With help from smothering defense, Brandon Talton’s four field goals and Jaxson Kincaide’s running/receiving attack, Nevada football held on for a 19-13 win over the Weber State Wildcats on Saturday at Mackay Stadium.
The Wolf Pack offense struggled out of the gate, trailing 10-9 at halftime despite putting up 274 total yards and limiting the Big Sky Conference opponent to five first downs. Persistence remained key for Nevada in the second half, and it paid dividends down the stretch.
Coming off a tough loss to Oregon, the Wolf Pack played with a chip on their shoulder.
“I knew we were gonna have some adversity tonight,” head coach Jay Norvell said. “It was really important that we responded and we did. It wasn’t a perfect game by any means, but to be able to make some errors and respond and beat a good football is important for a growing team like us.”
Nevada had 453 total yards for the game. Kincaide served as the Swiss Army knife offensively. Kincaide rushed for 75 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown on the ground. The versatile senior tailback lined up as a slot receiver and hauled in a season-high five catches for 51 yards.
“I just try to do my job the right way,” Kincaide said. “I still feel like I could have done a better job of getting to the second level, but we came out with the win so that’s all that matters.”
Kincaide’s dual-threat ability served as a security blanket for redshirt freshman quarterback Carson Strong, who completed 30-of-44 passes for 299 yards and two interceptions.
Weber State’s stout defensive front flushed Strong out of the pocket and forced him to focus on his primary target downfield. The Wildcats pounced on Strong’s mistakes with a pair of interceptions in the first half.
Strong took better care of the ball in the second half and fed receivers Kaleb Fossum and Elijah Cooks. Fossum had five catches for a game-high 77 yards. Cooks added six catches for 65 yards.
In just his third start as a starting quarterback, Strong is making strides under center.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot over these last three games,” Strong said. “Coming into this game I felt a lot better in myself. I still have to clean up the turnovers, but it gets better with every start.”
Despite three turnovers, Nevada held its own defensively. The Wolf Pack forced eight punts from Weber State and totaled 10 tackles for loss.
Wildcats backup quarterback Kaden Jenks — who made his first start of the season after Jake Constantine sat out with a knee injury — was introduced to Nevada’s vicious front seven. The trio of defensive tackle Dom Peterson and linebackers Gabe Sewell and Lawson Hall lived in the backfield and forced several errant throws from Jenks.
Nevada cornerback Daniel Brown came away with his Mountain West Conference leading third interception in the second quarter to help the Pack offense chip into its deficit.
Weber State, who rushed for 263 yards against Cal Poly on Sept. 7, was limited to 74 yards on the ground and 63 yards through the air.
“I thought we played really sound and good defense tonight,” Norvell said. “We didn’t give up a lot of air yards and I didn’t see too many big plays. I thought our secondary was very sound, which was great to see.”
Nevada led 3-0 in the first quarter. Weber State responded with 10 points in the second quarter. The Wolf Pack drove to Wildcat territory twice, but came away with just six points on two field goals.
The Wolf Pack trailed 10-9 at the half. Kincaide’s 33-yard score put Nevada up 16-10. Weber State kicker Trey Tuttle’s season-high 47-yard field goal trimmed the deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
Both teams nailed one field goal apiece to keep Nevada’s lead at 19-13 with under four minutes remaining in the fourth. With the ball on their own 25 yard line, Nevada looked to sophomore running back Toa Taua to carry the load. He pounded the Wildcats defensive front with punishing runs between the tackles to run out the clock.
Taua carried the ball 16 times for a game-high 89 rushing yards to help seal the win.
The 2-1 Wolf Pack hit the road to face UTEP on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 5 p.m.