By Neil Patrick Healy
Nevada head coach Brian Polian was standing at the podium inside Notre Dame Stadium’s media room when he summed up the 39-10 loss to the Irish in one simple sentence:
“They were better than us by a wide margin,” Polian said.
At first the talent disparity wasn’t as evident. After both teams couldn’t put any points on the board in the first quarter, Notre Dame began to slowly pile up the points. In a two-minute-and-20-second span, the Irish scored 11 points off a field goal, a touchdown and a safety. It was after the safety where Nevada’s Ahki Muhammad crossed the goal line on the kickoff return and tried to step back in a take-a-knee that the game began to bust open.
“Frankly, that’s an embarrassing play,” Polian said. “That’s a play that goes on the coaches, starting with me.”
After Nevada seemed to gain some momentum after Kendall Johnson intercepted Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer’s pass, quarterback Tyler Stewart gave the ball right back after his screen pass intended for James Butler was intercepted by 6-foot-6, 315-pound defensive lineman Jarron Jones. After the play, Jones jokingly proposed the idea of playing tight end to head coach Brian Kelly.
The Irish proceeded to score 32 unanswered points behind Kizer, who went 15-for-18 for 156 yards and two touchdowns in the air and 35 rushing yards and a score on the ground. Even with pumping the breaks and putting in the backups in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame’s offense was its firepower with 444 total yards, including 239 yards rushing. Kizer has scored nine total touchdowns in the first two games of the season.
Stewart, on the other hand, had a rough day. The Irish defense held him to 10-for-23 passing and an interception while losing reps to backup quarterback Ty Gangi. Polian confirmed that Gangi, who went 2-for-3 for 88 yards through the air, will continue to get playing time in certain packages throughout the season.
One small victory for Nevada is that the scoring drought in Notre Dame Stadium is officially over. Almost seven quarters of football, dating back to the 2009 matchup, came and went before the Wolf Pack scored its first points that came in a 27-yard field goal with 3:53 left in the third quarter. The touchdown drought also ended with a late fourth-quarter touchdown run by freshman running back Jaxson Kincaide.
PLAY OF THE GAME:
It’s a tie between Muhammad’s kneeling miscue that led to the safety or Jones’ interception inside the Nevada 5-yard line. Muhammad’s play went viral on social media and even made it to SportsCenter’s “Not Top 10.” Both plays helped catapult Notre Dame’s scoring output in the second quarter and were the beginning of the end of Nevada.
STAT OF THE GAME:
Nevada’s offense was held to 99 rushing yards for 3.3 yards per carry. Considering that this offense is built on the hopes of running the ball, the lack of productivity on the ground must be disconcerting.
QUOTE OF THE GAME:
When asked questions about what he and his team could take away from the game, Polian verbalized what most Nevada fans already knew going into the matchup:
“I won’t judge this team based on this,” Polian said. “It’s not fair to them. If we were supposed to beat Notre Dame we wouldn’t be in the Mountain West.”
Nevada will face Buffalo at Mackay Stadium on Saturday, looking to start the season 2-1. The Bulls, who Nevada beat 24-21 last season, are 0-1 after losing to FCS opponent Albany 22-16 in week one.
Neil Patrick Healy can be reached at neil@Sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @NP_Healy.