To say these past two weeks for Nevada have been rough is an understatement. They got thrown around by USC and couldn’t score a touchdown against Idaho. The losing streak now sits at 12, and it won’t be easier with a Week 3 matchup against Kansas.
Both teams sit as opposites. The Jayhawks are 2-0 with an offense that is no joke. Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels made his debut in the Jayhawks' Week 2 win after missing Week 1 with an injury. Daniels and the offense came out firing, winning 34-23 against Illinois.
Nevada isn’t having the same success. They’re 0-2 and coming off an embarrassing 33-6 loss against Idaho. Losing in your home opener is bad enough, but only scoring via two field goals is as bad as it gets. Both Nevada’s offense and defense haven’t clicked, and it’s running out of time to figure it out.
Kansas (2-0) vs. Nevada (0-2)
Location: Mackay Stadium
Date/Time: Saturday, September 16 at 7:30 pm PST
Line: Kansas by 27.5 points. The over/under is 60.
History: This will be the first time in history these programs face each other. Kansas is 13-4-1 against Mountain West teams, with their last matchup being in 2003 (Wyoming and UNLV.) Nevada hasn’t faced Big 12 schools often, but they’re 0-6 against that conference.
Keys to the Game
- The offense needs to be a lot better
The Wolf Pack averaged 18.8 points per game last season. We were convinced this year would be better, but throughout two games, it looks even worse. Only 20 points combined in Nevada’s first two games just isn’t going to cut it. Nevada has also seen two quarterbacks in action so far (Brendon Lewis and AJ Bianco) and there’s only one touchdown between the both of them.
The offensive line isn’t helping. It’s struggling to create running lanes and forcing the QBs to use their legs more than I’m sure they’d like to. The unfortunate thing is there’s nothing really to do about the offensive line except give it time. It’s very young and inexperienced, with only one lineman having starting experience before this season. It has to go through the growing pains, which means Ken Wilson and the rest of the offense need to work around it.
The blame can’t fully be on the offensive line, however. Nevada had plenty of chances, including a few in the red zone to score more than just field goals. We saw the potential the wide receiver core has in the USC game, but it was silenced against Idaho.
It’s more than likely that we see both Lewis and Bianco get action in this game, so there isn’t an excuse. Kansas is hot, but just like Idaho, Nevada is capable of scoring. We still need to see more of Sean Dollars regardless of how the offensive line plays.
2. The defense needs to be a LOT better
It’s easy to say the defensive struggles are inflated because of who Nevada has played. The issue is there seems to be no improvement or pressure. Nevada’s defense is allowing 49.5 points and 565.5 yards per game. And They’re giving up an average of 10 yards per play as well to opposing offenses.
The Wolf Pack’s defense just isn’t getting stops and isn’t putting any kind of pressure in the box. The secondary has pretty much been nonexistent. Besides guys such as safety Emany Johnson and linebackers Drue Watts and Tongiaki Mateialona, Nevada’s defense hasn’t been called for anything positive.
It’s not going to be any better matching up against Kansas. Daniels and running back Devin Neal are the real deal and are licking their lips seeing Nevada’s defense.
3. Is Ken Wilson’s seat getting hot?
In his first season coaching Nevada, Wilson led the Pack to a 2-0 start. It ended in 10 straight losses, and now they’ve begun 2023 0-2. Wilson inherited a rough team in 2022, but this year's team is much better on paper. You need to show some kind of improvement to prove the rebuild is working. So far, Nevada looks worse than it did in 2022.
Chris Murray of Nevada Sports Net mentioned the possibility of Wilson being fired after the season if there’s no improvement. With 10 games left, Wilson and his staff have to prove to the university why they should stay on the sidelines in 2024. The percentage of Nevada going winless is very low, but it isn’t impossible. Nevada is going to need to at least match their win total from last season for Wilson to stay. Even then there might be more chatter.
What will be most important is when Nevada gets to conference play. It’s easy to make an agenda for why these four out-of-conference games mean a little different, but there needs to be explosiveness against the rest of the MWC. Four to five wins is more than doable, and if Wilson and co. want to keep a job, that’s exactly what needs to happen.
As much as I want to be optimistic, Nevada is more than likely going 0-3. Maybe this is the game where the spark is lit and the offense explodes or the defense is locked down. Until I see it, I predict Kansas steamrolling over Nevada. I’m going to go with 38-16. The trend Nevada is on right now leads me to believe they’ll only score one touchdown followed by three field goals. Kicker Brandon Talton is the team MVP so far, which is just sad (no offense to Talton, who’s arguably the best in the MWC.)
I hope I’m wrong, and even if Nevada loses, they at least make it close. Give Wolf Pack fans something to regain hope, and please don’t lose back-to-back home games.