In a game where 72 total points were scored, only three were needed to decide a highly intense matchup between the Nevada Wolf Pack and Oregon State Beavers. Beavers kicker Jordan Choukair’s 33-yard field goal missed just left of the uprights with no time remaining, sealing a 37-35 win for the Wolf Pack. The win propelled Nevada to 2-1 on the season.
Quarterback Ty Gangi finished 17-for-35 with 195 yards, two touchdowns and 1 interception. He added 61 rushing yards on 8 attempts. Freshman running back Toa Taua added 81 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Receiver McLane Mannix totaled 85 yards and one touchdown on five receptions. Wolf Pack receiver Brendan O’Leary-Orange exited the game on a stretcher attached to a medical cart after suffering a hard fall during the third quarter.
The Wolf Pack were stout defensively, forcing three turnovers and accumulating five sacks in the win.
The Wolf Pack found their offensive rhythm from the opening kickoff. Driving down to Beaver territory Nevada scored in just three minutes thanks to Taua’s five-yard plunge into the endzone.
Nevada’s secondary struggled on the ensuing possession. Quarterback Conor Blount found holes in the Wolf Pack’s zone coverage and fired strikes down the sideline to Hodgins and Timmy Hernandez. Blount later connected with Hodgins on a five-yard score to tie the game.
Nevada’s second drive showcased Gangi’s connection with Mannix. Gangi connected with the 5’9 sophomore on back-to-back third down conversions to keep two drives alive. The Wolf Pack were forced to settle for a field goal after a bobbled snap in the red zone.
On the ensuing Beavers possession, senior cornerback Jomon Dotson jumped on a curl route and intercepted Blount on the Oregon State 26 yard line. Gangi didn’t waste anytime finding Mannix with a 24-yard post route in the end zone. Putting the Wolf Pack up 16-7 after the missed PAT.
A quick punt by Oregon State was courtesy of constant pressure from the Wolf Pack front seven including defensive tackle Korey Rush, who recorded his second sack of the season. Gangi picked apart the Beaver’s defense with quick throws out of the pistol formation. This time, a nine-yard shuffle pass to Kincaide who coasted to the endzone.
Despite the commanding lead, the Wolf Pack defense didn’t let up. As soon as Blount dropped back to pass, Rush exploded up the middle of the Beaver’s offensive front, forcing a strip sack en route to a 48-yard scoop and score by Malik Reed.
QB Jake Luton made an appearance for Oregon State seven minutes into the second quarter. Running back Jermar Jefferson capped the drive off with a two-yard score, making it 30-14 in the Wolf Pack’s favor.
Nevada’s offense stalled with three-straight punts. And Luton lead another 87-yard scoring drive down the field, staying patient in the pocket and finding receivers downfield. He found a wide open Hodgins in the back corner of the end zone for the score . Leading by as many as 23 points, Nevada held a 30-21 advantage at the conclusion of the first half.
Both offenses fell flat during the third quarter. The Wolf Pack secondary did not allow any big plays -forcing four three-and-outs in the second half- and the Beavers front seven generated constant pressure on Gangi.
Hodgins’ 10th reception of the game was a big one to end the third, turning a curl route into a 51-yard gain into Nevada territory. But the Wolf Pack defense stood tall once again, as Berdale Robins picked off Luton on their own eight yard line to protect Nevada’s two-score lead.
The Wolf Pack failed to gain any momentum on the ensuing possession, leading to their seventh punt of the contest. Luton lead the Beavers on yet another drive into Nevada territory, capped off with Jefferson’s second touchdown of the day. Cutting the Wolf Pack’s lead to 30-28 with 11 minutes remaining in the fourth.
Nevada recaptured the momentum on the ensuing drive. The Wolf Pack started the drive off with a 10-yard completion from Gangi to Mannix. Gangi then rushed into Beaver territory on a 23-yard run. Then, he spotted receiver Romero Doubs and floated a 35-yard pass caught on the six yard line. The outstretched arms of junior running back Kelton Moore were just enough to cross the pylon, padding the Wolf Pack’s lead.
The score was figured to be the turning point of the highly intense matchup, putting Nevada up 37-28 with under nine minutes remaining.
Oregon State’s next drive ended in disappointment as Choukair’s 49-yard field goal attempt was just short of the uprights -giving the Wolf Pack the ball in great field position. Nevada bullied the Beavers on the ground with Taua, who totaled 37 yards on three carries during the drive. A Gangi interception stalled all momentum as John McCartan returned it back 30 yards.
With Blount inserted back into the game, the Beavers stormed down the field in just four plays. The one-yard touchdown carry from Kase Rogers cut Nevada’s lead once again, 37-35.
Nevada gave the ball right back to Oregon State with four minutes left. Blount and the Beavers drove all the way down to the with dump-offs to Jefferson and Rogers. With 1:12 remaining, Blount scrambled to his left and fired a dart to Hodgins for 11 yards and into field goal range.
Choukair’s missed field goal rushed the Wolf Pack onto the field and brought the 20,462 fans in attendance to their feet.
Nevada must find a way to close out games and build some consistency on both sides of the ball. The Wolf Pack offense mustered just seven first downs after the first quarter, putting way too much pressure on the defense to force stops. Gangi must improve on his decision making outside the pocket. Nevada is still susceptible to the big play defensively, giving up three plays of 35 yards or more Saturday. But they stood their ground as a unit when it mattered most against the Beavers. They have a lot of talent on the defensive line and have time to gel as the season goes along.
The Wolf Pack will face off against the Toledo Rockets on the road Saturday, Sept. 22 in Glass Bowl Stadium. Toledo dropped their first game of the season at the hands of the Miami Hurricanes 49-24. They are 1-1 this season — which ranks second in the MAC West.
Toledo’s offensive attack is lead by junior quarterback Mitchell Guadagni — a dual threat with his legs with 67 rushing yards in two games. Nevada may have its hands full stopping receiver Diontae Johnson. The 5’11 junior has at least 60 yards and one touchdown in each game this year.
If the Wolf Pack can control Johnson at the line of scrimmage and keep Guadagni in the pocket, they should fair well against Toledo. Offensively, Nevada needs control the tempo and make plays down the field if they want to earn the first road win under Jay Norvell.
Darion Strugs can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @dstrugs.