UNLV Gets Decisive Win Over Utah State, 34-24

UNLV Gets Decisive Win Over Utah State, 34-24 The Rebels defeat Utah State for the first time in Logan since 2007 Contact/Follow @MWCwire UNLV moves to 3-1 on the season behind dominant defense, Brumfield runs for 2 TDs Opening their conference …

UNLV Gets Decisive Win Over Utah State, 34-24


The Rebels defeat Utah State for the first time in Logan since 2007


Contact/Follow @MWCwire

UNLV moves to 3-1 on the season behind dominant defense, Brumfield runs for 2 TDs


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Opening their conference schedule against the defending Mountain West Conference champions, the Rebels looked prepared to make a statement. What many may not have expected was that the Rebels defense had a lot to say.

The opening quarter began slowly, with both teams trying to establish the run, but the pace picked up quickly once the offenses found their comfort in the passing game. Utah State opened the scoring about nine minutes in, when Logan Bonner found Justin McGriff for a 12-yard touchdown pass. UNLV quickly responded on their next drive as Brumfield found Kyle Williams for a big 40-yard reception and Jeff Weimer for a 27-yard completion. The Rebels tied the game at 7-7 when Brumfield scored on a 4-yard rush off an option play. Utah State had the play defended well, with defenders on both Robbins and Brumfield, but the 6-5” quarterback would prove quick enough to slip the would-be tackler and find the end zone.

Utah State made a critical error early when punter Stephen Kotsanlee dropped to one knee to receive the ball on his own 5-yard line. The ball was downed at the 5, and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Aggies set UNLV up with 1st-and-0goal inside the 3-yard line. Doug Brumfield scored his second rushing touchdown on the day three plays later and the Rebels took the lead at 14-7.

Following a Utah State punt, the Rebels opened the second quarter with an efficient eight-play drive taking only 2:43 off the clock. Aidan Robbins was proved effective once again, rushing twice for 29 yards, and Doug Brumfield found Kyle Williams on a 6-yard fade pass to increase the Rebels lead to 21-7.

The Rebels got their first interception in the game when Jerrae Williams picked off Logan Bonner on Utah State’s next possession. The Rebels would only run three plays, and the Aggies were able to block the ensuing punt, but could not recover inside the end zone, picking up only the safety to make the score 21-9.

The Aggies received the ball but two plays later Logan Bonner threw his second interception of the contest, this one by Austin Ajiake, who was eventually tackled at the Aggies’ 32-yard line. Six plays later, Daniel Gutierrez added a field goal to extend the Rebels’ lead to 24-9.

Utah State would eventually answer with a touchdown of their own, as the Aggies went 75 yards on eight plays, finished by the first of Terrell Vaughn’s two touchdown receptions from Logan Bonner to close the lead to eight points at, 24-16. Kyle Williams was injured late in the second quarter on a tackle and did not return.

UNLV’s offense would add a second field goal and the defense its third interception of the second quarter, this one by Nohl Williams, to give the Rebels a 27-16 lead into halftime.

Utah State opened the third quarter with a somewhat promising start, gaining 20 yards on a mix of short run and pass plays, but the drive stalled on a 4th and 2, when Austin Ajiake stopped Broc Lane short of the first down at the UNLV 43. The Rebels then went on an 11-play drive that took more than five minutes off the clock, capped Aidan Robbins’ five-yard touchdown run, moving the Rebels’ lead to 34-16.

The Rebels would stop the Aggies’ next possession deep in their own territory when Cameron Oliver picked off Bonner at the UNLV 7.

The Aggies began the fourth quarter with a long drive covering 92 yards, but once again the Rebels defense would stop Utah State on downs, one yard shy of converting a 4th and 3 at the UNLV 8. Following a UNLV punt, the Aggies would add one more touchdown, Bonner’s second touchdown to Terrell Vaughn. A completed two-point conversion would make the score 34-24, but that is the closest Utah State would get. 

