The Arizona Bowl will feature two high-scoring, dangerous teams in the 7-5 Nevada Wolf Pack and 8-4 Arkansas State Red Wolves Dec. 29 in Tucson, Arizona. Both teams are practically identical on paper and have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball.
The two teams have met just a total of five teams, Nevada leads the series 3-2. Their last appearance occurred in 1999, ending in a 44-28 Arkansas State victory.
Both teams churned out four-straight wins during the tail end of the regular season. This is the first bowl appearance for the Pack under head coach Jay Norvell. Let’s break down the teams in all three phases of the game.
The Pack averaged 32.3 points per game compared to the Red Wolves 31.8 points per game this season. Quarterback Ty Gangi is at the center of Nevada’s air raid offense. The senior signal caller put together an impressive season with 3,131 yards and 23 passing touchdowns . The Pack also average 4.8 yards per carry in large part to freshman running back Toa Taua. The Mountain West Freshman of the Year totaled 1,010 all-purpose yards and seven total touchdowns.
The Red Wolves are led by redshirt senior quarterback Justice Hansen, a transfer from Oklahoma. Hansen passed for 3,172 yards for 27 touchdowns to go along with a 67 completion percentage to just six interceptions. They’re also potent on the ground, freshman running back Marcell Murray and senior Warren Wand have combined for over 1,400 rushing yards this season. Hansen amassed nearly 400 rushing yards as well.
Both teams surrender over 25 points per game on the other side of the field. Nevada allows 28.1 to Arkansas State’s 26.4. Both teams are anchored by a strong front seven that can generate constant pressure and both have 32 sacks on the year.
The Wolf Pack held their opponents to just 3.5 yards per carry this season compared to the Red Wolves’ 4.9. Although they can get to the quarterback, both teams struggle at times to force turnovers on a consistent basis. Nevada forced 19 and Arkansas State forced 18 respectively.
Both teams have strong legs in the special teams category. Nevada’s Ramiz Ahmed has nailed 14 of 19 field goal attempts this season, including a season long of 50 yards. Freshman Blake Grupe on the other hand has come on strong late in the season. The Red Wolves also hold a pair of dangerous returners in Wand and Justin McInnis.
The Pack have their hands full controlling Hansen and Arkansas State’s potent ground attack. It looks to be a high affair for both teams, but the Red Wolves control clock to their tempo and play style, ultimately coming up victorious. Nevada 24, Arkansas State 41