Nevada Football: Rushing Game And Forcing Turnovers Key In Season Opening Win
Nevada’s rushing offense and its defense forcing five turnovers helped secure the first victory of the Ken Wilson Era on Saturday night.
The Turnover Trident And Strong Run Game Were Featured In Nevada’s Season Opening Win
Led by the running back duo of Toa Taua and Devonte Lee, the Wolf Pack opened up the Ken Wilson era with a 23-12 victory over New Mexico State on Saturday evening. Toa Taua ran for 109 yards on 19 carries while Devonte Lee ran for 61 yards on 13 carries and scored two touchdowns. This contest against New Mexico State was the game that saw the Wolf Pack offense run the ball very well after years of putting up big passing yards under former Coach Norvell’s Air Raid offense.
This game also saw Nevada’s defense forced five turnovers against the Aggies and saw the debut of the Turnover Trident.
See The Trident In All Its Glory
— Josh Fredlund (@J0shFr3d) August 28, 2022
While the rushing attack and the Wolf Pack defense was forcing turnovers and holding an awesome trident, the passing game left a lot to be desired. Shane Illingworth was named the starting quarterback for Nevada just before the opening kickoff. Illingworth completed 7 of 12 passes for 51 yards. Nate Cox played in the second half of the game and completed 7 of 11 passes for 27 yards but Cox did rush for 33 yards and became a key piece of the rushing offense late in the game.
It was reported by Alex Margulies of Nevada Sports Net that Illingworth’s hamstring was tightening up and that was why Nate Cox took over in the second half at quarterback.
But this game was not about the Wolf Pack throwing the ball all over the field. New Mexico State was one of the worst run defenses in the FBS last season and last night, the Aggies could not stop Nevada’s run offense. As a team the Wolf Pack ran for 179 yards on 45 carries. This game was all about Nevada establishing the run game and being physical on the offensive line. Last night against New Mexico State, the Wolf Pack succeed.
The action in this contest started in the first quarter. New Mexico State moved the ball well on their first two possessions but those possessions yielded zero points. On the first NMSU possession, the Aggies drive ended on a 49-yard missed field goal by Ethan Albertson.
On the Aggies next offensive possession, they went for it on 4th down deep in Nevada territory but NMSU QB Diego Pavia threw an interception to Nevada’s Isaiah Essissima and that drive ended with zero points for the Aggies.
After the New Mexico State turnover, the game was stopped by the referees due to lightning in the area and the delay lasted for roughly 30 minutes. After the delay, both teams exchanged punts and the first score of the game happened for New Mexico State when a snap sailed over Illingworth and he landed on the ball in his own endzone which New Mexico State tagged him and led to the Aggies leading 2-0.
However, on New Mexico State’s next offensive possession, Pavia threw his second interception to Nevada’s Bentlee Sanders. Nevada then converted that interception into a touchdown when they went on a four play, 80-yard drive that ended when Devonte Lee ran for a 32-yard touchdown to put the Wolf Pack up 7-2.
New Mexico State’s following offensive possession ended with another turnover. It happened when Pavia was hit by Nevada’s Dom Peterson and the ball was jarred loose and Peterson recovered the ball deep in NMSU territory. Nevada once again converted the Aggie turnover into points when the Wolf Pack scored on a four yard touchdown run by Devonte Lee that put them up 17-2 at the half.
In the third quarter, New Mexico State benched Diego Pavia for true freshman Gavin Frakes and the Aggie offense started to make headway. Midway through the third quarter, Frakes led the Aggies down the field and connected with wide receiver Kordell David on a beautifully thrown 10-yard touchdown pass to cut the Wolf Pack lead to 17-9.
Nevada responded back on their next offensive possession with a 13 play, 57-yard drive that ended with Brandon Talton connecting on a 34-yard field goal to extend the Wolf Pack lead to 20-9. But the Aggies with Frakes at quarterback responded with an 11 play, 47-yard drive that was aided by two Nevada defensive holding penalties that extended the Aggie drive. The Wolf Pack defense did hold NMSU to a field goal when NMSU kicker Ethan Albertson converted on a 45-yard field goal to cut the Wolf Pack lead to 20-12.
The Wolf Pack’s next offensive possession saw them lean in on their running attack to close the game out. However, Nevada was faced with a pair of third down situations in their final drive. On 3rd and 11 at the Nevada 29, Nate Cox handed the ball off to Toa Taua and Taua gained 12 yards for the first down. Later in that same drive, Nevada was faced with another third down situation at their own 49-yard line. Cox handed it off to Devonte Lee who bulldozed his way for another first down.
Then disaster almost happened for Nevada late in the game. With a little more than two minutes to go in the game, Nevada QB Nate Cox’s pass was tipped and picked off by NMSUs Bryce Jackson in what looked like a big turnover late to help the Aggies. But the referees ruled the pass an incompletion and the Wolf Pack were given a reprieve.
Four plays later, Brandon Talton connected again on a 38-yard field goal to extend the Nevada lead to 23-12 late in the game. The Aggies last offensive gasp late in the game fell short as Frakes pass was intercepted by Nevada’s Tyson Williams to finally salt the game away for Nevada.
With the win, the Wolf Pack have won their fifth straight season opener and will look to improve their record to 2-0 in their home opener Next Saturday against Texas State.