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Nevada football set for long-awaited return as Wyoming invades Reno

Published: Oct. 23, 2020 at 7:37 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The Wolf Pack football team is finally set to take the field.

After what amounted to a two-month postponement of the Mountain West’s season, Nevada will play the first of eight scheduled games in eight weeks when it hosts Wyoming at Mackay Stadium Saturday at 4 p.m.

The Wolf Pack expects to improve from last year’s inconsistent season, which ended with a 7-6 record.

"People are going to see our identity show a little more,” said Matt Mumme, Nevada’s associate head coach and offensive coordinator. “I can’t wait to watch them play Saturday and let these guys loose.”

Mumme says having stability at quarterback will make a huge difference. In 2019, freshman starter Carson Strong was replaced by Cristian Solano and Malik Henry before finishing the season back under center.

In 2020, Mumme says the now-redshirt sophomore has made big strides, solidifying himself as the Pack’s QB1.

“He’s spent a lot of time looking at what he did last year and how to get better as the mistakes he’s made," said Mumme. “He’s owning the offense.”

Nevada also brings back plenty of offensive playmakers, most notably wide receivers Elijah Cooks and Romeo Doubs as well as runningbacks Toa Taua and Devonte Lee.

The Wolf Pack did shake up its coaching staff. Thomas Sheffield now leads the special teams, which returns sophomore kicker Brandon Talton. Brian Ward is the new defensive coordinator, a group looking to prove itself after a mixed bag of results in 2019.

“It’s kind of surreal," said senior linebacker Lawson Hall, speaking on the season finally arriving. "It’s unbelieveable we’re to this point.”

Hall, who was voted as one of the team’s four captains, says there’s a different look in this year’s Wolf Pack squad, one which believes they can compete for the program’s first Mountain West championship.

“A lot of guys are doing extra, watching extra film, asking questions, trying to make themselves physically ready," said Hall. "Guys are more hungry. They know we have a legitimate shot.”

Jay Norvell enters his fourth season as Nevada’s head coach. And he’ll enter the first game with a heavy heart, following the loss of his father, Merritt Norvell at age 79.

Merritt Norvell played runningback for Wisconsin in the early-60s. He then made history by becoming the first black athletic director ever in the Big-10, serving the role at Michigan State from 1995-99.

“I know Jay respects his dad, more than anything, for what he’s done for him in his life,” said Mumme. “It was really hard for our team to hear it.”

“We all said we’re going to come out and play our best game for him game one," said Hall. "Instead of us down for him, he’d want us to go out and play our best game.”

After spending the start of the week in Michigan, Norvell is back in Reno. He posted a statement to his Twitter account, saying in part, “my father gave his entire life to help others.”

Nevada and Wyoming kickoff Saturday at 4 p.m. from a fan-less Mackay Stadium. The school is working on its plan to host a 10% capacity crowd, a plan which would need county and state approval.

The school will host 250 people - mostly family of players and coaches - per the state’s increased limit on gatherings.

To learn more about the matchup, check out the Wolf Pack’s game preview.

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