On the next two possessions by Utah State, the Rebels would recover a fumble by Logan Bonner as he attempted to step up in the pocket and claim their fifth interception of Bonner on a Hail Mary play to end the game.

Keys to the Game:

In a word, balance. The offense seemed to get everyone involved this week, as Brumfield and Robbins combined for three rushing touchdowns, but the team only ran for 103 yards overall. Brumfield passed for 217 yards on 21-of-31 passing and hit seven different receivers. Ricky White was held without a catch, but Jeff Weimer led receivers with 57 yards on five receptions. On the other side, the defense picked up six turnovers, stopped the Aggies twice on downs, and seemed to extinguish any hope Utah State could muster when they did find something positive. 

Final Thoughts: 

In a game where their opponent seemed to be playing against much more than just UNLV, the Rebels played opportunistically and took advantage of what was available. The Aggies seemed focused on stopping Aidan Robbins; he still finished with 81 yards and a touchdown. And for all the effort to stop the Rebels featured running back, quarterback Doug Brumfield still ran for two scores and threw for a third. And for all that the defense did in this game, it seemed all too fitting that the game ended with one more interception for their efforts.

Player of the Game:

How about the entire UNLV defense? It would be an understatement to say this was a complete defensive effort today, and yet everything you could say would sound cliche because it was that straightforward: the defensive line challenged the offensive line the entire game, linebackers followed up behind them to make the tackle or add pressure, and the secondary played the Aggies’ receivers tough from start to finish, picking up four interceptions along the way. Once UNLV pulled ahead of Utah State, the Rebels’ defense played a key role in making sure the Aggies didn’t get it back.

Next Up:

Next week, the Rebels will return home to face the New Mexico Lobos at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Kick-off is scheduled for 11:00pm EST (8:00pm PST) on Friday night.





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Boise State Suffers Shocking Loss To UTEP, 27-10

Boise State Suffers Shocking Loss To UTEP, 27-10 Broncos have a problem. Contact/Follow @MWCwire This has been brewing for awhile The writing has been on the wall for the Broncos. Boise State has leaned on their defense to keep them in games until …

Boise State Suffers Shocking Loss To UTEP, 27-10


Broncos have a problem.


Contact/Follow  @MWCwire

This has been brewing for awhile

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The writing has been on the wall for the Broncos.  Boise State has leaned on their defense to keep them in games until the offense came along regularly over the past few years, and it’s a strategy that has worked well. The defense put in the effort against UTEP, but when you spend almost three-quarters of the game on the field, there aren’t enough bodies on the depth chart to sustain that amount of time.

Boise State’s offense has been a struggle all season. Between injuries and somehow a complete lack of cohesion with the offensive line, the Broncos have not been able to put together a complete game when they have the ball. Oregon State saw a horrendous start, New Mexico was inconsistent throughout, and UT-Martin didn’t come back from halftime. In an effort to outdo themselves, the offense put in their worst statistical performance since 1997 and their worst overall performance, perhaps ever.  Gaining a grand total of 177 yards, converting 4 of 12 chances on 3rd down, and averaging only 3.4 yards a play, it is easy to see how they struggled to stay on the field.

After the offensive line, much of the struggles on the field have been from quarterback Hank Bachmeier and tonight was no different. In the first half, Bachmeier’s reads and throws were consistently late with passing windows closing before he could get the ball to the receivers. To open the second half, the Broncos went with an uptempo, no-huddle attack and were able to move the ball down the field and get into the endzone for their lone touchdown. However, the success on that drive didn’t carry on and only worsened the strain on the defense.

Head coach Andy Avalos was asked in his post-game interview about the offense and if there were any changes that would be made, and he responded with, “we are going to go and look at the film, and we’re going to really dissect the things that we’re going to move forward on.” That statement is a bit of a change from recent weeks where Avalos has been fully committed to where his staff is.

Player of the Game:

Linebacker DJ Schramm.  With Ezekiel Noa out with injury, Schramm stepped up and had 16 total tackles on the night.

