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Notes from Nevada’s annual Silver and Blue Spring Game

NCAA Football: UNLV at Nevada David Calvert-USA TODAY Sports

Nevada football closed its 15th-and-final spring practice in its annual Silver and Blue spring game Saturday afternoon at Mackay Stadium in Reno, Nev. The socially-distanced event sold out its 1,800 allotted tickets in the 27,000-seat venue.

“It was really weird,” Nevada head coach Jay Norvell said postgame during the Nevada Sports Net telecast, when asked about the fan attendance.

“Even when we came out for warmups, when there was only like 25 people here — there’s still more people we played in front of for over a year ... It’s very satisfying that the progress we’ve made and now we can have fans here.”

Per the rules set prior to the game, the Blue team (projected starters) started in a 21-0 hole to the Silver team (projected backups). Though no scoring took place in the second half (with a running clock), Blue took the 35-28 victory. Special teams play throughout the afternoon was limited.

“It’s a pretty good spread,” Norvell said. “We had a lot of starters that were injured and weren’t apart of it, so it was a little more difficult to do the spread this year ... I think it’s a good format. We challenge the guys to perform.”

“I really think the kids had a great spring,” he added. “If we continue to improve with the good leadership we have, I think we have a chance to be a very good team.”

Here were some notes I took throughout the game:

1st quarter

  • Despite warming up, reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year Carson Strong did not play due to recovering from offseason knee surgery.
  • Quarterback Nate Cox started for the Blue squad. Signal caller Jake Barlage started for the Silver team.
  • Cox opened the Blue team’s first drive with a long heave to Romeo Doubs. It dropped a couple yards shy of Doubs for an incomplete pass.
  • The first official score of the scrimmage came via a pick-six from All-Mountain West defensive back BerDale Robins on the Silver team’s second drive. He read Jonah Chong’s eyes perfectly.
  • Devonte Lee (Blue) looks better than ever. The tailback trucked through the defense for a 17-yard score — cutting Silver’s lead to 21-14.
  • Blue’s defense has been sensational on its first few defensive possessions.
  • The Silver team is alternating between Chong and Barlage at quarterback. Hamish McClure succeeded Cox.
  • Senior defensive back Tyriq Mack put the Silver Team ahead 28-14 with a 100-yard pick-six (that’s got to be a spring game record, right?)
  • The second time’s a charm! Cox connected with Doubs on a 63-yard touchdown strike. Cox did a good job sliding up in the pocket to avoid the near-sack.
  • Yes, even in spring games against his own teammates, Doubs is taking the top off defenses. Beware, Mountain West secondaries.
  • Shortly thereafter, Barlage connects with junior receiver Carson Walters over the middle for a big gain.
  • The third pick-six of the first quarter — and fifth score of the game — came from defensive back Jordan Lee (Blue), tying it at 28. (NOTE: Nevada had just three interceptions in the COVID-shortened 2020 regular season before recording three in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Tulane. Progress!)
  • Blue squad members Kameron Toomer, Lawson Hall and Daniel Grzesiak all recorded first-quarter sacks. Head coach Jay Norvell discussed the improvement among the defensive line in recent weeks.

Second quarter:

  • Chong has showcased his dual-threat capability multiple times this quarter.
  • Though he’s had some overthrows, Chong has gotten into a rhythm on the Silver’s second drive. He connected with junior target Will Barnard three times during the drive alone.
  • Justin Lockhardt scampered for an 18-yard score on Cox’s screen pass, giving Blue the 35-28 lead.
  • All-Mountain West defensive lineman Dom Peterson sacks Barlage, his first of the afternoon. Grzesiak and senior Amir Johnson also showed heavy pressure on the play.
  • Arguably the conference’s top placekicker, Brandon Talton, hooked a 36-yard field goal wide left at the half’s conclusion.

Second Half (Running clock):

  • Blue began the second half with the football. Mack recorded his second interception of the game on the third play.
  • Senior punter Matt Freem (Silver) has had multiple quality punts throughout the scrimmage. He will be the primary backup behind senior Julian Diaz in 2021.
  • Cox has gotten a majority of the reps with the starters. The 6-foot-9 signal caller has more comfortable as the game’s transpired.
  • Though they are facing second- and third-stringers, the Blue offensive line has held their own throughout the contest — especially in pass protection.
  • Cox may be 6-foot-9, but he’s showcased the mobility on multiple occasions when a running lane has opened up.
  • Defensive end Giovanni Miranda (Silver) pokes the ball into Christopher Love’s arms on the final play of the scrimmage.

Nevada will open its 2021 season with three of four on the road, beginning with California on Saturday, Sept. 4. Here is Nevada’s full 2021 schedule:

Nevada Football 2021 Schedule

Date: Opponent: TV: Time (all time PT)
Date: Opponent: TV: Time (all time PT)
Sept. 4 at California FS1 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 11 vs. Idaho State TBA TBA
Sept. 18 at Kansas State ESPN+ 11:05 a.m.
Sept. 25 BYE ---------
Oct. 2 at Boise State Fox Networks (specifics not yet announced) TBA
Oct. 9 vs. New Mexico State CBS Sports Network 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Hawai'i CBS Sports Network 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 23 at Fresno State Fox Networks TBA
Oct. 29 vs. UNLV CBS Sports Network 7 p.m.
Nov. 6 vs. San Jose State Fox Networks TBA
Nov. 13 at San Diego State CBS Sports Network 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 19 vs. Air Force FS1 6/7/7:30 p.m.
Nov. 27 at Colorado State CBS Sports Network 6 p.m.