A late second half surge from the Nevada Wolf Pack wasn’t enough to overcome a 21-point deficit, falling to the Ohio Bobcats (7-6, 5-3) 30-21 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho on Friday.
The Wolf Pack scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to cut the lead to 30-21. But they squandered opportunities to potentially take the lead after a lost fumble and a turnover-on-downs in the red zone stripped away the momentum on their final two possessions.
The loss cements Nevada’s season record as 7-6 with a minus-138 point differential. Nevada is now 6-11 in bowl games, and 1-1 under third-year head coach Jay Norvell.
Ten days after adding three interim defensive coaches, the Wolf Pack defense — missing four defensive starters (one for only a half) due to suspension — had a difficult time versus Ohio’s high-powered offense.
Nevada surrendered 429 yards of total offense, including 285 rushing yards on 47 combined rushes. Junior running back De’Montre Tuggle led the way with 97 rushing yards on 10 carries with a touchdown.
Freshman running back Julian Ross and senior quarterback Nathan Rourke also tallied one rushing touchdown apiece. Rourke had 87 rushing yards on ten carries. Ross added 57 rushing yards on 17 carries.
When he wasn’t running, Rourke, a three-time All-MAC selection, did a good job maneuvering within the pocket. The 6-foot-1 senior completed 9-of-17 passes for 144 yards with no touchdowns. Isiah Cox hauled in a team-high three receptions for 73 yards.
The Wolf Pack offense totaled 430 yards. Redshirt freshman Carson Strong completed 31-of-49 passes for a season-high 402 yards with one passing touchdown.
Wide receiver Elijah Cooks had a career afternoon. The 6-foot-4 target had 14 receptions for 197 yards, both career-highs, with a touchdown. Cooks had an incredibly strong finish to the season, totaling 26 combined catches for 348 yards and a touchdown in his final two games.
He also tied a Nevada bowl record for catches and set the bowl record for receiving yards.
As I illuminated in my three keys for a Nevada victory, Nevada needed to get the run going, which has been a difficult task to accomplish for a majority of the season. The Pack tied a season-low with 29 yards -- 30 coming in the second half -- on 19 rushes.
Ohio’s defense pressured Strong throughout the game, tying its season-high with four sacks compared to Nevada’s one sack (which forced the fumble).
Nevada jumped ahead courtesy of a 51-yard field goal from freshman Brandon Talton on the first drive of the game— the longest field goal from a Nevada placekicker in a bowl game in school history.
Ohio established the line of scrimmage early, running the ball on each of its first six plays for a combined 58 yards. The Bobcats tied the game on its first drive on a 29-yard field goal from fifth-year senior placekicker Louie Zervos, his first of three field goals.
The Bobcats took a 10-3 lead with 12:28 remaining in the second quarter on a 12-yard run from Ross on a 4th-and-1 play. They converted on two 4th-and-short opportunities throughout the drive which fueled the 15-play drive that lasted nearly eight minutes.
Talton hit a 36-yard field goal on the Pack’s ensuing drive, giving him six games with multiple field goals in his freshman campaign. Rourke dashed 35 yards into the endzone to extend its lead to 17-6 with 6:21 remaining in the second quarter.
Both sides traded field goals to finish off the first half, as Ohio marched into halftime with a 20-9 lead. The Bobcats totaled 233 yards -- 174 coming on the ground -- compared to Nevada’s 182.
Ohio opened the second half with a 36-yard field goal. Strong fumbled on Nevada’s ensuing possession, leading to a two-yard score from Tuggle to extend Ohio’s lead to 30-9.
Nevada forced its first of two turnovers deep in its own territory with 14:21 remaining in the fourth quarter, trailed 30-9.
The Wolf Pack marched 78 yards down the field, capped off by an 8-yard connection from redshirt freshman Strong to Cooks in the left corner in the endzone for Nevada’s first touchdown on the afternoon. Talton’s extra point was blocked, with the Bobcats leading at 30-15 with 10:48 left in the contest.
Nevada defensive tackle Dom Peterson forced a fumble after a thunderous sack on Rourke on the following possession, leading to a one-yard score from Lee. The score remained 30-21 after failing on the two-point conversion, unable to bring it to one possession contest.
It was an unfortunate outcome for the Wolf Pack, but despite the inconsistent season, there is a lot to look forward to for next season. Nevada has posted two consecutive winning seasons, both translating into bowl appearances.
Imagine being as good at anything as Brandon Talton is at kicking field goals.— Nevada Football (@NevadaFootball) January 3, 2020
He drills a 36-yarder and we cut the deficit to four, 10-6 Ohio with 7:21 left until the half.#BattleBorn // #NevadaGrit pic.twitter.com/RJ3nYg59hP
DEVONTE LEE ON THE GOAL LINE? YOU. LOVE. TO. SEE. IT.— Nevada Football (@NevadaFootball) January 3, 2020
We have cut the deficit to nine here in the final quarter, as Ohio leads 30-21 with 8:42 remaining.
NOT. DONE. YET.#BattleBorn // #NevadaGrit pic.twitter.com/Tpco2im3Zw