Final Thoughts:

This was definitely an unexpected outcome.  The offense was the worst we have seen this year and the defense could not take care of what they needed to to get off the field. Getting back into Mountain West play, the Broncos need to find some way to get consistent production from their offense as they come into the most challenging part of their schedule. This point of the season it is clear that some type of change is needed, with the hottest seat being under offensive coordinator Tim Plough.

Next Up:

The Broncos host San Diego State in Albertsons Stadium in Boise, ID. Coverage begins at 6 PM MT on Friday, 9/30


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Identifying Hawaii’s Week 0 Quarterback

Identifying who will be Hawaii’s starter Week 0 vs. Vanderbilt

First-year head coach Timmy Chang has a big decision looming


The Rainbow Warriors open the season vs. Vanderbilt on August 27


Contact/Follow @AddisonDehaven3 & @MWCwire

Question mark at quarterback

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Last winter, the University of Hawaii football program experienced a mass exodus. Following allegations of former head coach Todd Graham’s verbal abuse and subsequent resignation, nearly 20 student-athletes from Hawaii’s program transferred off the island. Among them: Chevan Cordeiro, Hawaii’s 2021 starting quarterback, who left for San Jose State.

Hawaii’s fall camp opened on July 27, here’s what head coach Timmy Chang had to say about the ongoing quarterback situation:

“As far as quarterback and even the other positions, we recruited all the way until July and so getting these guys in and letting them be able to compete as far as quarterback and some of these other positions—we are not set in stone until we watch these guys compete for about two weeks and we’ll flip into our Vanderbilt game plan,” Chang said to KHON2. “But they got to go out there and compete. There’s six on the roster and all of them can throw. They all do things a little bit different but at the end of the day it’s the guy that distributes the ball and makes the best decisions. That’s the guy that’s going to get the nod.”

With Chang at the helm and Ian Shoemaker, former offensive coordinator at Eastern Washington, guiding the offense, the Rainbow Warriors are expected to return to their “run ‘n’ shoot” style offensive roots which means that solid quarterback play will be at a premium if Hawaii wants to exceed their preseason projections in the West Division. Here’s a rundown of Chang’s options to replace Corderio under center:

The returning guy

Brayden Schager —The Texas native is the only guy on the roster who has played a down at quarterback for Hawaii. The second-year Schager was primarily Corderio’s backup most of last year but did see action in six games, including three starts. Schager’s most memorable moment from 2021 has to be when he lead Hawaii to a fourth quarter comeback over nationally-ranked Fresno State. He finished the season with a 2-1 record as a starter, throwing for 615 yards and two touchdowns while completing 60.1% of his passes.

At Mountain West Media Day, Schager was the first name out of Chang’s mouth when asked about who will fill Corderio’s shoes. While Chang has repeatedly said that the fall camp will see an open quarterback competition, Schager surely has to have somewhat of an edge on the others considering his experience from the previous season.

The transfers

Joey Yellen —The two-time transfer Yellen has sat behind two solid college football quarterbacks at his previous two stops, Arizona State and Pittsburgh. At Arizona St., Yellen backed-up Jayden Daniels, currently the projected starter at Louisiana State University. During his one start in 2019, Yellen threw for four touchdowns and 292 yards in a loss to the University of Southern California. The former four star recruit then transferred to Pitt where he sat behind Kenny Pickett, the first-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers this year.

At Pitt, Yellen played in four games—all in 2020—where he threw for 402 yards, one touchdown and three picks while completing 45% of his passes.

The California native committed to Hawaii this spring—after Chang had been hired—which means that Chang likely had a hand in getting Yellen to the island. Of the quarterbacks on the roster, Yellen may be the biggest unknown, having not played significant time since the COVID riddled 2020 season. Still, considering Chang had a hand in bringing him to Hawaii, there must be some potential that Yellen could land the starting job come late August.

