What little hope Hawaii had of defending its Western Athletic Conference championship ended tonight as the Nevada Wolf Pack secured a 42-28 victory in Reno, Nev.
Nevada is now 4-0 in the WAC and 6-3 overall, as Hawaii fell to 5-5 for the season and 3-3 in league play.
The Warriors suffered a major blow midway through the first quarter when UH quarterback Bryant Moniz went down with a broken leg that had him carted off to the UH locker room. He did not return and is lost for the season.
Meanwhile, Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo threw three touchdown passes and ran for another as the Wolf Pack generated 528 yards on offense and forced four turnovers on defense to put the Warriors in a tough spot with three games to play. Hawaii must win two of them to become bowl eligible, but with Moniz out, that could prove difficult.
Down seven at intermission, Hawaii forced a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half and eventually had a first and goal at the 1 when Joey Iosefa fumbled the handoff and Nevada recovered to survive a huge mistake.
The Wolf Pack offense took it from there, going 76 yards on nine plays, with Fajardo keeping it the final 25 to score. Jake Hurst added his fourth PAT to make it 28-14 with 9:35 left in the third.
But Hawaii came right back to cut the lead to seven on a seven-play, 54-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Iosefa. Kenton Chun added the PAT to make it 28-21 Nevada with 6:12 left in the third.
Nevada built the lead back to two touchdowns on an eight-play, 72-yard drive that culminated on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Fajardo to Shane Anderson as Hurst added his fifth PAT to make it 35-21 Nevada with 14:17 left in the game.
But Hawaii refused to go away under the directon of backup quarterback Shane Austin, who led Hawaii on an eight-play, 69-yard drive that ended on a 21-yard scoring pass from Austin to slotback Miah Ostrowski. Chun added the PAT to make it 35-28 Nevada with 11:01 left in the fourth.
The Wolf Pack put the game out of reach on the next series, going 80 yards on 13 plays. The final one was a 15-yard touchdown pass from Mason Magleby to Kolby Arendse off a fake field-goal attempt as Hurst added the PAT to give Nevada a 42-28 lead with 4:18 left in the game.
Hawaii was ahead 3-0 on a 35-yard field goal by Chun with 12:54 left in the first when Moniz was injured on a first-down play with about 6 minutes left in the opening quarter. The Warriors were forced to punt after Austin came in.
The Wolf Pack took over at their own 19 and drove 81 yards on nine plays to move ahead 7-3 with 1:18 left in the first. Nevada running back Lampford Mark scored from 4 yards out and Hurst added the PAT.
Nevada added to that lead with another methodical drive, this time going 84 yards on 11 plays to take a 14-3 advantage with 10:55 left in the second quarter. The final play was a 13-yard touchdown pass from Fajardo to wideout Rishard Matthews, who beat UH cornerback Mike Edwards on the play.
Hawaii cut the margin to 14-6 with 2:29 left in the half on a 38-yard field goal by Tyler Hadden. The drive was set up on a fumble recovery by UH linebacker Aaron Brown.
The Warriors tied it up on a blocked punt by John Hardy-Tuliau, who recovered the football in the end zone for the score. Austin hit Billy Ray Stutzmann for the 2-point conversion to tie it at 14-14 with 1:27 left in the second quarter.
But Nevada came right back to take a 21-14 lead with 19 seconds left in the half as Fajardo completed an 8-yard pass to Matthews. Hurst added his third PAT to give the Wolf Pack a seven-point halftime advantage.