Nevada Wolf Pack
Offense: D- | Defense: C+ | Special Teams: B- | Meeting/Exceeding Expectations: C
A promising start to the year has given way to the reality that was probably true all along: The Wolf Pack’s rebuild under head coach Ken Wilson will take time.
The struggles have been particularly pronounced on offense, where waffling on the starting quarterback situation didn’t seem to have any positive impact whatsoever. They have just 19 plays of 20 or more yards on offense (for comparison, the Wolf Pack had 41 in five October games last season), where Nate Cox has a completion rate of 55% and has averaged 5.8 yards per attempt, incumbent running backs Toa Taua and Devonte Lee have run for a meager 3.7 yards per carry on 180 combined carries, and the retooled offensive line, playing without Aaron Frost all year to date, has allowed a stuff rate of 21% (108th in FBS).
Oddly enough, Nevada has been adept at punching in red zone opportunities relative to the rest of the conference, scoring a touchdown on 60.9% of their 23 trips, but that hasn’t been nearly enough. The Wolf Pack rank 115th in points per drive (1.39), 126th in available yards percentage (29.1%), and 130th in drive yards per offensive play (3.79).
It’s erased a lot of good work from a defense that’s done a few things well but has been very uneven. In addition to leading the Mountain West with 15 takeaways, they’ve improved their red zone defense from 2021 in allowing a touchdown 63.2% of the time, up from a conference-worst 70.5% last season. Believe it or not, Nevada also ranks 31st or better in points per drive allowed, available yards percentage allowed, and drive yards per opponent offensive play. That may regress some with tougher offenses on the docket in the weeks to come, but the Wolf Pack defense still may finish the year better than expected.
As for special teams, kicker Brandon Talton was as good as ever before suffering an injury that has kept him out for three weeks and counting. Matt Freem has been a decent, if unexciting, replacement for Julian Diaz, while Matthew Killiam has averaged a respectable 55.6% touchback rate on kickoffs.
Head of the Class: Dom Peterson, DT
This designation probably doesn’t come as a surprise to the Wolf Pack faithful, but what might be a surprise is that Peterson may be playing the best ball of his collegiate career. He leads the team with four sacks and seven tackles for loss and has been credited with an overall PFF grade of 90.2, the best among Mountain West interior defenders and the sixth-best figure in the FBS.
One Player Deserving of More Attention: Drue Watts, LB
Identifying future cornerstones has been slow going for Nevada, but Watts has put himself in that conversation by flashing some playmaking tools. The redshirt sophomore sits at fourth among Wolf Pack defenders with 30 total tackles, but only Peterson has more than Watts’ six tackles for loss and two sacks.