Cammon Cooper — The Washington State transfer came into the program at an interesting time. He committed in January, after many student-athletes had already hopped in the transfer portal but before Graham had resigned later that month. In a Jan. interview with WarriorSportsNetwork.com, Cooper explained that Graham played a significant role in bringing him to the island.

“I know there’s guys obviously still on the team that have played before too,” Cooper told WarriorSportsNetwork.com. “But with Chevan leaving, there wasn’t really a better place in the country with an opportunity to compete like there is at Hawaii right now.”

The former four star recruit never saw much significant time at Washington St., spending much of his time there in a backup role. Still, the Utah native has plenty of arm talent and could fit nicely in Chang’s expected run ‘n’ shoot offense.

“I think being able to go through my reads and progressions like a pro-style quarterback is really good. I obviously went to Wazzu wanting to be in an air raid and I know Hawaii throws the ball around a bunch,” Cooper said to WarriorSportsNetwork. “The last two years I’ve been running the ball a lot more. I can make a play if I need to and extend plays with my legs which I think will help out the offense.”

Cooper enrolled at Hawaii last spring and went through spring ball with Chang and the rest of the Rainbow Warriors. He should be firmly in the mix for the starting role.

The wildcards

Hawaii has three other quarterbacks listed on the roster, all of whom are relative unknowns.

Jake Farrell — The listed sophomore from Scottsdale, Arizona has good size at 6-5/220 and has been with the program for two full seasons. Farrell spent 2021 season as a scout team member.

Connor Apo — This native Hawaiian went to the same high school as Chang—Saint Louis School—and is entering his second year in the program, having spent the last season as a member of the scout team. At Saint Louis, Apo backed up Corderio and Washington St.’s Jayden de Laura.

Armani Edden — Another scout team member from 2021, Edden transferred from College of the Canyons and Antelope Valley College. Now a senior, he has been with the team since 2020 but has not appeared in any games.

Prediction — Judging by Chang’s comments, the quarterback competition is fairly open but a decision on the starter will be made after the first two weeks of camp. Considering the available options, I would venture a guess that Chang will likely turn to Schager to open the season but I wouldn’t be surprised if Cooper made a serious to push to start after he becomes more comfortable with the offense.

 


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Timmy Chang’s First Mountain West Media Day

New University of Hawaii head football coach touched on a litany of topics at Mountain West Media Day.

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Timmy Chang‘s first Mountain West Media Day


The new University of Hawaii head football coach touched on a number of topics at media day


Contact/Follow @AddisonDeHaven3 & @MWCwire

Chang ready to get the season rolling

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“Now it’s go time.”

Words from Timmy Chang’s first Mountain West Media Day signal one thing: the 2022 college football season is nearly here. The newly hired University of Hawaii head football coach answered a litany of questions about his program including the new Aloha Stadium, recruiting challenges and his own growth. Here’s what Chang had to say:

Chang on being Hawaii’s head coach

“It’s unbelievable. You know, never thought I would be here sitting in this position. As an 18-year-old, I made the decision to stay home and play and represent the state of Hawaii and 22 years later, I’m here as the head coach. It’s a surreal moment for me but very thankful, very grateful.”

Chang on Hawaii being picked sixth in the West Division

“Yeah, you know, expected—right. When you lose as much production as we did to the transfer portal or graduation—you know—so we got a lot of inexperience or guys that haven’t proven themselves on the football field yet. But, that’s why you play, you know. I’m the same way right—we just talked about us being, you know, first timers here and so the only way we’re going to get experiences is going through this process together. No different for these guys. We got guys in that locker room that we think that can play now. It’s just getting their minds right, understanding game plan, understanding situations and then putting them in the best situation to succeed.”

