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Nevada back in driver’s seat for Mountain West Championship; faces tough San Diego State team Saturday

Wolf Pack has won last three matchups with Aztecs
Wolf Pack has won last three matchups with Aztecs(KOLO)
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 5:20 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (Nevada Athletics) - Nevada (7-2, 4-1), following a 27-24 win over San Jose State, travels to Carson, Calif. to San Diego State (8-1, 4-1) for a 7:30 p.m. (PT) kickoff at Dignity Health Sports Park Stadium. Saturday’s contest will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network with Rich Waltz (play-by-play), Aaron Taylor (analyst), and Jenny Dell (sideline) on the call. The Wolf Pack face the Aztecs with first place in the West Division on the line. Both teams share a 4-1 conference record and, with a win, would hold an edge in the Mountain West Conference Championship race.

The Wolf Pack Radio Network will call the game as well on 94.5 FM with John Ramey (play-by-play) and Mike Edwards (analyst) in the booth, with the 60-minute pregame show to begin at 6:30 p.m. PT.

SERIES HISTORY

Nevada travels to Carson, Calif., to face San Diego State. Last year, Nevada defeated the Aztecs, 26-21, in Mackay. The two schools meet for the 13th time in history with the Aztecs owning the series 7-6. Nevada has won three of the last five meetings.

The Aztecs own the longest winning streak in the series of four games but Nevada has won the last three meetings. Each of the last three games have been decided by five or fewer points with the largest margin of victory over that time a five-point win by the Wolf Pack at Mackay Stadium last season.

Nevada won the first meeting 44-6 which is still the largest margin of victory between the two schools (11/11/1945).

DON’T THROW NEAR HENLEY

Senior linebacker Daiyan Henley leads all FBS linebackers in interceptions this season with four. Henley’s four interceptions are tied for third nationally. Henley is the only linebacker in the top 10 nationally in interceptions.

OFFENSIVE POWER

Nevada boasts the 3rd-ranked passing offense in the nation with 376.3 yards per game, 26 passing-touchdowns, and 3,387 passing yards.

The Pack is 7th in the nation in completion percentage (70.2), completing 302 of 430 pass attempts.

The Wolf Pack is 18th in the nation in scoring offense with 36.4 points per game.

QB Carson Strong leads the charge with the 4th-most passing yards in the FBS (3,197) and the 4th-most passing yards per game (355.2 - leads MWC). Strong is tied for 7th in the nation with 25 passing-touchdowns, joining Jake Haener (25; Fresno State) atop of the conference.

Strong is 10th in the nation in completion percentage (70.5), completing 289 of 410 pass attempts. He is 12th nationally in points responsible for (152), 2nd in the Mountain West Conference (1st; J. Haener - 170).

Against San Jose State, Strong connected with WR Melquan Stovall for a 43-yard strike on a 3rd down and 10 to keep the drive alive. Strong followed with a 19 yard completion to WR Justin Lockhart and a 20-yard touchdown to WR Romeo Doubs giving the Wolf Pack a 24-17 lead with 5:26 left to play in the fourth quarter.

Strong’s TD pass to Doubs was the 63rd of his career at Nevada, which tied him for 4th all-time in program history with Fred Gatlin (63; 1989-92). Strong recorded 314 yards on 36-54 passing to give him 8,390 yards for his career, which places him 5th all-time after surpassing Chris Vargas (8,130) and Fred Gatlin (8,312) on Saturday night. Strong has now thrown for 3,197 yards this season after entering the day 5th in the nation in passing yards.

NEVADA BECOMES BOWL ELIGIBLE FOR FOURTH-CONSECUTIVE YEAR

Nevada is bowl eligible for the fourth straight year under Head Coach Jay Norvell after moving to 6-2 on the year with a 51-20 victory over UNLV to retain the Fremont Cannon.

The Mountain West Conference has bowl tie-ins with the Los Angeles Bowl (12/18), Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (12/22), New Mexico Bowl (12/18), Arizona Bowl (12/31), SoFi Hawai’i Bowl (12/24), and the Tropical Smoothie Café Frisco Bowl (12/21).

Nevada defeated Tulane 38-27 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to move to 2-1 in Bowl Games under Coach Norvell, after finishing third in the MWC with a 6-2 conference record in 2020.

Bowl announcements will take place on Sunday, Dec. 5, and broadcast information for the selection show with more information will be shared prior to that date.

TURNOVER TOWEL

The Pack defense led by LB Daiyan Henley and DB Berdale Robins returned two turnovers for touchdowns. It marked the second straight game that the Pack has scored two touchdowns on defense. The Pack is 9th in the nation in forced turnovers (18).

DB Tyson Williams recorded his second interception in the last two games. It was the second straight game that Henley and Williams created turnovers.

Henley opened the scoring for the Pack with 8:27 left in the 1st quarter as DB Jordan Lee’s hit caused a fumble and Henley picked it up and ran 56 yards into the end zone to give the Pack a 7-0 lead. Henley entered the game leading linebackers nationally in interceptions with four.

Robins intercepted SJSU’s QB Nick Nash and returned it 86 yards for a touchdown with 11:55 left in the third quarter to put the Pack up 14-7. It was the first time this season that the first 14 points were scored by the defense for the Wolf Pack. It was the first interception return for a touchdown of Robins’ career and the longest scoring play for the defense this season.

TURNER NAMED REESE’S SENIOR BOWL OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Senior tight end Cole Turner was named the Reese’s Senior Bowl Offensive Player of the Week after a career-best performance against Hawai’i. Turner hauled in 12 receptions for a career-high 175 yards against the Rainbow Warriors.

NEVADA RANKS IN TOP FOUR IN TEAM SACKS

The Wolf Pack is fourth in the nation in sacks after accumulating 33  (4.67 per game) for a total of 233 yards through eight games. Nichols is tied for 4th in the nation with 9.5, while Dom Peterson (5.0), Sam Hammond (5.0), Daniel Grzesiak (3.0), Chris Love (2.0), Lawson Hall (1.0), Trevor Price (1.0), AJ King (1.0), Tyson Williams (1.0), and Jack Powers (1.5) have all chipped in.

PROGRAM HISTORY

Nevada is in its 115th season of collegiate football, seeking win No. 569 in the program’s strong history. The Wolf Pack sports an all-time record of 572-499-33. Since joining the FBS in 1992, Nevada is 197-165 overall and 129-90 in conference play. Nevada has posted winning seasons in 11 out of its past 14 campaigns.

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