Outside the interview room at Aloha Stadium, Hawaii quarterbacks past and present converged.
"’Sup baller," Colt Brennan said, giving Bryant Moniz a solid pat on the back. "Good stuff, keep it up."
The congratulatory greeting from one of the program’s most decorated players was part of a postgame cooldown diametrically opposed to the one Moniz had endured the last time he faced Nevada.
It was a little less than a year ago when Moniz emerged from the locker room outside Mackay Stadium in Reno, Nev., the redness in his eyes betraying the ache in his heart.
Two critical interceptions had left him despondent after an early Warriors lead dissolved into a 10-point loss to the Wolf Pack.
Fast-forward to last night in Halawa, and Moniz again led the Warriors to two first-quarter touchdowns as the Warriors bolted to a 17-0 lead against the Wolf Pack.
This time, feeding off a spirited defensive performance, the Warriors were able to finish the job to hand 19th-ranked Nevada its first loss of the season.
"I remember that game last year and I was at probably my lowest point since I’ve been here," Moniz said following a redemptive 27-21 victory at Aloha Stadium. "I felt like I lost the game for the team. So it was a big win for us today."
Moniz’s five-game streak of passing for at least 300 yards ended last night and his 287 yards against the Pack could hurt his standing in the national charts. But that mattered little in the wake of a win that kept the Warriors atop the Western Athletic Conference.
"The main category is the W," Moniz said.
"These past three weeks were all teams we lost to last year, so it’s a revenge kind of thing."
Moniz threw two touchdown passes to Kealoha Pilares in the first quarter, but the expected shootout between UH’s kiko offense and Nevada’s pistol took three quarters to materialize as Nevada battled back from a 17-0 deficit to close to 20-14 with 9:30 left.
But UH put together a six-play, 57-yard drive capped by Moniz’s third touchdown pass of the night, an 11-yarder to Royce Pollard to give the Warriors just enough cushion to hold off Nevada’s late rally.
On the drive’s third play, Moniz found himself in danger of being sacked a fifth time. Moniz somehow escaped and scrambled to his left, firing a pass downfield as he approached the sideline that Salas snagged for a crucial first down.
"It was all Mo," said Salas, who caught 11 passes for 153 yards. "I don’t know how many tackles he broke back there. He made the play and all I had to do was find the open spot."
"Unbelievable," UH offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said. "I don’t know how he gets away from that and that’s what he gives us. He’s got heart. He’s got a lot of pride playing in front of these people."
Moniz completed 26 of 36 passes, and most notably didn’t throw an interception, and thus could celebrate one that didn’t get away.
"I was surprised how down he was (after last year’s Nevada game)," Rolovich said. "It’s because he has high expectations of himself and he knows how good he can be. He believes he can be great and I think people are seeing that."