Mountain West Football: 2022 Media Days Central

Chang on the new Aloha Stadium District budget being approved

“Yeah, it does (feel good). It does and knowing that you’re going to have something to play in—in the future—and something to sell to these recruits, sell to these families and sell to our state. Not only is the University of Hawaii football team going to be able to play in there, but we’re going to hold events that, you know, that we’re going to be proud of. I know other sports want to hold events—Max (Holloway) keeps asking for the UFC to come down—what a better place to play it in our new brand new stadium. Hopefully one day the Pro Bowl can come back. We want all of our state to enjoy that stadium, not just the University of Hawaii football team but that it’s there for everybody. Again, we’re all in this together. I tell those guys, man when you make a block when you make a tackle and you’re catching that ball man, when your throwing it, you know you’re doing it for the state, you’re doing it not only for the guys in the locker room, but for this community and for this state.”

Chang on recruiting to the on-campus Ching Field

“You know, I’m really excited and this is why I’m really excited: Because for the first time, you know, it’s on our campus and we have one of the most beautiful campuses in the world. And, you know, just getting the university and having the buy-in from the president—you know—from the special people that are above my paygrade. And these people are—you know—talking to them and telling them, ‘Hey, we have an opportunity to do this, can we do this? Can we do that?’ It’s special, because it’s the first time we’re on our campus and we have so many beautiful athletic facilities on campus and a beautiful upper campus that we can still get some of those things. We can get the family environment that we want during those games, you know, we’re still pushing the concerts and the entertainment before and just creating some different things that people can just spend a whole day watching and being around the campus and then watching our football game. Tickets will be hard to come by that no doubt. No doubt. It is what it is this year.”

Chang on his own growth since being named head coach

“Oh, I mean it’s hard to talk about yourself and grade yourself. But—you know—every day is a different challenge and a lot of problems need to be solved. As much as I can solve them in a 24 hour period, I’ll wake up and do it again the next 24 hours and there’ll be new challenges, there’ll be something else that comes up. But you know, the game is still the same, it’s played with 11 guys—its’ played with a locker room full of guys that need to care about each other.”

Chang on his first media day

“Now it’s go time, you got your team waiting for you back home and you have to get them ready to play August 27.”

The Rainbow Warriors will welcome Vanderbilt to the island to open the season later next month.


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Mountain West Football Media Projects Fresno State, Boise State As 2022 Division Winners

The Mountain West football media expects a rematch between the Bulldogs and Broncos in 2022’s championship game.

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Mountain West Football Media Projects Fresno State, Boise State as 2022 Division Winners


The Mountain West football media expects a rematch between the Bulldogs and Broncos in 2022’s championship game.


Contact/Follow @MattK_FS & @MWCwire

Are the races that clear-cut?

The Mountain West football media days are underway today and, as usual, it kicked off with the announcement of how the conference’s media projects the 2022 season will unfold.

Fresno State and Boise State are expected reach the Mountain West championship as the winners of the West division and Mountain division, respectively, in what will be the last year of their existence before a new schedule rotation debuts in 2023. It marks the ninth straight year that the Broncos are predicted to come out on top, while the Bulldogs are projected for a first-place finish for the first time since 2019.

West Division

  1. Fresno State (20 first-place votes) — 160 points
  2. San Diego State (eight first-place votes) — 148 points
  3. San Jose State — 105 points
  4. Nevada — 66 points
  5. UNLV — 58 points
  6. Hawaii — 51 points

Mountain Division

  1. Boise State (14 first-place votes) — 252points
  2. Air Force (10 first-place votes) — 136 points
  3. Utah State (three first-place votes) — 122 points
  4. Colorado State (one first-place vote) — 90 points
  5. Wyoming — 60 points
  6. New Mexico — 29 points

Interestingly, there are a couple differences between how the conference media foresees the season and our own staff’s predictions: The UNLV Rebels, for instance, are not projected to finish last in the West this season and the difference between those at the top of each division are much closer than we’d forecast them to be.

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Mountain West Football: Circa Sports Reveals 2022 Championship Odds

Who is the Vegas favorite to take home the Mountain West football crown this season?

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Mountain West Football: Circa Sports Reveals 2022 Championship Odds


Who is the Vegas favorite to take home the Mountain West football crown this season?


