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Nevada Football: Keys to Victory over Wyoming

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The Wolf Pack can't afford to lose a game to the winless Wyoming Cowboys if they want to stay in bowl contention.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

The Wolf Pack are coming off a much-needed win against New Mexico, and now turn their focus to the Wyoming Cowboys. Wyoming is 0-6 on the season, and have struggled mightily on defense, but overall the team has showed signs of improvement. Here's the keys to a Nevada victory:

1a. Ground and Pound

I said it last week, and I'll say it again. The Wolf Pack's offense is at its best when Don Jackson and James Butler have the ball in their hands. Jackson has surpassed 100 yards rushing in all 3 of the Pack's victories, while failing to break 100 yards in Nevada's 3 losses. Meanwhile, his running mate, James Butler, is averaging 129 yards during wins, and 61.3 yards per loss. When the running backs are grounding and pounding, the Nevada offense is clicking and moving the ball.

1b. Limit Tyler Stewart

Tyler Stewart is an average QB at best. Stewart cannot put the team on his back and keep the Pack in a close game. He has only gone over 200 yards twice (Losses vs TAMU, UNLV). Stewart is most effective when he keeps his number of passing attempts under 25 per game, and can make short to intermediate passes. He thrives when he isn't asked to do too much in the pistol.

2. Shut Down Wyoming's Weapons

Despite being 0-6, Wyoming has three very good offensive players in RB Brian Hill, WR Tanner Gentry and QB Cameron Coffman. Being on a bad team, all three are very underrated players, and could do some damage against the Wolf Pack defense if left unchecked. The threats on the Cowboys' offense ends there, however. Coffman can hand it off to Hill or throw it to Gentry, but that's it, really. If the Pack slow down Hill and Gentry, and pressure Coffman, and Wyoming won't be able to move the ball.

3. Substitute Frequently

Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium is the highest stadium in the FBS at 7,215 ft. That elevation will really take a toll on the Wolf Pack players, meaning the Nevada coaching staff will need to shuffle players in and out on both sides of the ball to keep them fresh. While it is less of a jump for Nevada, as Reno sits above 4,000 ft, Wyoming will get any small advantage it can take if the Cowboys can hang around into the fourth quarter.

4. Don't Allow the Big Plays

Wyoming's only hope of beating Nevada will be to beat the Pack in an offensive shootout. Wyoming's defense is terrible, as they rank 207th in the country. The Wolf Pack shouldn't have any issues putting points on the board, especially with Brent Zuso's field goal range being extended with the altitude. It could be difficult for the Cowboys to put together a long drive, so they could take some shots down the field to see if they can catch the defense sleeping and get some quick points. If Nevada can stop these shots, they should be able to keep the Cowboys' offense at bay.

5. Utilize the Passing Weapons

What do Hasaan Henderson and Jarred Gipson have in common? Both have underwhelmed this year. Henderson hasn't caught more than 6 passes in a game, and Gipson doesn't have more than 2 catches in a game. If Stewart can start finding the two, it could add another dynamic to the offense.

6. Stay Healthy

Obviously teams would prefer to never have any injuries, but unfortunately they are a part of the game. The reason I put this on the list is that with a win over Wyoming, the Pack would only need 2 wins to become bowl-eligible. Their next two games will come against a struggling Hawaii team, and whatever Fresno State is. If they can stay healthy, there's no reason this team shouldn't go 3-0 and lock up a bowl with 3 games to go.

Prediction:

Before the season began, I picked Wyoming in this game, mainly because of their home field advantage. But really, I don't think home field advantage will make a difference in this game. Wyoming is not a good football team right now, and I think the Wolf Pack will win this game comfortably.

Nevada 31, Wyoming 13