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October 14, 2010
While much of the national media already is looking ahead to a battle of unbeatens when Nevada plays host to Boise State on Nov. 26, there's first the little matter of Nevada winning Saturday in Hawaii for the first time in more than 60 years.
Nevada hasn't won in Honolulu since 1948. The teams have met five times in Honolulu in WAC play, and Hawaii has won all five, by a total of 79 points.
"You know, nobody goes into Hawaii as favorites," Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault told reporters earlier this week. "They're a very good football team, there's no question about it. We know we have to play much better than we have in the past."
This also is a matchup of a team that loves to run (Nevada, fifth nationally in rushing offense at 314.3 yards per game) against a team that loves to pass (Hawaii, first nationally in passing offense at 421.7 yards per game).
Hawaii junior quarterback Bryant Moniz, who began his career as a Warrior as a walk-on, leads the nation in passing yards and is tied for the national lead in touchdown passes.
"He's doing unbelievable things," Hawaii coach Greg McMackin told reporters. "His leadership, his knowledge of the package, he's really worked hard to know what's going on. [Offensive coordinator] Nick Rolovich has really done a great job of coaching him. He feels that if he continues to improve ... he could be the best guy that's ever run this [offense] by the time he's done."
Nevada counters with a productive quarterback of its own. Senior Colin Kaepernick is an able triggerman for the Wolf Pack's "pistol" offense. He has run for 11 TDs and is averaging 106.5 rushing yards per game; he also has thrown for 1,321 yards and eight touchdowns.
"The thing I've noticed over the years in defending them is that Kaepernick is getting so much better throwing the ball," McMackin said. "He was a 50 percent guy to begin with, and every year he's more accurate."
Wolf Pack senior tailback Vai Taua is the leading rusher in the WAC at 139.5 yards per game, and he also has rushed for 11 touchdowns. He has five consecutive 100-yard games and has scored at least one TD in 10 consecutive games.
"I'm real pleased with the way he's running and how physical he's been," Ault said. "We're going to keep feeding him that football."
While Nevada's pass defense has made huge strides this season (more on that in a minute), Hawaii has been susceptible to the run. The Warriors are giving up 171.1 8 rushing yards per game, which ranks 85th in the nation. They have tightened up of late, but they obviously haven't seen a rushing attack as potent as Nevada's, either.
Best matchup: Hawaii pass offense vs. Nevada pass defense. In the recent past, this matchup would've been met with guffaws because Nevada's pass defense closely resembled a sieve. But the Wolf Pack have clamped down -- well, at least somewhat -- thus far. Nevada is allowing 229.7 passing yards per game, which is just 82nd nationally. But Nevada is 19th in pass efficiency defense; it has allowed just four TD passes and has eight picks and opponents are completing only 55.5 percent of their passes. Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz has thrown 18 TD passes and leads the nation with 2,245 passing yards. WRs Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares have combined for 95 receptions and 16 TDs. Nevada has had a productive pass rush, headed by E Dontay Moch.
Player on the spot: SMU QB Kyle Padron. Padron has thrown for 752 yards and six TDs in the past two games but gets a tough test Saturday against Navy, which is third nationally in pass defense. Padron has had two 100-yard receivers in each of the past two games, but Navy is allowing just 141.4 passing yards per game.
Numbers game: Two WAC quarterbacks lead the nation in certain passing categories. Boise State junior Kellen Moore is the nation's leader in passing efficiency at 183.28. Hawaii junior Bryant Moniz has thrown for a nation's-best 2,245 yards and is tied (with Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden) for the most touchdown passes with 18. He also leads the nation in total offense at 388.0 yards per game.