Contact/Follow @MattK_FS and @MWCwire

Where would you put your money?

Mountain West football is still about two months away from kicking off, but Las Vegas never sleeps and one of the Strip’s hottest newcomers, Circa Sports, has unveiled its odds for each team’s chances to claim the conference championship this fall.

There are a clear group of favorites at the top led by Boise State, who are the odds-on favorites at +345. However, defending West division champions San Diego State are virtually neck-and-neck with the Broncos at +350 and the Fresno State Bulldogs aren’t too far behind at +370.

A pair of Mountain division teams, Air Force and Utah State, sit right behind that top trio at +410 and +460, respectively, and then there’s a substantial gap between them and the rest of the Mountain West. San Jose State had a down year after claiming the title in 2020 and comes in at +2500, but the rest are relative longshots down to New Mexico at +10000.

Things might change in the weeks to come, but it is noteworthy that the sportsbooks seem to expect the race to the top to be a much hotter one than in 2021. By comparison, Boise State was -115 at BetMGM last August while just one other team was better than +400.

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2022 Wyoming Football Schedule

2022 Wyoming Football Schedule Cowboys new group of players getting ready for this year. Contact/Follow @JeremyMauss & @MWCwire Who does Wyoming play this year? Wyoming has a fairly manageable non-conference schedule and a solid home slate to start …

2022 Wyoming Football Schedule


Cowboys new group of players getting ready for this year.


Contact/Follow @JeremyMauss & @MWCwire

Who does Wyoming play this year?

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Wyoming has a fairly manageable non-conference schedule and a solid home slate to start the year with three of four in Laramie. The non-conference play features one Power 5 team in Illinois — who is very beatable — then Tulsa, Northern Colorado and former WAC and Mountain West rival BYU.

In West Division play, the Cowboys will play San Jose State, Hawaii, and Fresno State. They miss Nevada, UNLV and San Diego State.

Aug 27 at Illinois

Sept 3 Tulsa

Sept 10 Northern Colorado

Sept 17 Air Force

Sept 24 at BYU

Oct 1 San Jose State

Oct 8 at New Mexico

Oct 15 OPEN DATE

Oct 22 Utah State

Oct 29 at Hawaii

Nov 5 OPEN DATE

Nov 12 at Colorado State

Nov 19 Boise State

Nov 26 at Fresno State


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PODCAST: Colorado State Is Looking Into Allegations Regarding Race, Violating COVID Protocols

Colorado State athletic department is having issues of racial abuse and violating COVID-19 protocols.

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PODCAST: Colorado State Is Looking Into Allegations Regarding Race, Violating COVID Protocols


Rams football program has issues to resolve.


Contact/Follow @MWCwire

Colorado State having an internal investigation

Matt and Jeremy are joined by our Colorado State writer Josh Fredlund to discuss the allegations put on the Colorado State. The issues started with COVID-19 protocols allegedly being violated by the coaching staff. That started an investigation but that was not all. There are also allegations of racial issues within the program.

There are a lot of players and coaches who back new head coach Steve Addazio so there is something going on in the program. There is a lot to figure out and the school is looking into the football department and the athletic department as this is not all encompassed within the athletic department.

You can find the Mountain West Wire podcast below or subscribe to the show via AnchorStitcher RadioTuneInSpotifyiTunes, and more. Listen in, subscribe and rate it and let us know what you think!

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Mountain West Looking At Football Scheduling Options

Mountain West Looking At Football Scheduling Options There are three scenarios being considered. Contact/Follow @JeremyMauss & @MWCwire How many games? The Power 5 conferences have all come out and declared what type of schedule that will be played …

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Mountain West Looking At Football Scheduling Options


There are three scenarios being considered.


Contact/Follow @JeremyMauss & @MWCwire

How many games?

The Power 5 conferences have all come out and declared what type of schedule that will be played as have two of the non-power leagues. The Mountain West has lost a total of 23 games between the Power 5 conferences.

