Carson Strong is the Nevada Wolf Pack’s starting quarterback.
“Carson has earned that right with the way he‘s practiced and prepared each week,” Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell said on Monday. “He gives us the best chance to win right now.”
The Wolf Pack freshman, though, did not play in a 37-21 victory at UTEP last Saturday. Backup Cristian Solano started and completed 13-of-19 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed 10 times for 100 yards. Malik Henry also saw some snaps early in the second quarter and completed both of his passes for 21 yards.
Norvell said Strong did not play last week because of the physical beating he took in the first three weeks against Purdue, Oregon and Weber State.
“I feel a lot better about Carson this week,” Norvell said. “He could have played (against UTEP) but he was real banged up. He would have started last week (if healthy). He feels a lot better now.”
Norvell added he would like Hawaii, the Wolf Pack’s opponent this Saturday night (7:30 p.m., ESPN2) at Mackay Stadium, to have to prepare for three Pack quarterbacks.
“We’re fortunate that we do have three quarterbacks that can play and I really feel that we could win games with any of the three,” Norvell said. “We’re different with all three. We can play all three on Saturday or we can just play just one.”
SOLANO RUNS TO VICTORY: Solano, a senior, reached 100 yards rushing against UTEP on a 5-yard run to the UTEP 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
He became the first Wolf Pack quarterback to rush for 100 yards in a game since Cody Fajardo had 143 at UNLV late in the 2014 season. Solano is also the first Wolf Pack backup quarterback to reach 100 yards rushing in a start because of an injury to the starter since Devin Combs had 111 against UNLV in 2012.
Solano, who injured his hand in training camp this summer, is now 1-1 as a starting quarterback in his career. His first start was a 21-3 loss to Fresno State last season at Mackay Stadium when he rushed for 71 yards.
“He was ready to play (against UTEP),” Norvell said. “Cristian played real hard for us.”
WILLIAMS STEPPING UP: Norvell made sure to praise sophomore safety Tyson Williams on Monday. Williams had an interception and a team-high 11 tackles against UTEP.
“Tyson has really improved each week,” Norvell said.
Williams leads the Wolf Pack with 32 tackles this season. His interception against UTEP helped set up a 20-yard touchdown pass from Solano to Elijah Cooks that gave the Pack a 21-14 lead with 2:23 to play in the second quarter.
Williams, who comes from the same high school (Dothan High in Dothan, Ala.) as former Wolf Pack defensive end Malik Reed, redshirted his first season at Nevada in 2017. He played in 10 games a year ago (three starts) and had 20 tackles.
WOLF PACK WILL HAVE LONG DAY ON SATURDAY: Norvell said games that kick off at 7:30 p.m. like this Saturday present a challenge.
“It’s like a coach once told me, ‘You can’t ride them (the players) in the chutes,’” Norvell said. “You just have to be patient.”
“It’s a little different,” Wolf Pack running back Kelton Moore said. “It gives you more time to rest and more time to mentally prepare. And you can also spend the day watching other college football games. That helps get you pumped up to play your game that night.”
BLUE ON BLUE: The Wolf Pack is expected to wear blue jerseys and blue pants on Saturday against Hawaii.
It is believed to be the first time the Pack, which normally wears silver pants, has worn an all-blue uniform since the 2011 season. The Pack also wore all blue often during the Colin Kaepernick years from 2007-10, including the 34-31 overtime win over Boise State late in 2010.
“I love it,” Moore said. “I know they used to wear all blue before I got here (in 2015) but I’ve never seen it in person. Those are nice.”
ROLOVICH RETURNS: Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich was the Wolf Pack’s offensive coordinator from 2012-15 under head coaches Chris Ault and Brian Polian.
Rolovich’s first return visit to Mackay Stadium was in 2017, a 35-21 Wolf Pack win. The former Hawaii quarterback is 1-2 against the Pack as Hawaii’s head coach.
“I love coach Rolo,” said Moore, who sat out the 2015 season as a freshman during Rolovich’s final year at Nevada. “The thing I remember about Coach Rolo is that he would always play symphony music during our practices on Fridays. I asked him once, ‘Why does the offense have to listen to symphony music when the defense gets to listen to hip-hop and other stuff?’ He just told me, ‘Offense is like classical music. When it all comes together and strings together, it’s a beautiful thing to see.”