Nevada has become a new-school football rival of Hawaii, though there are a few old school meetings in the head-to-head series from which to choose an entry for this week’s “Football Throwbacks.”
Reno is the rare opponent that UH has played every year since the year 2000. In fact, Fresno State is the only other. (UH did not encounter San Jose State in the Warriors’ first year in the Mountain West in 2012, otherwise the Spartans would be on that list, too.)
Over that 21st century span, Nevada is 10-8 against UH, accounting for the bulk of a 13-9 Wolf Pack series lead heading into today’s matchup at Aloha Stadium.
UH does, however, have an 8-5 lead on Oahu. The first of those victories was earned on Nov. 23, 1968, 21-0 at the old Honolulu Stadium. It was the overall first for UH in a series that began in 1920 and was renewed in 1946 and ’48.
It was an interesting time in UH’s football history. If you click the below link of the complete page of the next day’s Honolulu Advertiser/Star-Bulletin, you can read Advertiser sports editor Hal Wood’s account of the game … as well as his musings about a possible future stadium to replace UH’s aging home venue.
Sound a little familiar?
Anyway, 1968 was the first of Dave Holmes’ six years as head coach. UH, still an NCAA independent, was on its fourth coach in four years, but Holmes guided the Rainbows to a successful start.
UH came into the Nevada matchup with a 6-2 record. Holmes, in fact, never had a losing season at Manoa, though the schedule was made up largely of programs that would be now considered lower-division or defunct like British Columbia, UC Santa Barbara and Santa Clara.
A crowd of about 14,000 was on hand at the so-called “Termite Palace” for the battle with the Wolf Pack.
It was a grind of a game. Wood wrote that “a stout-hearted Hawaii defense, led by Bill Silva, John Hoffman, Tim Buchanan, Dennis Goodrich and Jack Spithill bottled up the Nevada offensive.”
Thanks in part to punter Rich Leon, Nevada was repeatedly pinned deep. The Pack’s biggest threat to get on the board was a missed 30-yard field goal by Mike Reied in the first half.
Wood wrote that a 15-minute chunk of the first half “was mostly a matter of seeing which side could lose the most yardage from scrimmage.”
UH’s running game carried it to victory, while quarterback Larry Arnold added a touchdown throw to Ralph Kaspari. John Luster and Bill Massey had scores on the ground.
“There were some beautiful runs by Hawaii’s ball packers during the night,” Wood wrote, noting one in particular by Kaspari in which he bowled over several Pack defenders for a 28-yard pickup.
UH remained unbeaten at home with the win, although that would be undone with a 17-12 loss to California the following week in the season finale. The Rainbows finished the year at 7-3.
It was Nevada’s last game of a year that finished 3-6-1. Ten-year Wolf Pack coach Dick Trachok was replaced by Jerry Scattini after the season.
To date, it’s the only UH shutout win over UNR. The teams would not meet again until 2000, when Nevada joined the WAC and UH won 37-17 at Aloha Stadium.
Here’s a copy of the Nov. 24, 1968 Honolulu Advertiser/Star-Bulletin Sports front page. You might note another headline for a popular USC football player.