Nevada (2-1) at Hawaii (1-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 22, 10:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Aloha Stadium (50,000) -- Honolulu, Hawaii. Television: NBCSN. Home Record: Nevada 1-1, Hawaii 1-0. Away Record: Nevada 1-0, Hawaii 0-1. Neutral Record: Nevada 0-0, Hawaii 0-0. Conference Record: Nevada 0-0, Hawaii 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 8-8.
GAME NOTES: Two teams that have made the transition from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West meet up in Honolulu this weekend, as the Hawaii Warriors entertain the Nevada Wolf Pack in the league opener for both squads at Aloha Stadium.
Nevada, which will be on the road again next weekend when it tangles with Texas State of the WAC, has won two of the first three games of the campaign. The squad opened 2012 with a 31-24 triumph over California on the road, but then suffered a narrow 32-31 setback versus South Florida in Reno. Last weekend the team had some trouble slowing down Northwestern State but still came away with a 45-34 triumph at home nonetheless.
As for the Warriors, they secured their first win of the new season on Saturday night when they thumped visiting Lamar by a score of 54-2, the two points by the visitors coming on a failed PAT by Hawaii which was returned the length of the field by the Cardinals. The victory was certainly a welcomed change considering the Warriors began the season two weeks earlier with a 49-10 blowout loss at top-ranked USC.
Last season, while the programs were both still part of the WAC, Nevada evened the all-time series at 8-8 thanks to a 42-28 win in Reno.
Generating 655 yards of total offense in a game that saw both teams combine for an incredible 1,240 yards, the Pack followed the lead set by running back Stefphon Jefferson who carried the ball 27 times and finished with a career- best 247 yards, en route to two touchdowns. Also having a stellar outing was quarterback Cody Fajardo who carried the ball 16 times for 118 yards and three scores and also completed 21-of-33 passes for another 237 yards and a score.
From an offensive perspective, Nevada was hitting on all cylinders as it marked a 12th straight game with at least one player rushing for 100 or more yards.
On the other side of the ball the Pack was not nearly as successful, the unit giving up 228 yards and a pair of TDs on the ground and another 357 yards and two scores through the air. Considering Northwestern State isn't even a member of the FBS, the coaching staff and the players have to be at least a little concerned with the effort.
In terms of pass defense, Nevada ranks last in the conference and 114th nationally with 323.7 ypg allowed. The run defense has also been exploited to the tune of 183.3 ypg which is eighth in the league. Put it all together and the squad is 114th in the country with a whopping 507.0 ypg permitted.
Perhaps the team is willing to make the trade off though, seeing as how the offense is first in the MWC and ninth in the country with 551.3 ypg of their own. Jefferson has blazed a trail with 176.3 ypg which ranks him second in the nation. A dual threat who is overlooked by most, Fajardo is responsible for 362.3 ypg in total offense and is why defenses have to prepare so much the week before meeting the Pack.
Not usually known as a running team, the Warriors were able to gain some live practice in that area against Lamar over the weekend, generating 219 yards on 48 attempts. John Lister tied for second on the unit with 55 rushing yards on 10 carries, two of those attempts finishing up in the end zone. Quarterback Sean Schroeder completed just 15 passes for 150 yards, but he too had great final results as he tossed three TDs in the onslaught.
In a span of just over two minutes, from the end of the second quarter and into the third, the Warriors scored touchdowns on a blocked punt return and also the opening kickoff of the second half.
Defensively, it was one of the most impressive efforts by Hawaii in 25 years, limiting Lamar to just 127 yards of total offense. However, the Warriors cannot lose sight of the fact that Lamar is a program that won a total of just four games last season, one of those against a program named Incarnate Word from Division II.
Hawaii's defense has seen both the good and the bad in a span of just two games thus far, so really the true measure of the squad lies somewhere in the middle. Certainly the group can be pleased with itself for being ranked 11th in the country in stopping the run (62.5 ypg), but it won't be long before that number balloons.
The same should go for the passing attack (179.0 ypg) since this is a school that historically lets fly with passes on almost every down. Obviously new head coach Norm Chow is trying to bring a different dimension to the offense, but in order for the Warriors just to keep up with the competition they'll need to throw the ball more.
The long flight to Honolulu is never an easy trip for mainland programs, but a team like Nevada is well aware of the expectations once they arrive and the pairing of Fajardo and Jefferson is something the Warriors are not used to seeing.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 48, Hawaii 31
09/19 10:34:47 ET