Once trailing 17-0, Nevada used a 30-3 scoring advantage in the final 35 minutes of play to race past Hawai’i on Homecoming Saturday in a big comeback victory. The Wolf Pack (4-4, 2-2) defeated the Rainbow Warriors (2-6, 0-3), 30-20, in front of 19,992 fans at Mackay Stadium to pull back to .500 on the season.
Senior DE Ian Seau tallied 4.0 sacks – the second-most in a single game in program history – and recovered his own forced fumble late in the fourth quarter to clinch Nevada’s victory. Sophomore RB James Butler led the offense with 134 rushing yards and two scores on 28 carries.
The Pack out-rushed Hawai’i by a 244-34 margin, while its 34 allowed rushing yards was its fewest allowed in six seasons. The Wolf Pack defense intercepted senior QB Max Wittek three times and limited Hawai’i to 2-of-9 on third downs.
How It Happened: The game was looking gloomy for Nevada after Hawaii’s Devan Stubblefield caught a nine-yard touchdown pass to put the ‘Bows in front, 17-0, with 5:24 remaining in the half. The Wolf Pack flipped the script and fought back valiantly from that point on.
Butler scored from 1-yard out for Nevada’s first touchdown with 1:12 left in the half. Following two 15-yard penalties on Hawai’i, the Pack’s ensuing kickoff occurred at the opposing 35-yard line. After each team called timeout to assess the situation, Zuzo recovered his own onside kick before converting a 40-yard field goal. Zuzo’s kick made it 17-10 at halftime, but more importantly, it marked a big momentum shift in the game.
After both teams punted on their first drives of the second half, Zuzo split the uprights from 29 yards to make it 17-13 with 7:43 left in the third. Hawai’i scored its final points of the game to expand its lead back to seven with a 47-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
Nevada out-scored Hawai’i 17-0 in the fourth quarter – its top fourth quarter scoring margin of the season. Three of the Rainbow Warriors’ drives in the fourth quarter ended in turnovers. Junior TE Jarred Gipson tied the game with 14:02 remaining on a five-yard TD pass from junior QB Tyler Stewart.
Redshirt freshman DB Asauni Rufus’s first career interception gave Nevada the ball in opposing territory before Zuzo hit a go-ahead, 30-yard field goal to make it 23-20 with nine minutes left in the game.
Senior LB Jordan Dobrich intercepted Wittek on 3rd-and-long and returned the pick 24 yards to the opposing 21-yard line with just over three minutes remaining. Nevada scored in four plays as Butler’s second touchdown of the game made it 30-20 with 2:20 left to play.
Hawai’i quickly drove 49 yards into Pack territory before Seau tallied his fourth sack of the game, stripping Wittek while recovering his own fumble to clinch the victory.
Player of the Game: Ian Seau played one of his most dominant career games with 4.0 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. His 4.0 sacks were the second-most in program history – just half a sack away from Jorge Cordova’s program record of 4.5 sacks against Washington on Oct. 11, 2003. Seau recovered his own forced fumble late in the game to clinch Nevada’s victory.
Honorable mention honors go to Butler and Zuzo. Butler tallied his fourth 100+ rushing game of the season while giving Nevada momentum with numerous second-effort runs. Zuzo went 3-of-3 to match a career-high while recovering his own onside kick in a big special teams effort.
Play of the Game: Zuzo’s aforementioned onside kick gave Nevada a huge boost in momentum. The team lined up as if it would be an onside kick to the left, but Zuzo put a perfectly-weighted kick right in front of him and promptly fell on it once it traveled 10 yards. Nevada went into halftime only trailing by one score after Zuzo’s onside kick and 29-yard field goal made it 17-10. Entering the locker room with momentum thanks to Zuzo’s play, Nevada went on to out-score Hawai’i, 20-3, in the second half.
What it Means: The Wolf Pack received a big dose of momentum entering its bye week. After losing at Wyoming last week and trailing 17-0 today, Nevada was facing significant pressure. The Pack responded valiantly and displayed both physical and mental toughness to bounce back. Today’s comeback win will re-ignite Nevada’s hopes to play in the postseason for the 10th time in the past 11 seasons.
Nevada Press Release
Up Next: After eight straight games to open the season, Nevada has a bye week before playing at Fresno State (2-6, 1-4) on Thursday, Nov. 5. The Bulldogs lost, 42-14, today to Air Force and will also have a bye before hosting Nevada.