Coming off a tough loss at home to one of the top FCS programs nationally, the Nevada Wolf Pack will travel to the midwest to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes in their first of two straight away from Mackay.
The Wolf Pack won their first two games over New Mexico State and Texas State, but struggled to contain the high-powered Incarnate Word offense in their most recent affair, falling 55-41. Ken Wilson and the Pack will now face their biggest road test of the season against Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes, who have underwent struggles of their own.
Without further ado, let’s jump into the preview!
Nevada (2-1) vs. Iowa (1-1)
When: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 4:30 p.m. PT
Where: Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
TV: Big 10 Network
Spread: Iowa -23
Last Meeting: First Ever Meeting
When Iowa is on offense:
Let’s just say that Iowa isn’t your traditional power-five offense.
Instead of the ho-hum, high-flying, spread offense, Iowa features a ground-and-pound/methodical offensive approach.
Has it worked? Well.....not so far this year.
In their season-opener against FCS-foe South Dakota State at home, the Hawkeyes scored seven points.....on two safeties and a field goal. They totaled just 166 yards of offense and followed that dismal performance up with seven more points (on a touchdown!) and 150 yards of offense against Iowa State last weekend.
Spencer Petras is still expected to be the starting quarterback for Ferentz’s squad. He’s completed 45.1 percent of his passes for 201 yards without a touchdown and two interceptions. Their lead tailback is Leshon Williams, who’s averaging just 2.8 yards per attempt on 38 carries thus far.
Two pass catchers have logged more than five catches: Sam Laporta, who leads the team with 10, and Arland Bruce IV, who has six for a team-high 77 yards.
Nevada’s defense, meanwhile, got off to a very strong start to begin the season, having forced an FBS-most 11 turnovers over its first three games. Though it took a step back against Incarnate Word, one of the most explosive FCS offenses nationally.
The Pack front starts with Dom Peterson, their unquestioned leader up front who will command the most attention. Peterson’s recorded team-mosts in tackles-for-loss (3.5) and sacks (3.0). Alongside him are James Hansen and Louie Cresto, who have combined for 1.5 tackles-for-loss with one sack.
Nevada’s linebacking core has been a combination of Naki Mateialona, Drue Watts and Maurice Wilmer, among others. Watts leads the trio with 11 tackles, while Mateialona and Wilmer both have seven apiece.
The Wolf Pack secondary is its best unit defensively, led by top tackler Tyson Williams and dynamic playmaker Bentlee Sanders, who has totaled 18 tackles and leads the nation with four interceptions.
When Nevada is on offense:
While it hasn’t been as unproductive as this week’s counterpart, Nevada’s offense hasn’t been too fruitful either. But with the implementation of an entirely new scheme combined with 10 new starters, it was never going to look perfect right away.
Wilson has still yet to name an official starting quarterback through three games; Nate Cox played the entire game unter center against Incarnate Word after he and former Oklahoma State transfer Shane Illingworth split reps over its first two games.
Cox has completed 34-of-61 (55.7 percent) for 372 yards and two scores, but has proved to be more nimble outside of the pocket, rushing for 79 yards on three yards per carry — yes, more than Iowa’s starting running back — with two scores; Illingworth has gone 18-25 (72.0 percent) for 152 yards without a touchdown throw.
Nevada has leaned to its ground game with Toa Taua and Devonte Lee. Taua has rallied together 246 yards with three scores, while Lee has totaled 140 yards with four additional touchdowns on the ground.
A dozen Pack players have caught a pass, but Jamaal Bell leads the group with 14 for 97 yards. Taua, believe it or not, is second in receptions with eight, adding 81 yards and a touchdown. Former Arizona transfer BJ Casteel has the only other touchdown grab, adding seven catches for 95 yards.
The Hawkeye defense and special teams, on the other hand, are by far the strongest parts of their roster. They’ve already blocked two punts, possess an all-worldly punter Tory Taylor and rank in the top-10 nationally in scoring defense, total defense and red-zone defense.
Their front-seven is very experienced, spearheaded by All-Big Ten Honorable Mention defensive lineman Noah Shannon and preseason All-American MIKE linebacker Jack Campbell, who has a team-high 21 tackles.
Eight players have recorded a tackle-for-loss, though defense end Joe Evans and defensive tackle Logan Lee lead the team with 2.5. Lee is tied for third on the team in tackles with 14 while Evans is ninth with eight, though he tops the team in sacks with two.
It’s hybrid safety/linebacker — also known as its CASH position — Cooper DeJean is second in tackles with 15, hauling in one of the team’s two interceptions on the season. Cornerback Riley Moss, who’s made a team-most 28 starts over his Iowa career, is the main contributor amongst the rest of its secondary.
This will be Nevada’s biggest road test it faces this year and perhaps its biggest overall test it faces all year. Iowa, while the offense has been a struggle, is still a capable power-5 foe. This will be a battle of which defense steps up the most; there’s reason to believe Iowa will because of their pedigree, combined with Nevada still getting accustomed to a new scheme. I have the Hawkeyes in this one, though I still it’ll be a slug fest offensively. Iowa 16, Nevada 3 (Record: 2-1, ATS, 1-2)