By Isaiah Burrows
The Nevada Wolf Packs offensive attack was stuck in neutral in Saturday’s 41-10 loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Following a 72-point outing against Portland State week one, Nevada mustered only 248 total yards and four turnovers. The Wolf Pack dropped their first road game, putting them at 1-1 this season. Nevada has still yet to win a road game in the Jay Norvell era.
The Commodores front seven forced quarterback Ty Gangi out of the pocket on multiple occasions, leading to errant throws on the run and easy takeaways in the secondary. Vanderbilt also kept the run game in check, holding Nevada to 37 rushing yards on 25 carries.
Gangi finished the day 22-for-39 for 216 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Receiver McLane Mannix was the primary beneficiary with 6 receptions for 86 yards. Kaleb Fossum added 56 yards receiving.
Vanderbilt tallied 468 total yards and 25 first downs in the win. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur torched the Wolf Pack secondary with 262 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn added a season-high 93 yards and two scores on the ground.
Nevada held their own defensively early in the first quarter. Linebacker Hausia Sekona stripped the ball from receiver Chris Pierce and recovered it on their own 16-yard line. Vanderbilt stormed down the field on their next ensuing possession, but the Wolf Pack stood tall once again. Forcing a turnover on downs at their own three-yard line and keeping the game scoreless.
The Wolf Pack got off to a slow start offensively, opening their first four drives with three punts and a fumble. Constant pressure off the edge from Kenny Hebert made it difficult for routes to develop downfield, resulting in several lofted balls down out of bounds. The Commodores took advantage and built a commanding 14-point advantage mid-way through the second quarter.
Nevada responded in a big way before the halftime whistle. Gangi’s nine-yard touchdown pass to Brendan O’Leary-Orange capped-off a 10-play, 75-yard drive with 49 seconds remaining. O’Leary-Orange’s catch was his first catch of the season, and the only catch he would make all game. The score cut their deficit to 17-10.
Two more turnovers and a scoreless second half was a recipe for disaster for the Wolf Pack. Gangi’s first interception came at the hands of Joejuan Williams six minutes into the third quarter. Vaughn capitalized on a 46-yard scamper to the end zone.
The Commodores continued to pile it on, including an 11-yard touchdown reception by receiver Kalija Lipscomb to put them up 34-10. The flood gates opened from there with another score late in the fourth quarter, taking the howl out of the Wolf Pack.
Nevada returns to Mackay Stadium Saturday, Sept. 15, to face Oregon State. The Beavers are also 1-1, following a 48-25 win against Southern Utah. Both teams enter Saturday’s face off in similar positions -convincing wins against FCS opponents, losses against Power 5 schools, and struggling defenses. The Wolf Pack are an early 6.5 point favorite over the Beavers.
The Nevada offense should correct the ship against Oregon State considering the Beavers defense averages over 600 yards allowed in their first two games. The receiving corps of Mannix, Fossum and O’Leary-Orange are expected to put up big numbers against the secondary. The Wolf Pack should also expect success on the ground. With four talented running backs, offensive coordinator Matt Mumme should be able to keep the Oregon State defense honest.
Defensively Nevada needs to find its groove. Nevada forced and recovered two fumbles against Vanderbilt, but that was the only positive for the Wolf Pack. The Commodores moved the ball with relative ease. After an entire offseason, this game -along with the following game at Toledo- should give an answer to how good Nevada’s defense actually is.
Darion Strugs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @dstrugs.