Mana Silva’s eyes welled up as he considered what happened on the Aloha Stadium field not 30 minutes earlier. Nevada and its mighty pistol offense had fallen short of a comeback against Hawaii, and Silva, the hero with the game-saving interception of Colin Kaepernick, was nearly speechless.
So Mana, you’ve just sealed the game for your team — a 27-21 win over the No. 19 Wolf Pack. How are you going to celebrate?
Silva allowed himself a small grin to go along with his fourth pick of the season, which doubled as the biggest one of his life.
"I gotta go back to church. I think I’ve been blessed enough to realize," Silva paused to collect himself, "the man up there just blessed me. Just gotta take care of what I need to do."
Silva did what he needed to do last night, as did his defensive teammates in holding the potent Wolf Pack on a short leash for just enough of the game. With less than 2 minutes left, Nevada drove into UH territory and threatened to score a game-winning touchdown. But safety Richard Torres read the play perfectly, tipping a Kaepernick pass intended for Brandon Wimberly into the ready hands of Silva, who slid with joy to the FieldTurf as the stadium erupted.
UH ran out the clock and dealt Nevada its first loss of the season.
Torres, cornerback Jeramy Bryant and linebacker Corey Paredes made the big plays early to help stake UH to a 17-0 halftime lead.
Paredes tied for game-high tackle honors with nine and forced two fumbles on Kaepernick, including what would have passed for the defensive highlight of the game on many other nights. Midway through the third quarter, Kaepernick beat a UH blitz, and seeing open field between himself and the pylon, took off. But Paredes sprinted and punched the ball out of Kaepernick’s hand and into the end zone. It was initially ruled a touchdown, but Paredes clearly got there on time for a touchback. The call was reversed in UH’s favor.
"I just wanted to protect our house. Guys ain’t getting in easy, so I mean I ran my hardest, and luckily I got on the ball," Paredes said. "I mean, I know he’s fast, but I’m going to give it my all."
Torres’ end-zone pick of Kaepernick snuffed the Pack’s final drive of the first half. Bryant recovered another Kaepernick fumble forced by Paredes in the first quarter.
The vaunted pistol offense wasn’t going to fire blanks forever, and Kaepernick and Nevada broke loose with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. But Silva was ready to stop a third.
"Huge, huge. If anybody needed it, I needed it. We needed that as a unit, a defense," Bryant said with a relieved sigh.
Nevada went for 293 yards of total offense, well down from its average of 545.33 that ranked second in the country entering the game. Nevada was held without a first down until its fifth drive.
"It’s a scary offense. There’s so many things you have to stop in that offense," UH defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. "It preys on guys being indecisive. Guys being cued to wrong alignments, tied to the wrong spot. So I give all the credit to the players. They really focused in, and there was a plan, it had some complexity, they bought in and the players had a great night tonight."
On the downside for UH, linebacker George Daily-Lyles suffered a sprained right ankle.
Overall, it was still a night to celebrate.