HONOLULU – Nevada may never want to return to the islands again after losing its sixth straight at Hawaii. By bolting for the Mountain West Conference next year, it may never have to.
Bryant Moniz threw three touchdowns, Mana Silva intercepted a late pass and Hawaii held on to upset No. 19 Nevada 27-21 on Saturday night, spoiling the Wolf Pack's perfect season.
"We knew that they've never won here and we wanted to keep that going," Moniz said.
The surging Warriors (5-2, 3-0 Western Athletic Conference) have won four straight to emerge as the top challenger to powerhouse Boise State for the WAC title.
"This one's sweet," Moniz said. "Nevada is ranked, undefeated season, leaving the WAC, we lost to them last year. I could go on and on."
Moniz threw two scoring passes to Kealoha Pilares in the first quarter and zipped an 11-yard TD strike to Royce Pollard with 5½ minutes left. But Nevada answered with its own score to pull within six with 3:06 left, then recovered an onside kick.
With Nevada driving, the crowd in a frenzy and the clock winding down, Colin Kapernick's pass was tipped into the hands of Silva to seal Hawaii's win. It was Kapernick's second interception of the night. He also fumbled twice, both forced by Corey Paredes.
"I single-handedly lost this football game tonight," Kapernick said.
Kapernick's second fumble erased a touchdown from the scoreboard. Kapernick scrambled 10 yards to the left and tried to reach across the goal line. After a review, officials ruled he fumbled into the end zone for a touchback.
"I thought I was going to get in easy, but I just didn't take care of the ball," said Kapernick, who was 14 of 26 for 159 yards and two TDs. He also carried the ball 11 times for 30 yards.
Nevada (6-1, 1-1) fell to 0-6 at Aloha Stadium and hasn't won in Honolulu since 1948. Its last loss also came at the 2009 Hawaii Bowl when it was routed by SMU.
Hawaii coach Greg McMackin said the win was satisfying."
"There's a real personal satisfaction because they don't want to play with us anymore," he said. "They're too good for us now and they're trying to do what's good for their program, I understand that, but the way it was done, I don't know if that was right or not."
Moniz finished 26 of 36 for 287 yards. His final touchdown pass capped a six-play, 57-yard drive that included a highlight-reel play. Moniz escaped the arms of a defender, and scrambled around until tossing a 37-yard pass to Greg Salas to the Nevada 14.
Salas finished with 11 catches for 153 yards.
"I just keep believing in my O-line, believing in my receivers and we were never worried," Moniz said. "Whether we're up 17 or down 17, we're going to believe in ourselves."
The showdown of two of the nation's top offenses that average a combined 1,000 yards and 80 points turned out to be a defensive duel.
"It was a lack of execution, we just didn't play like ourselves tonight," Kapernick said.
After a slow start, Nevada finally got on the scoreboard with about a minute left in the third quarter on Kapernick's 1-yard run. On fourth-and-goal, Kapernick leaned across the goal line to slice the lead to 10.
Nevada cut it to 20-14 with 9:30 left on Kapernick's swing pass to Vai Taua, who rumbled 18 yards. The score was set up by Mike Ball's 84-yard kickoff return.
Ball also caught a 10-yard TD pass late in the game, Nevada's final score.
Hawaii took a 17-0 halftime lead behind its swarming defense that plugged Nevada's pistol.
"I was telling the defense that we need to lock it down and play with our hearts," Paredes said.
The Wolf Pack, who entered the game averaging 43 points and 545.3 total yards, were held to 107 yards in the first half and 293 overall.
"Our offense was kind of just hurting ourselves once again," said Taua, who ran24 times for 91 yards, snapping his string of 100-yard games at five.
Nevada failed to score on its seven possessions in the half, going three-and-out four times and failing to convert on fourth down.
Pilares caught two TD passes in the first quarter as Hawaii took 14-0 lead.
He caught a swing pass and weaved his way through three defenders en route to the 16-yard score.
Earlier in the quarter, Moniz rolled right and found Pilares for a 6-yard TD strike, giving Hawaii a 7-0 lead. It was the first time Nevada had trailed all season.