We all knew Nevada wouldn’t manage to keep it close against USC. With any blowout, there are still bright spots we can look at for the Wolf Pack, and how they can adjust for Week 2. Let’s dive into how each side of the ball played, and how Nevada can use this beatdown as a learning curve.
We finally got our first look at a Nevada offense led by some Pac-12 transfers. Quarterback Brendon Lewis wasn’t anything special but showed us plenty of flashes. Within the game's first few minutes, Caleb Williams and USC got out to a 7-0 lead. Lewis answered right back, throwing a 73-yard bomb to wide receiver Spencer Curtis to get Nevada in the red zone early. It was shortly followed by a Sean Dollars rushing touchdown to tie it at seven a piece.
Overall, Lewis finished the game 18/29 with 182 passing yards. He didn’t throw any touchdowns or interceptions and was sacked four times. His dual-threat ability was held in check by USC, as Lewis attempted to rush eight times and picked up negative 15 yards. Before spiraling into the negatives, Lewis did have a nice 11-yard rush in the 2nd quarter.
Backup quarterback AJ Bianco came into the game in the fourth quarter, throwing 129 yards including a 77-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jamaal Bell.
Besides the rushing touchdown, Dollars and Ashton Hayes were quiet in Nevada’s offense. Both Pac-12 transfers received nine rushing attempts, with Dollars racking up 33 yards and Hayes with 15.
The explosiveness came from Nevada’s wide receiver core. Bell racked up 121 yards on eight receptions, including the touchdown pass from Bianco in the fourth. Curtis ended his game with 83 yards on only three receptions.
The Wolf Pack’s offense is still better than last year's. An inexperienced offensive line led to rushed playcalling. USC is the sixth-best team in the nation for a reason, so Nevada fans shouldn’t take too much away from this performance.
Obviously, the defense was a different story. USC scored in every quarter, and Williams was pretty much untouchable. Nevada’s defense gave up six passing touchdowns and two rushing.
Nevada senior linebacker Tongiaki Mateialona recorded the only sack of the game for Nevada, which came against Williams. Mateialona also forced a fumble in the final seconds of the second quarter, with linebacker Drue Watts recovering the football.
Nevada was missing tackles all game. Between that and a quiet secondary, it’s no wonder why USC marched down the field was ease. Again, there’s a reason they’re ranked sixth. Williams is probably going to win another Heisman, and starting your season against a powerhouse is no easy task.
Nevada will continue their out-of-conference play next week as they return home to face Idaho. The Vandals picked up a 42-17 in their first game against the Lamar Cardinals. Head Coach Ken Wilson knows they have to rebound, and fast. It won’t be an easy month of September for the Wolf Pack, and there really isn’t time for growing pains. The offense flashed its potential, so I’m not too worried about how it progresses. The defense needs major work, but that’ll come with repetition over the next few games.
Take a breath, Wolf Pack fans. The hardest game of the season is over, and there are plenty of lessons to be learned. It's not every day you get to face a potential Heisman winner, so even in a blowout loss, it's exciting to face off. Keep your heads up, and let’s go battle with Idaho back in Mackay Stadium.