The league is expected to announce on Wednesday for what the schedule would be, and Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger has the details of the three options.

 

These options make the most sense and playing 10 games is a good number as it is in line with the rest of the Power — except the ACC which currently is trying 11 games.

The Mountain West has one team that desperately would want to play two non-conference games and that is Air Force who annually plays Navy and Army for the Commander-In-Chief award. So, the league might be sympathetic to the Falcons and try to allow them to play those two games.

Overall, none of the options are bad because football beats no football but the non-conference aspect of playing two will be difficult for some teams that have lost multiple out of league games, and playing 10 games within the Mountain West makes the most sense as no team would need to go out and add a last-minute opponent.

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Nevada Football: Previewing The Wolf Pack Offense In 2020

Nevada Football: Previewing The Wolf Pack Offense In 2020 The Nevada Wolf Pack head into the 2020 season with potentially one of the best offenses in the Mountain West. We preview this offense heading into the 2020 season. Contact/Follow …

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Nevada Football: Previewing The Wolf Pack Offense In 2020

The Nevada Wolf Pack head into the 2020 season with potentially one of the best offenses in the Mountain West. We preview this offense heading into the 2020 season.

Contact/Follow @BrandonGBlake & @MWCwire

Previewing The Wolf Pack Offense In 2020

The Nevada Wolf Pack are headed into the 2020 season looking to improve on their 7-6 record in 2019. Last season, Nevada did have their moments where they struggled and looked bad such as the games against Oregon and Hawaii. However, the Wolf Pack did improve late in the season and notch impressive road wins over San Diego State and Fresno State to become bowl eligible. 

This year, the Wolf Pack are welcoming back some talented players who are looking to take that next step and compete for a Mountain West conference championship. And in the Western division of the Mountain West where four of the six teams are breaking in new head coaches, this could be the year Nevada breaks through and wins the West division.

In this article, I will be previewing the Nevada offense as they look to have the talent to win the West division and play for a Mountain West championship in 2020.

OFFENSE

Heading into the 2019 season, the Wolf Pack were dealing with a quarterback conundrum as they were searching to see who would be the starting quarterback to replace Ty Gangi who had graduated.

Cristian Solano, Malik Henry and Carson Strong all got to start at least one game at quarterback for Nevada early in the season. By the end of the 2019 season, Strong ended up being the full time starter at quarterback for Nevada. Strong started in ten games in his freshman season and threw for 2,335 yards and threw for 11 touchdowns against seven interceptions. 

Strong did start the season opener against Purdue and was excellent throwing for 295 yards and three touchdowns in the win over the Boilermakers. However, Strong struggled in his next three games against Oregon, Weber State and Hawaii as he threw five interceptions and zero touchdowns,

After not starting for two games due to injury, Strong came back to start but struggled once again in a loss to Wyoming. But after that Wyoming game, Strong played well down the stretch as he threw eight touchdown passes and only one interception  as Nevada won three of their last five games to become bowl eligible.

In the upset victory on the road over San Diego State, Strong had a fine outing going 19 of 26 passing for 147 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Aztecs. Strong had a solid freshman year but needs to continue his stellar play in order for the Wolf Pack to compete for a conference title in 2020.

 

Running Backs

In the running back department, the Wolf Pack welcome back a pair of hard-hitting runners in sophomores Toa Taua and Devontae Lee. In 2019 Taua ran for 807 yards and scored six rushing touchdowns last year and while the numbers are fine, it was a step down from his freshman campaign. 

Taua’s 2019 rushing numbers were down from his sensational freshman campaign in 2018 where he ran for 872 yards and his average yards per attempt was 4.9 yards. In 2019 Taua’s rushing yards per attempt went down to 4.1. Taua is still one of the talented running backs in the Mountain West but he needs to return to his performance as a freshman in order for Nevada to take that leap forward. 

