A 2-0 record in Week 1 sounds pretty good, right?
Well that’s Nevada Wolf Pack did Saturday on its newly-renovated turf inside Mackay Stadium.
The Pack have now started 2-0 for the third consecutive season with a 38-14 victory over the Texas State Bobcats. Once again, the Wolf Pack defense shined on the afternoon; Nate Cox and Shane Illingworth split reps again at quarterback; Nevada defensive back Bentlee Sanders might be the team’s MVP thru two games?
Before I dig too deep into what happened — let’s go over some takeaways I had from Saturday’s contest:
1. All the Nevada defense does is...force turnovers?
A week removed from forcing five turnovers against New Mexico State, the Wolf Pack defense forced four more on the afternoon — without committing any! — two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Only one — a first-half Bentlee Sanders interception, his second of the season, at the time, and Nevada’s fifth interception through its first six quarters — came in the opening half. The Wolf Pack’s stout defensive activity culminated in three straight turnovers forced throughout the second half:
- A forced fumble by Bentlee Sanders, recovered by Maurice Wilmer at Texas State’s 46-yard line.
- A strip sack, recovered by Dom Peterson, recovered at Texas State’s 20.
- A 28-yard pick-six by Sanders, his second INT of the game, to widen the lead to 38-7.
A plus-nine turnover margin through eight quarters also pretty good, right?
For the second straight game, Nevada held its opponent to less than 310 yards, surrending just 277 yards (on 3.6 ypp) and 15 first downs. In addition to its four turnovers forced, Nevada combined for four sacks and 11.0 tackles-for-loss. Former Arkansas State transfer Layne Hatcher went 33-for-51 for 289 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. A dozen different Bobcat receivers caught a pass, though Ashtyn Hawkins topped the Bobcats with 10 catches for 96 yards and both of their touchdown catches.
2. Illingworth got in rhythm fast-er than season-opener.
Nevada’s inaugural contest against New Mexico State led to a slow start for Shane Illingworth, who completed seven of his 12 attempts for 51 yards. The Pack offense still didn’t stretching the field vertically too much, but Illingworth completed nine of his first 11 passes for 96 yards — though one was a 31-yard forward toss to speedster Jamaal Bell. He finished the afternoon 11-for-13 for 101 yards without a touchdown for the second consecutive game.
3. Cox continues to showcase mobility.
Cox and Illingworth split reps at quarterback for the second consecutive game. Cox played all but two drives in the second half, completing 5-of-7 passes for 43 without a touchdown pass, marking the second consecutive game where no Pack QBs had a touchdown in the air.
Though but what stood out to me most for the 6-foot-9 signal caller yet again was his mobility for his size. He rushed for 29 yards with a score on 3.6 yards per carry, though gained 46 yards on read options and scrambles outside of the pocket. As long as he’s on the field, his ability to gain chunks of yardage when things break down (or by design) can be a big benefit for this offense.
4. Slow afternoon on the ground.
Speaking of the ground game — Nevada struggled to get the ground going with its tailbacks for much of the afternoon; collectively, it rushed for 130 yards on 3.0 yards per carry, though 37 of those yards came on the second-to-last play by third-string quarterback Jake Barlage. Its two top tailbacks — Toa Taua and Devonte Lee — recorded 56 combined rushing yards on 23 attempts, equating to 2.4 yards per attempt.
5. Nevada continues home opener streak!
Nevada has now won five straight home openers and nine of their last 10! The streak continues!
This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates.