Nevada football’s season opener magic didn’t carry over in a 77-6 blowout loss on the road to the No. 16 ranked Oregon Ducks on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Autzen Stadium.
The Wolf Pack scored the first points of the game and trailed 7-6 with just under nine minutes left in the second quarter, but the Ducks dominated with 63 unanswered points over the remainder of the first half and final two quarters.
Oregon rattled off 623 total yards of offense and held a commanding lead for a majority of the game. The Ducks attacked Nevada’s 3-3-5 zone defense early with a dominant air attack from the arm of senior quarterback — and Heisman trophy candidate — Justin Herbert.
Herbert completed 19-of-25 passes for 310 yards and five touchdowns. He shredded the Pack’s zone scheme with pinpoint darts down the sidelines. His composure was on full display, stepping up in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield and going through his progressions.
Backup quarterback Tyler Shough took over midway through the third quarter and kept stacking the points in Oregon’s favor. The redshirt freshman had 89 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Running back Darrian Felix had 80 rushing yards and one touchdown on eight carries. Including Felix, 10 different players scored for Oregon.
The Ducks’ vicious defensive front held Nevada to just 192 total yards. Carson Strong completed 13-of-25 passes for 89 yards and two interceptions. Jaxson Kincaide led the team with 52 rushing yards on 13 attempts. Junior running back Kelton Moore added 36 rushing yards while Toa Taua was held to 13 yards on just six attempts.
Freshman kicker Brandon Talton—who nailed the game-winning field goal over Purdue on Aug. 30—was a perfect 2-for-2 on his field-goal attempts with a long of 45 yards.
Oregon’s pass rush forced Strong out of the pocket early and often, which lead to errant throws to safety Steven Stephens and linebacker Sampson Niu. Nevada backup signal-caller Hamish McClure came in for Strong and completed all three of his passes for 20 yards.
The Wolf Pack struck first after recovering a muffed punt to take over at the Oregon 12 yard line. Despite the great field position, Nevada only came away with a field goal. Herbert and the Ducks responded with a 66-yard touchdown to tight end Jacob Breeland on the very next drive. Oregon led 7-3 after the first quarter.
Nevada trimmed the deficit to 7-6 with Talton’s 45-yard field goal attempt. The Ducks took over the rest of the way. Running back CJ Verdell punched in the score from two yards out to cap off a six-play, 75-yard drive.
On the next possession, Strong’s first interception helped Oregon take over at the Nevada 35 yard line. Two plays later, Herbert connected with Ryan Bay for a 16-yard touchdown. Following a Wolf Pack punt, Oregon struck once again with Herbert’s third touchdown of the contest.
Nevada trailed 35-6 at the half.
The Ducks kept piling on the points in the second half. Nevada punted to open the third quarter, Herbert found Daewood Davis for a 16-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession. Wolf Pack tight end Reagan Roberson fumbled the ball on the Nevada 18 yard line. Oregon took advantage with a four-play drive ending in its sixth touchdown of the game.
Strong was intercepted for the second time on Nevada’s next drive. This led to the Ducks tacking on seven more points, extending their lead 56-6.
Moore was then stripped by Oregon defensive end DJ Johnson en-route to an 11-yard scoop-and-score. The Ducks held a commanding 63-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Nevada couldn’t find any rhythm offensively with two punts in the final quarter of play. The Ducks scored two more touchdowns for added measure, sealing a blowout defeat for the Pack.
Nevada returns to Mackay Stadium on Sept. 14 to face Weber State. The Wildcats are currently tied for first in the Big Sky Conference following a 41-24 victory over the Cal Poly Mustangs.
Along with a potent offense, Weber State holds a solid defense as well. The Wildcats held the San Diego State Aztecs to just six points, but lost 6-0 in the season opener on Aug. 31. Junior linebacker Conner Mortensen leads the team with 14 tackles.
Weber State is susceptible to the big play in the secondary, Cal Poly wide receivers hauled in 17 receptions for 134 yards. Nevada’s air attack can take advantage and force the Wildcats to adjust on the fly.
Offensively, Weber State is led by a two-headed rushing attack. The Wildcats have already rushed for 300 yards on the ground this season. Sophomore running back Josh Davis has 137 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Junior halfback Kevin Smith is right behind him with 121 rushing yards.
For the Wolf Pack to come away victorious, they must contain Weber State’s run-reliant game plan. Nevada has the bodies up front to get the job done, but it could be a matter of extra effort to see which team wants it more.
Coming off a brutal loss to Oregon, Nevada may be hungry to get back in the win column.
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.