Backing Taua up at running back is fellow sophomore Devontae Lee. Lee is a wrecking ball with legs when he is carrying the football. Lee ran for 302 yards and led the team in rushing touchdowns with seven in 2019. Lee, unlike Taua, saw his yards per attempt go up in 2019 as he went from 4.2 yards per carry in 2018 to 4.5 yards per carry in 2019.

Taua and Lee are a running back tandem that has the makings of being one of the best in the Mountain West. Two questions that need to be answered is can Taua bounce back from a disappointing sophomore season and who will be the third running back for Nevada?

With Jaxson Kincade transferring to Western Michigan, the Wolf Pack will need to find a third running back to step up and time will tell if Avery Morrow, Terrell Johnson or Wes Kommer can step in and be that third running back.

 

Wide Receivers

The Nevada wide receiver group in my opinion is the best unit in the Mountain West conference heading into the 2020 season. And the two stars of that receiver group are Elijah Cooks and Romeo Doubs. In 2019 Cooks caught 76 passes for 926 yards and eight touchdowns while Doubs caught 44 passes for 649 yards and four touchdowns. 

Some other interesting stats courtesy of the 2020 Nevada football preview podcast by Jeremy Mauss and Matt Kenerly, is that in 2019, both Doubs and Cooks combined for 24 catches of 20 yards or more. Also after November 1st of 2019, Cooks averaged eight catches and 100 yards per game for Nevada.

Cooks and Doubs (who missed the last two games due to injury) make up a very talented wide receiver duo that gives Nevada more than a good chance of winning the West division in 2019.

The key now is for Nevada’s AirWolf offense to find a third, fourth and fifth receiver to really get the offense going. Look for returning receivers Melquan Stovall and Cole Turner along with true freshmen receivers Jamaal Ball and Issac Jernigan to compete for starting time.

Offensive Line

No matter how talented the Wolf Pack skill position players are, their talent can’t be utilized to achieve maximum success without a solid, functional offensive line.

In 2019, the Wolf Pack offensive line was a mostly inconsistent unit and that inconsistency was heightened when left tackle Jake Nelson missed the remainder of the season with an injury. The Wolf Pack offense had difficulty protecting the quarterback as they gave up 33 sacks in 2019 which placed them last in the Mountain West in that category. 

When it came to establishing the running attack, the Wolf Pack struggled in that department in 2019 as well. Per the advanced stats, the Wolf Pack were 120th and 122nd in line yards per carry and opportunity rate, respectively.

And going back to the regular stats, the Wolf Pack offense was 11th in the Mountain West is yards per play at 5.02 yards per play. Only the San Diego State Aztecs were worse in that category at 4.78 yards per play. Also, due to the inconsistent offensive line play, the Wolf Pack were last in the Mountain West in rushing yards per attempt at 3.37. 

Despite the struggles on the offensive line which resulted in the offense taking a step back in 2018, the Wolf Pack does return all five starters from last season and due to injury the Wolf Pack does have more than a few players who have playing experience. At tackle, Miles Beach and Nate Brown both return to bolster the Wolf Pack offensive line that is nicknamed “The Union”.

The center position is still in flux as both Nate Edwards and Ty Orsini are listed as the starting center. Once the center position is settled, the Wolf Pack must improve their offensive line play in 2020 in order to be in the hunt for a Mountain West championship.

 

Final Thoughts

Heading into the 2020 season (assuming the season starts and ends on time) the Wolf Pack on paper are one of the most interesting teams in the Mountain West. On the offensive side of the ball they have the talent at the skills position to compete with Hawaii and San Diego State for a division title. 

But the running game and the offensive line must improve from a lackluster 2019 for the Wolf Pack to take that next step and  play for a Mountain West title. Carson Strong has the tools to be one of the best quarterbacks in the conference but he must continue his excellent play from late last season when he threw eight touchdowns and one interception.

If the offensive line and running game get back to the great play from 2018 and Strong and those receivers play well, you could see the Wolf Pack play for a chance to win the Mountain West conference in 2020.

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