Mo Harvey and Doyle Miller had interceptions, equaling the team’s total over the first seven games.
“The defense made big plays and they did it consistently,” Ault said.
Harvey’s interception came with the game tied at 14-14 and set up Kaepernick’s 38-yard TD run. Miller’s interception came in the end zone with 5:15 to go in the third quarter. Session caught his first collegiate TD pass five plays later for a 28-14 Pack lead.
“You know, Doyle picked off that (same type of) pass about five times in practice this week,” Bethea said. “It was nice to see something go from the practice field to (the game).”
“Our defense kept us in the game,” Session said.
The offense also did its part, scoring 28 unanswered points over the first three quarters to take control of the game.
Kaepernick scored on runs of 2 and 38 yards and the junior also tossed a pair of touchdown passes to Vai Taua (30 yards in the second quarter) and Session (40 yards in the third quarter) as the Pack took a 28-14 lead with 3:18 to go in the third quarter.
“We played well when we had to,” said Kaepernick, who has been responsible for 10 touchdowns (six rushing, four passing) over the past two games.
Idaho pulled to within 28-21 on a 4-yard TD pass from Moniz to Taylor with just over six minutes to play. The Pack offense then went 45 yards on 10 plays, eating up exactly five minutes, to set up a 27-yard field goal by Ricky Drake (just his second this season) to put the game away.
“You know, it’s hard to score 70 points every week,” said Session with a smile. “We played well down the stretch.”