What they're saying
"Well, I told them we are not that good to think about anybody else but our next opponent. We can't roll the ball out and expect to win football games." -- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, on whether his team will be focused for Saturday's game against Western Michigan
"I did not vote us No. 1, and I appreciate your interest. But that's the last time I'm talking about that stuff until December.' -- Boise State coach Chris Petersen, when asked about Boise receiving one first-place vote in the coaches' poll
"We need to learn how to deal with adversity and deal with success. Right now, we're better at dealing with adversity than dealing with success. This group of players isn't accustomed to dealing with success." -- Utah State coach Gary Andersen, whose team followed up an emotional win over BYU with a loss to Louisiana Tech
"I'm telling you, coaches always are going to pull out a wrinkle. You don't know what they're going to do. All we can prepare is the film we watch. They've had 14 days to get ready for this game. That's a huge, huge advantage. That's an equalizer. There's no question about that, so it's something of concern." - Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill, on this week's opponent, Buffalo, coming in from an off-week
"We've been road warriors for 30-plus days. I didn't mind the travel and hotels. It was very nice, but it's comforting to be back home, in our backyard and around our fans. I appreciate the opposing fans, but I love our fans." -- East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill, whose team plays its first home game since Sept. 11 on Saturday
"Any time you come off a losing streak and you beat your in-state rival, it's a double whammy for your football team." -- New Mexico State coach DeWayne Walker, whose teams beat archrival New Mexico to snap an 11-game losing streak
Etc.: Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph will miss the rest of the season because of a hamstring injury. ... North Texas is down to its fourth-string quarterback, sophomore Chase Baine. Nathan Tune (hip), Derek Thompson (broken leg) and Riley Dodge (wrist) have suffered season-ending injuries. ... At 4-2, SMU is off to its best start since 1986 -- the season before it received the NCAA's "death penalty" -- and is looking to snap a 19-game non-conference road losing streak. ... WAC commissioner Karl Benson said he thinks an announcement on which teams the league will invite should come within the next two months. He also said the WAC would be a six-team football league in 2011 if Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State join the Mountain West Conference after this season. ... Southern Miss K Daniel Hrapmann made a school-record five field goals in last week's loss to East Carolina and now has made 16 consecutive field-goal attempts, including all 14 this season. ... Arkansas State has scored at least 20 points in every game this season, marking the first time since 1987 it has scored 20-plus points in six consecutive games. ... Army has scored 194 points in its six games; that is more than the Black Knights scored last season (184) and in 2008 (177). ... Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes unveiled the "wild dog" scheme last week in a win over Utah State, and it paid off to the tune of 278 rushing yards. WR Tim Molton (LSU transfer) and RB Lennon Creer (Tennessee transfer) each took snaps as Dykes called more running plays than pass plays for the first time since the opening game against Grambling. The season-high 278 yards were nearly double what Tech managed in any other game this season. ... Saturday's Army-Rutgers game is the first college game in the new Meadowlands Stadium, which is the home field of the NFL's Giants and Jets. ... Through five games, East Carolina has 15 touchdown passes, which matches its 14-game total from last season. ... Houston senior TE Wesley Scourten blocked two field-goal attempts in the second half of last week's loss to Mississippi State, the second time in his career that he has blocked two kicks in a game (the first was against Colorado State in 2008). ... Navy is playing at home this weekend for the first time since Sept. 11. ... Idaho has allowed just three points in the first quarter this season, the fewest by any WAC team in any quarter. ... All six Louisiana Tech opponents have scored on their opening possession of the second half. .. Florida Atlantic had just 12 sacks and five interceptions last season; through five games this season, the Owls have 11 sacks and four picks. ... Army leads the nation in time of possession (35:25 per game). ... Troy WR Jerrel Jernigan has 213 career receptions and is 16 behind former North Texas WR Casey Fitzgerald (229) for the Sun Belt career mark. ... Navy senior QB Ricky Dobbs has 40 career rushing touchdowns, three away from tying former QB Chris McCoy's school record, set from 1995-97. ... Temple is hopeful that RB Bernard Pierce, who has been bothered by an ankle injury, will be close to 100 percent for Saturday's game with Bowling Green.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.