HALAWA — Hawai‘i football coach Todd Graham had one main objective in his complex game plan headed into Saturday’s game against undefeated Nevada — contain Wolf Pack wide receiver Romeo Doubs.
Coming into Saturday night’s game against the Rainbows, Doubs has torched his opponents in four games (Wyoming, Utah State, New Mexico and San Diego) with over 100 yards receiving in each of those Wolf Pack wins.
In the game against UNLV, Doubs tallied 219 receiving yards to add to his season total of 788 yards with nine touchdown passes.
In the Wolf Pack’s 24-21 loss to the Rainbow Warriors, Hawai‘i held him to an anemic 10-yard reception to give previously-undefeated Nevada its first loss of the season.
After taking Doubs out of the game, Graham forced Nevada to run the ball in order to win.
“We knew (in taking Doubs) out of it that we would give up some run yardage, and every time they ran the ball it was good,” Graham said in a post-game press conference. “We beat a very good football team, and we executed our game plan.”
Hawai‘i was able to successfully neutralize the Wolf Pack’s high-octane offense in the first half.
Rainbow Warriors’ freshman kicker Matthew Shipley kicked a 31-yard field goal with 10:11 left to play in the second quarter to give the Rainbow Warriors a 3-0 advantage.
This was answered when Wolf Pack qurterback Carson Strong connected with wide receiver Cole Turner to culminate a 13-play, 81-yard drive with a touchdown with 2:57 left to play in the first half.
Hawai‘i, now trailing 7-3, went to one of its top playmakers, running back Calvin Turner.
Turner scored on a 7-yard pass reception from Chevan Cordeiro to give the Rainbow Warriors’ a 10-7 halftime advantage.
Changing the tempo
During the second half of the football game, the complexion of the game began to change.
What started out as a methodical and conservative game for both sides of the ball transitioned into a certified shootout.
Late in the third quarter, the Hawai‘i Rainbows’ offense began to take flight, and running back Miles Reed capped a 10-play, 99-yard drive that took 4:02 with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Reed’s touchdown run gave the Rainbow Warriors’ a 17-7 advantage.
Nevada answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive of their own, ending with a Toa Taua 1-yard touchdown run with 14:28 left in the game.
Cordeiro and the Rainbow Warriors’ offense again drove the length of the field, ending when Cordeiro split between two defenders to score on a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Warriors a 24-14 advantage with 9:31 left to play.
The Wolf Pack would answer when Strong would again drive his team the length of the field, culminating with a connection with Tory Horton on an 18-yard touchdown pass with 5:38 left in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Turner returned the ball to the Wolf Pack 40-yard line, and Hawai‘i was able to burn enough clock, forcing Nevada to use its final two timeouts before going into the victory formation and onto its third victory of the season.
“We took a giant step in developing this type of culture, and we played like we wanted,” Graham said in a post-game Zoom press conference. “We were explosive and didn’t give up as many points.”
Cordeiro emerged as the team’s primary playmaker in the win against Nevada.
Cordeiro was 26-of-32 for 246 yards and a touchdown pass, and had 15 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown rushing.
“He’s very poised and very, very talented,” Graham said. “We aren’t even scratching the surface of what he is capable of doing.”
Finding a balance
The Hawai‘i offense found a balance in their attack.
On the ground, they tallied 36 carries for 119 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Through the air, the receivers combined for 246 yards and one touchdown.
Turner was big receiving footballs out of the backfield, totaling 10 grabs for 77 yards and a touchdown.
“Calvin was tremendous, and Miles was tremendous,” Graham said. “We had a couple of big drives where we just were able to take the ball down and score.”
Hawai‘i (3-3) will have to face another elite team in the Mountain West Conference when they travel to play undefeated San Jose State (4-0) at 11 a.m. Hawai‘i time Saturday in San Jose.
“We are playing better football, but we are still not close to our potential,” Graham said. “We are making progress defensively. I am pleased with how smart these guys are, and they are laying the foundation for a great program.”