Saturday’s offensive shootout featured a late fourth quarter push from Toledo (2-1), in their rout over Nevada (2-2), 63-44. Once again Nevada head coach Jay Norvell is still winless in road games in his Nevada tenure (0-8).
The offenses featured 1,042 combined yards of total offense, 50 combined first downs and 107 total points. Nevada now moves to 0-5 against Toledo in all time head-to-head bouts and 6-7 against current MAC teams.
Toledo QB Mitchell Guadagni threw for four touchdowns, also rushing for two more. He completed 62.5 percent of his passes (15-for-24), throwing for 211 yards. Guadagni would maximize his dual-threat ability, adding a team-leading 131 yards on the ground on 15 total attempts.
Guadagni would connect with senior receiver Cody Thompson four times for 57 yards, and three touchdowns. Junior receiver Diontae Johnson would also haul in one touchdown, his fourth of the season, on four catches for a team-leading 67 yards.
Nevada QB Ty Gangi threw for 320 yards, completing 58 percent (29-for-50) of his passes, for one touchdown and one interception in the 63-44 loss. Freshman running back Toa Taua had a spectacular day in the backfield, rushing for team-leading 170 yards on fifteen attempts for three touchdowns. Gangi’s main target on the afternoon was junior receiver Kaleb Fossum — who hauled in a career-high 14 catches on the day — for 150 yards and a TD.
After both teams went three-and-out on their opening drives, each team would score a touchdown on the next possession. Toledo’s special teams would make an impact on Nevada’s second punt. The snap was botched by punter Quinton Conaway whose punt would be blocked and returned by Toledo for a nine-yard touchdown, breaking a 7-7 tie.
The Rockets would bobble Nevada’s following punt, giving Nevada favorable field possession. Gangi would tie the contest at 14, connecting with sophomore receiver Elijah Cooks —his first reception of the season— after delivering a ball on a post route in the back of the endzone from 22 yards out.
On the ensuing kickoff, Toledo’s special teams would strike once again as Diontae Thompson launched like a rocket going 99 yards untouched to the house as Toledo reclaimed the lead.
The following Nevada drive would feature the Pack’s first turnover, as Toledo poked the ball away from freshman running back Devonte Lee. Fortunate enough, Nevada’s defense would force a quick punt, taking over at their own seven-yard line. Nevada would march down the field on six plays, finished by Toa Taua gashing in-between the tackles, discovering the open field, and going 31 yards for the score, tying the game at 21.
Guadagni would lead a 67-yard drive the ensuing possession, utilizing his dual-threat ability, rushing for 39 yards on his first two attempts of the afternoon. Toledo would cap off their 67-yard drive, as Guadagni lobbed a perfectly placed pass to senior receiver Cody Thompson, his 22nd career TD.
Guadagni would begin to showcase his legs more. To cap off their 41-yard drive to end the first half, the 6’2” junior would scramble for 27 yards into the endzone, taking a 35-21 lead with 14 seconds remaining in the first half.
After a squib kick that was recovered by the Pack at midfield, senior kicker Ramiz Ahmed would nail a career long 50-yard FG —cutting Toledo’s lead to 11 points.
Nevada’s opened the second half clicking on offense. Kelton Moore would break into the open field, escaping into the endzone from 29 yards out, capping off Nevada’s 75-yard drive. In three quick plays Nevada would score a cut deeper into the Rocket’s lead.
After another Toledo touchdown, Nevada would start on their own 34-yard line. On the first play of the possession, Toa Taua would gash through another hole in the Toledo defense for a career-long 66-yard touchdown, cutting Toledo’s lead to 42-38.
Both offenses would go stymied for their next two drives. That would end when Thompson hauled his third reception of the season, and his second of the afternoon, from 20-yards out, capping off Toledo’s 68-yard drive. Thompson would score again for the Rockets on the next drive for his third touchdown of the game — extending their lead to eighteen points.
Nevada would continue to fight back, as the 75-yard drive would be completed by Taua’s third touchdown of the game — this time from two yards out. Nevada would not score the rest of the game, as Toledo punched it in one last time.
The 2-2 Nevada Wolf Pack will hit the road once again, traveling to Colorado Springs to take on Air Force in their first conference bout this season. Nevada is 1-3 against the Falcons since joining the Mountain West in 2012 — the lone win coming in 2013.
Nevada will look to improve defensively after the 63-44 loss against Toledo. This will be no easy task for the Pack defense as they face triple option offense Air Force brings to the table. Air Force’s rushing attack is second in the Mountain West behind UNLV, averaging 288.3 rushing yards per game. The Falcons air it out more than the other triple option offenses. Quarterback Isaiah Sanders has completed 56.7 percent of his passes this season for 289 yards in three games. Sanders has also rushed for 119 yards in 48 attempts with two touchdowns.
Look for Air Force to milk the clock and take advantage of the time of possession. Nevada’s defense surrendered 593 total yards last year against this Falcon squad, in their 45-42 loss — so it should be interesting to see what changes Nevada will make.
Matt Hanifan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.