Throughout the last week and over the last several months, there’s been plenty of build-up to this specific game after now-Colorado State head coach Jay Norvell darted to Fort Collins from Reno last December.
Well he ultimately walked away with the last laugh, as Colorado State squeaked past the Nevada Wolf Pack for their first win of the season, moving to 1-4. Nevada, meanwhile, drops to 2-4, having now lost four straight games, including two at home to Incarnate Word and CSU.
Let’s jump into some takeaways:
1. Turnover? Both teams knew her.
Speaking of takeaways, both teams had a litany of takeaways in the first half. Nevada had a difficulty securing the rock on multiple occassions, while Colorado State really struggled throwing the ball all evening. Backup quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi — starting in-place of the injured Clay Millen — threw two early interceptions. Both teams coughed up a combined five turnovers, but....
2. Scoring ineptitude from (both) offense(s) continue
The offenses weren’t doing anything with those turnovers! Nevada didn’t have any points-of-turnovers. Defense wins championships, and Friday night, believe it or not, Colorado State’s only two touchdowns came defensively...off said turnovers.
Two plays after Bentlee Sanders’ FBS-leading fifth interception of the season midway through the first quarter, CSU’s Ayden Hector jumped an out-route and returned an interception 21 yards to the house.
The Rams’ ensuing drive resulted in another interception — this time by Tyriq Mack — though Rams defensive lineman Mukendi Wa-Kalonji went on a 50-yard house call four plays later on a fumble recovery.
Their only drive that resulted in points helped out by the offense was their last, and most crucial one. They drove down 53 yards (on seven plays) in just over two minutes that resulted in a 43-yard game-winning field goal by Michael Boyle, who was helped out after missing a 48-yarder that was deemed running into the kicker.
In total, both teams combined for 613 yards of offense and 32 first downs. While that’s not an insanely low amount, the two offenses looked a lot uglier than the statline indicated.
3. Offensive line struggles plague Pack
Throughout the first three games, the Pack have had difficulty generating a sustainable run game, much to do with the newfangled offensive line that’s inexperienced and still trying to generate chemistry with one another.
It did not take a step forward Friday, it took a step back — figuratively and, at times, literally (it’s what happens when you throw 42 passes!)
Nevada signal caller Nate Cox (more on him later) was routinely getting pressured and knocked around. On several occassions, that was due to Colorado State — who finished with two sacks, eight quarterback hurries and nine tackles-for-loss — sending an extra rusher or two, putting the pressure on Cox all evening. But there were also several occassions where The Union got pushed into or around Cox, making him and the front uncomfortable for the full 60 minutes. It didn’t help that Nevada’s two tailbacks — Toa Taua and Devonte Lee — barely averaged three yards per carry, too.
4. Is Cox the starting QB?
A question we are all still asking midway through the season: Who’s the starting quarterback going to be, Shane Illingworth or Nate Cox. Cox received all the reps Friday, completing 20-of-42 passes for 244 yards and one interception, running for 23 yards on eight attempts.
He didn’t look spectacular (when he had time), but the proverbial question that’s surrounded head coach Ken Wilson since he took over might’ve been officially answered Friday night.
(Well, unless he wants to see Illingworth on the field again versus Hawai’i next week.)
5. Nevada’s bowl chances all but out the window?
While it returned the fewest production nationally, along with implementing an entirely new coaching staff with an entirely new system, Nevada eking out a bowl berth for the fifth straight year appeared faint at best. But there was still an alley.
Nevada would’ve likely had to start 3-1 in its four nonconference games (it went 2-2), would’ve needed to beat Hawai’i and UNLV, along with running into at least one win against Colorado State/San Diego State/Boise State/San Jose State/Fresno State.
They can still beat Hawai’i and UNLV, which would be four wins, but that’s not the threshold. Nevada’s best chance at maintaining bowl eligibility was beating Colorado State — unless it, again, runs into one against San Diego State, San Jose State, Fresno State and/or Boise State. Sure, the season is still long — but the odds of that happening, as of right now, are slim to none.
Ultimately, Jay Norvell got the last laugh in the end. He picked up his first career Colorado State win in a stadium he called home for half a decade, in front of a fanbase that still seemingly carries disdain towards him (and his actions in Dec.).
And he might’ve slaughtered his old school’s bowling odds — which would’ve maintained the streak he (Norvell) created — in doing so.