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Wolf Pack grades: Nevada dominant in 40-22 win at Hawaii

Jay Norvell
Jay Norvell and the Wolf Pack whacked Hawaii. (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

Grades from Nevada’s 40-22 win over Hawaii on Saturday night at Aloha Stadium.

Offense

B — Nevada showed great offensive balance, passing for 261 yards and rushing for 220 more. Quarterback Ty Gangi was an efficient 21-of-29 for 247 yards and a touchdown, an excellent 29-yard scoring pass to Elijah Cooks, who has touchdowns in four of his last five games. After two rough outings on the ground, Nevada averaged 6.1 yards per carry and scored four times via the run. Toa Taua bounced back after two sub-par games by rushing for 126 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He was especially effective in the wildcat formation. Devonte Lee scored twice and Kelton Moore added a touchdown. Nevada spread the ball around, with seven players recording at least two catches. The Wolf Pack overcame some third-down difficulties (it was 3-of-10 on that down) and finally scored in the fourth quarter (14 points) after being held scoreless in the final frame in the three games preceding this one. The offensive line played well and Nevada limited itself to one offensive turnover, that coming on a fumble by Taua. The Wolf Pack could have scored 55-plus in this one, but 40 isn't shabby.

Defense

B+ — This unit was stellar again. Yes, Hawaii scored 22 points, but it could have been much more given some favorable field position after Nevada's special teams miscues. (Hawaii started one possession on the Nevada 18 and another on the Nevada 28 following punt fumbles). The Wolf Pack made Hawaii’s potent offensive attack look very average. Nevada’s front line limited the Rainbow Warriors to 112 rushing yards on 35 carries, that 3.2 yards per carry mark being in line with what the Wolf Pack has done this season. It was equally impressive in the pass game, the only demerit being a 70-yard touchdown pass to Josh Ursua allowed to end the first quarter. Outside of that play, Nevada neutered Hawaii’s offense. Hawaii QB Cole McDonald was 19-of-37 for 259 yards and three touchdowns, but the big plays were lacking. The Wolf Pack had five sacks, 10 tackles for loss and won the crucial plays, holding Hawaii to 3-of-15 on third and 1-of-5 on fourth down. The unit didn’t force any turnovers, but this was a great showing. Special shoutout to defensive end Korey Rush, who had a career-high three sacks and four tackles for loss in the win.

Special teams

C- — The Wolf Pack recovered three onside kicks, with Gabe Sewell returning one 22 yards. The coverage units were good and limited Hawaii from doing any damage. P Quinton Conaway averaged 42.5 yards on two punts and Ty Gangi had a beautiful 43-yard pooch punt to pin the Rainbow Warriors deep in their own territory. K Ramiz Ahmed made 2-of-3 field goal, the two makes coming from 23 and 27 yards and the miss coming from 56 yards. Ahmed also made all four of his extra-point attempts. The big reason the grade ended up below average is Nevada’s two punt fumbles. One was legit (the one by Romeo Doubs). One wasn’t (Kaleb Fossum was interfered with on his fumble). Those two miscues could have cost Nevada if the offense and defense didn’t play as well as they did, but those fumbles ended up a footnote.

Coaching

A- — Hawaii isn’t an easy place to win, but Nevada made it look easy. It dominated this game and the defense continues to look more and more impressive, the one big play allowed – the 70-yarder to Ursua – being a misplay by the middle linebacker in the Tampa 2 rather than a play-call issue. On offense, the decision to ride the wildcat as hard as Nevada did was smart and paid dividends. It sparked a run game that had been quite quiet the last two weeks. The call to go for a 56-yard field-goal attempt and the decision to go for two early in the second half were odd, but those are minor quibbles. After two emotional losses, the staff had the Wolf Pack players focused and engaged and the results showed. After losing his first eight road games as Nevada’s head coach, Jay Norvell has now secured back-to-back road win (each as a betting-line underdogs) and the Wolf Pack is a strong bet to reach a bowl after moving to 4-4 overall with games left against San Diego State, Colorado State, San Jose State and UNLV remaining. Norvell has Nevada on the right path.

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