This Saturday, the Nevada Wolf Pack returns to Mackay Stadium for their home opener against a talented Toledo Rockets team.
Jay Norvell and the Wolf Pack turned in a promising performance against the heavily favored Northwestern Wildcats last Saturday. While Nevada was a 24.5 point underdog, they took it to their opponent up to the final minutes of the game. With around five minutes left in the contest, the visitors were up by a field goal.
Eventually, the Wildcats wore down the Wolf Pack, handing them their first loss of the season. However, the major takeaway is that Nevada played well on both sides of the ball. There were a lot of questions answered in last Saturday’s game including its run defense, linebacker play, rushing attack, and of course the quarterback battle.
On the flip side, while the Toledo Rockets lost arguably two of their largest weapons from last season in running back Kareem Hunt and tight end Michael Roberts to the NFL, last Thursday they proved that they are still just as explosive this season, if not more. Led by veteran quarterback Logan Woodside, the Rockets showcased their high octane offense by overwhelming their opponent, the Elon Phoenix with a bevy of scores. After some early game rust, Toledo blasted past their opponent by a score of 47-13.
This matchup projects to be an “offense is your best defense” type of game. Nevada will have its hands full on defense with the Rockets offense. Thus, the Wolf Pack will have to keep pace for them to stay in this game.
Ty Gangi and company showed flashes of great offense in last week’s bout. Particularly, they showed the big play ability that seemed to be nonexistent in previous Brian Polian offenses. True freshman wide receiver Mclane Mannix, who caught a couple of bombs for 76 yards brings a lot of speed to complement the size of Wyatt Demps and Brendan O’Leary Orange.
Jaxson Kincaide and Kelton Moore, who combined for 126 yards on 20 carries will be the key to opening up the passing lanes for Gangi. The Union has paved some gaping holes in the Northwestern front all game and should be able to duplicate that performance in this game.
One of the things that played into the late game breakdown was the inability to stay on the field. Northwestern had the edge in time of possession 39-21. While the defense played well for the majority of the game, this is too large a time disparity to expect out of any defense. Norvell wants a high volume of plays out of its offense. If they can control the tempo, they should be able to limit the opportunities of the opposing offense.
Logan Woodside is the best quarterback that nobody talks about. He is incredibly accurate and led the NCAA in passing touchdowns last season. He has a ton of weapons in big bodied wide receivers Diontae Johnson and Cody Thompson. Johnson, who returned a 99-yard kickoff for a touchdown last week, has big-time speed and reliable hands.
Nevada’s secondary did relatively well last week against Northwestern’s receivers. Against Woodside and his receivers, they will have their hands full.
Shakif Seymour and Art Thompkins are Toledo’s version of Kincaide and Moore. They garnered 201 yards on 26 carries against Elon. However, Nevada showed to have a stout run defense last week and should match up well.
While the Wolf Pack struggled when they stretched the defense laterally, this may have been more due to the quality of runner that they faced in Justin Jackson. Linebacker Austin Paulhus, who led the Wolf Pack in tackles with 15, should help shore up the run defense against Toledo.
Toledo racked up 553 total yards last week. They will score on this Wolf Pack defense. However, Nevada should be able to limit the run game well enough to force Woodside to beat them through the air. If they can make the Rocket offense one dimensional, they will have a greater chance at slowing them down.
Despite being the road team, the rockets are projected as 9.5 point favorites. Toledo has been 8-1 against the spread in their previous nine non-conference games. They are one of the premier teams in the Mid-American Conference. With an experienced quarterback and a ton of weapons on offense for Toledo contrasted to a Wolf Pack offense that is still trying to find its groove, it is tough to bet against the Rockets.
However, Nevada has shown enough flashes in its previous game to warrant serious respect. Norvell wants to put on a show in his home debut. In a small sample size, he has shown that he can motivate his players well enough to buy into his philosophy. He should be able to whip up a defensive game plan that can mitigate the Toledo offensive attack.