For the first time in his collegiate career, Carson Strong eclipsed the 300 yard mark as he led the Wolf Pack to victory against New Mexico.
The 21-10 win over the Lobos pushes Nevada to 5-4 on the season with three games left to play. With one more win, the Pack would be bowl eligible for the second year in a row.
Strong threw for 305 yards while connecting on 28-40 of his passing attempts including two touchdowns. His longest throw of the night came on a deep shot to wide receiver Romeo Doubs. The pair connected from 57 yards out, ending in a touchdown.
Doubs was Nevada’s leading receiver on the night, hauling in 11 receptions for 167 yards and a score. The sophomore wideout from Los Angeles accounted for more than half of the Pack’s total passing yards.
Leading the Pack on the ground was running back Devonte Lee, who carried the rock nine times for 68 yards. Sharing the load with Lee was sophomore Toa Taua. Taua had 17 rushing attempts for 28 yards, averaging 1.6 yards per carry.
Defensive back Tyson Williams led all Pack defenders with seven total tackles. This brings Williams’ season total to 54.
Nevada won the opening coin toss, but couldn’t capitalize on their first drive.
After trading penalties with New Mexico on the opening couple of plays, the Pack managed to pick up a few first downs. The drive sputtered to an end at the New Mexico 38 yard line. A pooch punt from Strong pinned the Lobos deep in their own territory.
New Mexico responded with a nine-play, 90-yard drive, of which ended in a touchdown. Lobos’ quarterback Tevaka Tuioti opened the drive with a first down pass to Emmanuel Logan-Greene. After throwing an incompletion on the ensuing play, Tuioti scrambled for 20 yards. Tuioti’s next three passes moved the Lobos into the red zone. A four-yard scamper from running back Ahmari Davis put the game’s first points on the board.
This was the first and only time New Mexico found the endzone on the night.
Nevada and New Mexico then traded punts late into the first quarter. The cycle was broken when the Pack tied up the game at seven apiece.
Strong led the Wolf Pack on a methodical, 15 play drive for 73 yards that ate up 8:12 off the clock. The drive ended with Taua breaking the goal line after a gritty one-yard run with 7:50 left in the half.
Nevada found the endzone again on the following Wolf Pack possession. Strong connected twice to Doubs on the drive, both on plays of 20 plus yards. The first was a 21-yard gain which set up the scoring pass. Strong launched a deep shot to the back of the endzone, connecting with Doubs from 57 yards out.
At halftime, Nevada led the Lobos, 14-7. The Wolf Pack held onto the lead for the remainder of the game.
New Mexico struck first in the second half. An eight-play, 43-yard drive ended in a Lobos field goal off the foot of Andrew Shelly from 49 yards out. The three-point play shrunk Nevada’s lead to four. Unfortunately for the Lobos, this was their final score of the night.
Seven punts were exchanged between the Pack and the Lobos before either one found the endzone again.
Nevada scored the final points of the evening following a five-play, 46-yard drive with 5:45 left in the game. Strong connected with wideout Elijah Cooks from 20 yards out, pushing the Pack’s lead to 11.
The Lobos had one last attempt to make a late-game push, but their offense failed to convert on fourth down. Their inability to convert led to a turnover on downs, sealing a victory for the Wolf Pack.
Nevada now sits at 5-4 on the year and 2-3 in conference play. Next up for the Pack, a trip to San Diego State University to take on the No. 24 ranked Aztecs.
If Nevada notches one more win on the season, they will be bowl eligible for the second year in a row. Sitting in their way is a daunting task: the SDSU Aztecs.
The challenge with the Aztecs doesn’t come on the offensive side of the ball, it’s the defensive front that provides the issue. According to CBS Sports, SDSU is ranked No. 12 in the nation in total defense, including the third-ranked rushing defense. The Aztecs are only giving up an average of 69.9 yards on the ground per game.
SDSU’s pass defense isn’t shabby either, though. On average, their secondary is giving up 213.6 yards per game through the air. Nevada is averaging 238.1 yards per game through the air. If the Pack is to get the upset in San Diego, it will have to be done through the air.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at SDCCU Stadium. Nevada hasn’t won in San Diego since 1946 when they beat the Aztecs in a shutout, 26-0. The all-time series between the two programs sits at 4-7, with SDSU winning the majority of the matchups. Nevada won the last match—last season—28-24.
Ryan Freeberg can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SagebrushSports