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Pack eviscerate Colorado State; Strong breaks Nevada’s single-season touchdown record

NCAA Football: Nevada at Colorado State Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Carson Strong record night coupled with Nevada’s dominant all-around performance led to its 52-10 thrashing of the Colorado State Rams on Saturday at Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins, Colo.

The Wolf Pack raced out to a 14-point first quarter lead in the first 3:44 due to a pair of 27- and 54-yard touchdowns from Carson Strong to wide receiver Tory Horton, who finished with four receptions for a team-high 113 yards and two touchdowns.

Nevada didn’t look back. It forced three turnovers — on consecutive possessions — with five sacks while fashioning 17 additional unanswered points in the first half. It finished with six sacks — its sixth game of the year with at least five sacks — and five forced turnovers, tying a season-high.

Strong finished 17-for-22 for 288 yards and four touchdowns — yes, only one more incompletion (5) than touchdowns (4).

Strong also broke the program single-season record for most touchdown passes, set by Chris Vargas’ in 1993 with 34. Strong now has 4,175 yards — 90 yards from breaking another one of Vargas’ single season records (4,265) — with 36 touchdown passes in 12 starts this season.

Nate Cox, who came in mid-way through the third-quarter when Nevada led by 21, finished 3-for-5 for 14 yards, including a 15-yard rushing touchdown.

Nevada finished with 528 yards and 22 first downs.

Collectively, the Pack had their best rushing performance of the season, tallying a season-high 226 yards — destroying their previous-best 145 yards — on 35 carries (6.5 yards per attempt).

Toa Taua rushed for 69 yards on 14 carries while Devonte Lee added a season-high 57 yards with a touchdown on 8.1 yards per attempt. Lee’s 57 yards is the most since he had 105 in last year’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl versus Tulane.

Avery Morrow, Nevada’s third-string tailback, posted a team-high 88 yards — a career high — on five carries with his second career touchdown.

Romeo Doubs recorded a team-high six receptions for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Tory Horton’s 113 yards and two scores marked his second career 100-yard-multi-touchdown performance.

Colorado State tallied 443 yards with 20 first downs.

Coming off a career performance a week ago, Todd Centeio completed 15-for-24 for 187 yards with no touchdowns and three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble). True freshman Evan Olaes went 4-for-6 for 28 yards, including a team-high 10 carries for 53 yards.

A’Jon Vivens led all tailbacks with eight carries, but for just 25 yards; Alex Barrouet had seven carries for a team-most 50 yards; Jaylen Thomas added 16 rushing yards (on four carries).

Arguably the nation’s best tight end Trey McBride has his lone rush result in a 69-yard touchdown from a fake punt. He also finished with a team-high six receptions for 90 yards. Dante Wright added five receptions for 43 yards while Gary Williams had three catches for 30 yards.

The Wolf Pack’s 42-point destruction marked their largest margin-of-victory against an FBS opponent since they beat San Jose State by 45 in 2017.

They cap-off their regular season at 8-4 and 5-3 in Mountain West play. After beginning this season 2-0 in conference play, Colorado State dropped its sixth straight Mountain West game for the first time since 2011, sinking to 3-9 overall.

Nevada exploded out of the gates.

Strong and the Wolf Pack opened up a five-play, 75-yard opening drive touchdown — capped by Strong’s 27-yard touchdown pass to Horton, jumping head 7-0. Strong followed suit with a 54-yard touchdown connection to Horton just 1:55 later, making it a two-touchdown lead with 11:16 left in the opening quarter.

Nevada widened it to 21-0 after Lee’s three-yard rushing score — his fourth of the year.

The Wolf Pack defense forced three straight turnovers, the first being a Tyson Williams interception that set them up in plus territory. Strong’s record-breaking touchdown pass came on an 11-yard feed to Doubs, making it 28-0 with 9:24 left in the opening half.

The second straight turnover forced came courtesy of Daniel Grzesiak’s strip sack, though the offense suffered its first three-and-out of the evening. Nevada’s third consecutive turnover forced came from safety Jordan Lee dislodging the ball from McBride’s grasp — recovered by Pack corner AJ King — ultimately resulting in Brandon Talton’s 31-yard field goal, widening it to 31-0 with 3:15 left in the half.

Nevada went into halftime with the 31-point advantage. It gained 282 yards with 15 first downs; Colorado State had 173 yards with nine first downs.

On Colorado State’s opening drive out of halftime, McBride’s 69-yard rushing touchdown via a fake punt on fourth-and-four gave the Rams their first-and-only touchdown of the evening.

Nevada’s BerDale Robins intercepted Centeio on its own one-yard line. But the Pack capped-off the four-play, 99-yard drive with a 66-yard touchdown connection from Strong to Doubs (who else?), increasing it to 38-7 with 6:39 left in the third quarter. It was Strong’s last throw and Doubs’ last catch of the night.

They piled on with Cox’s 15-yard rushing touchdown, followed by Avery Morrow’s one-yard score — increasing it to 52-7. Cayden Camper’s 33-yard field goal cut it to 42 — but that was all she wrote!

Next up: Nevada is bowl eligible for the third consecutive season. With Hawai’i’s 38-14 win over Wyoming, eight teams are now bowl eligible with five automatic Mountain West bowl bids. Though there could be backup bowls for the three programs left out, but nothing’s guaranteed. Here’s the five bowl buy-ins:

  • Los Angeles Bowl (Saturday, Dec. 18; SoFi Stadium): MWC vs. Pac-12
  • New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 18; Dreamstyle Stadium): MWC vs. C-USA
  • Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Tuesday, Dec. 21, Albertsons Stadium): MWC vs. MAC

Note: Given that it played in the Potato Bowl in each of the last two seasons, I don’t think Nevada will play there again. But we’ll see!!

  • EasyPost Hawai’i Bowl (Friday Dec. 24, Clarence TC Ching Complex): MWC vs. AAC
  • Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl: (Friday Dec. 31, Arizona Stadium): MWC vs. MAC

Nevada could also be apart of the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl, which will played between two Group of five teams.