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Nevada Football: A look into its two-game start, by the numbers

What are the numbers saying, if anything?

Syndication: Reno Gazette Journal JASON BEAN/RGJ / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Ken Wilson era has gotten off to a clean start!

The Nevada Wolf Pack moved to 2-0 on Saturday, picking up a 38-14 record over the Texas State Bobcats in their home opener at Mackay Stadium.

Nevada’s competition of their first two games, however, was subpar; they faced two foes that ranked No. 128 and No. 118 (out of 130 teams) in SP+ in 2021, respectively, though some of the results have been very encouraging given the lack of experience across the roster.

Anywho, let’s look at this two-game sample by the numbers through those two games, even though the sample size and competition discrepency across the Mountain West suggest they might not mean anything at season’s conclusion.

46 - The last time a Wolf Pack head coach began 2-0 in his first ever head coaching season with the program was Chris Ault in 1976. That’s a 46-year span; Nevada’s had four other coaches since his debut, not including Wilson. Before Ault, Jake Lawlor did the same in 1952.

9 - Nevada forced nine turnovers for the first time over its first two games this century, the furthest back that Sports Reference will track. It logged six to start 2019, four in 2014 and three apiece in 2012, 2013, 2018 and 2021.

1 - Nevada’s plus-nine turnover margin is the first across the FBS. Only one other team has one above five (Western Kentucky - plus-7). It’s understanable from the angle that Nevada is one of 15 teams — along with WKU — to have played two games thru Week 1. But a plus-nine margin is still bonkers.

10 - The Wolf Pack defense has forced at least four turnovers in a single game just 10 previous times in the 21st century, per Sports Reference. Add two more to the sheet!

2 - They’ve only done it twice in a single season: In 2015 and 2021. They’ve now accomplished that yet again in, and we’re only two games into the season. Nevada’s never accomplished that feat thrice since 2000.

7 - The Wolf Pack have now held their opponent to below 310 yards multiple times in a single season in seven of the last nine seasons. The most it’s occurred in a single year was four times in 2018.

3.6 - While the Pack have oftentimes been gifted favorable field position, they’ve struggled offensively, especially on early downs. On first downs (excluding penalties/sacks), they’re averaging 3.6 yards per play — which, in a vacuum, doesn’t seem terrible — but that includes just six plays of 12-plus yards (out of 52). Eliminate those, and it sinks to a ghastly 1.9 yards per play on such downs.

38 - Speaking of favorable field position, Nevada’s average starting field position has been at their....own 38-yard line. Pretty good, no?

38.7 - The Pack have converted on 38.7 percent of their third-down attempts, sitting middle-of-the-pack (No. 73 nationally).

66.1 - Ken Wilson has emphasized that he would like to establish the run much more than the previous Norvell Air Raid regime. Nevada has ran the ball on approximately 66.1 percent of his plays.

3.5 - There’s been brief spurts of shine, but the run game has ultimately been ineffective thus far — totaling just 3.5 yards per carry. Its top two tailbacks — Devonte Lee and Toa Taua — are averaging 4.1 yards per attempt.

5.2 - On its pass plays, it hasn’t been that effective, either. Illingworth and Cox have combined to average just 5.2 yards per attempt. It’s not a perfect metric by any means, but it amounts to something.

10 - A total of 10 different Pack players have caught a pass in two games. Jamaal Bell leads the way with nine catches for 71 yards.

2019 - The last time Nevada began the season without a touchdown pass in each of its first two games was in 2019, Carson Strong’s first season as a starter. The team went onto not throw for a touchdown in three other games that season.

2 - They’re one of two teams that have played two games without a touchdown pass. The other? Mountain West foe Hawai’i.

8 - Nevada has scored on eight of their nine drives in the red-zone, including five touchdowns.

5 - Nevada has won five straight home openers! And they’ve also won nine of their last 10.

24.4 - The average margin-of-victory in those five wins have come by 24.4 points, where Saturday’s game fell. Though that’s bolstered by a 53-point win over Portland State in 2018.