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Defenders plug up Nevada's pistol offense

By Dave Reardon

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:42 a.m. HST, Oct 17, 2010



We need to revise one of my favorite sayings after Hawaii's 27-21 punchout of Nevada last night.

Don't bring a pistol to a fistfight, unless it's loaded.

The Warriors took down the No. 19-ranked team in the nation the old-fashioned way: UH's defenders set the tone by plugging the gaps and pounding anyone in a white shirt as hard as they could — especially if they had the football in their hands. And the offense made just enough plays.

When it counted, the Hawaii D stymied tough guy tailback Vai Taua at the line of scrimmage. It disarmed Colin Kaepernick and hit Nevada over the head with its own weapon.

On this balmy Halawa evening the pistol was a misfiring Saturday Night Not Very Special, as the Warriors blanked the Wolf Pack in the first half, forcing Nevada to play from behind for the first time all season.

And, most importantly, the defense gave the offense the ball.

Turnovers made the ultimate difference, with UH taking it away four times. The Warriors cashed in on one for a score, but it turned out to be enough, and the other Nevada fumbles and interceptions came at crucial times.

Linebacker Corey Paredes is my pick for first-half-of-the-season MVP of the Warriors, who are now 5-2 and 3-0 in the WAC after their fourth win in a row. If you want to nit pick and say seven games is more than half of 13, my counter is that UH will definitely be in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. The way UH is playing and the rest of the regular season lines up, five more wins are more likely than the two needed for the bowl game.

Back to Paredes. This former walk-on makes plays every game, routine ones and big ones. Last night, two forced fumbles and team-high yet again with nine tackles.

If he doesn't knock the ball out of Kaepernick's hand as he's nearing the goal line in the third quarter, Hawaii might not have won; And we wouldn't have gotten this gem of a quote: "I seen him holding the ball one-hand, Hollywood," Paredes said. "So I just whacked it out."

Same if Richard Torres doesn't pick it off in the UH end zone right before halftime. Same if Mana Silva doesn't grab the pass tipped by Torres after Nevada recovered the onside kick to start what could've been a heart-breaking drive for 40,485 at Aloha Stadium.

Every big play by the defense — which was asked so much of — was needed.

AND IT HELPS to have Colt Brennan in the house against Nevada — even if he's just watching.

Strange, it's almost always like this with the Wolf Pack. The Hawaii defense shows up for them, and often bails out the offense.

Brennan remembers it that way. In 2006, his fumble gave Nevada a chance to win here in Hawaii. But a tremendous goal-line stand saved the day.

"Absolutely," said Brennan, who ushered the Warriors onto the field last night. "I thought of my junior year and how the defense stepped up."

Then, in 2007, Brennan was coming off a concussion and appeared briefly in the first series when UH played at Reno, Nev., in the middle of its unbeaten regular season. People remember Tyler Graunke leading the comeback drive and Dan Kelly hitting the winning field goal (twice). But there is no Legend of the Iceman without the big defensive plays by Keala Watson and Desmond Thomas.

GREG MCMACKIN agreed this was the biggest win in his three seasons as UH head coach.

"I think so," he said. "People don't realize we were going through a rebuilding process."

After beating Fresno State and Nevada back-to-back, they're now the No. 1 challenge to Boise State.

As super slot receiver Greg Salas said after 11 catches for 153 yards, beating the teams fleeing the conference is extra sweet because they perceived themselves as "a little too good for us."

Respect is on its way, and the 2010 Warriors know it. Last night they took another big step toward their own identity as winners, the old-fashioned way.

"Now guys gotta worry about us," Paredes said.

Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/davereardon.






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