By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
The University of Hawaii football team went 5-4 last season under first-year head coach Todd Graham. Perhaps no win was sweeter than the Rainbow Warriors’ upset over the Nevada Wolf Pack, who came into the game with a 5-0 record. (UH was 2-3 at the time.) This year, led by QB Carson Strong, Nevada is a strong favorite to win the MW West Division. Here’s a closer look at the Wolf Pack:
Game Date: Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021 @ Nevada (4:30 p.m. HST)
2020 Record: 7-2 (6-2 in MW)
Head Coach: Jay Norvell (5th season, 25-22 overall, 18-14 in MW)
♦ Nevada leads the all-time series with Hawaii, 14-11. However, the Wolf Pack are 8-2 at home against the Rainbow Warriors, and this year’s game will be in Reno. Last season, Hawaii beat Nevada, 24-21, at Aloha Stadium, handing the Wolf Pack their first loss of the season. Chevan Cordeiro passed for 246 yards and ran for another 62 yards to pace the UH attack.
♦ Wolf Pack QB Carson Strong, the reigning Mountain West Conference “Offensive Player of the Year,” is considered a future NFL first-round draft pick. In fact, last month Sports Illustrated tabbed the 6’4, 215-lb. junior as the No. 1 overall selection in next year’s draft.
♦ ProFootballNetwork.com wrote of Strong: “The Nevada QB has a great arm along with natural mechanics, accuracy, pocket navigation ability, eye discipline, and anticipation. In structure, he has the processing ability and quickness to make the most of his system. He also has enough mobility to manipulate the pocket, stay on his feet, and perform some limited work off-platform.”
♦ Nevada head coach Jay Norvell is well acquainted with UH’s Todd Graham. Norvell was Graham’s passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach in 2016 at Arizona State. In his four seasons in Reno, Norvell has led the program to three postseason bowl games. His coaching résumé also includes assistant stints with Iowa, Wisconsin, the Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, Nebraska, UCLA, Oklahoma and Texas.
♦ Former record-setting Hawaii QB Timmy Chang enters his fifth season as a Wolf Pack assistant coach. The Saint Louis School alum is now the wide receivers coach after coaching the tight ends for the previous three seasons.
♦ The UH defense faces a stiff challenge against Nevada. Last season, the Wolf Pack finished second in the league in passing offense (319.8 yards per game) and second in total offense (441.4). What’s more, all but one offensive starter returns from 2020. If the middle-of-the-pack Nevada defense can step up a notch or two, the Wolf Pack should live up to their preseason ranking as the favorite in the MW West Division.
♦ Due to poor air quality, the Wolf Pack have relocated to the Stanford University campus to finish their fall camp. Chris Murray of Nevada Sports Net reported yesterday: “The Wolf Pack moved its Monday morning practice indoors to a walkthrough. It was the third time since fall camp started Aug. 6 that Nevada has had to move its practice to the basketball courts on campus because of high AQI figures.”
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