Wolf Pack notes: Was that Strong's last game against UNLV?

Nevada quarterback Carson Strong against UNLV in Reno on Oct. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes)

Nevada quarterback Carson Strong against UNLV in Reno on Oct. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes)

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Jay Norvell believes it is likely he will be looking for a new starting quarterback for the Nevada Wolf Pack next season.
The Wolf Pack head coach said after Friday’s 51-20 victory over the UNLV Rebels that quarterback Carson Strong is probably playing his last college season.
“Carson was really, really good tonight,” said Norvell, after Strong passed for 417 yards and four touchdowns against UNLV at Mackay Stadium. “You know, it’s probably the last time he’ll play UNLV. He wanted to play really good.”
Strong, in his third season, still has two seasons of eligibility left after this year because the NCAA ruled last season does not count against a players’ eligibility because of COVID-19. The right-handed quarterback from Vacaville, Calif., therefore, could have two more games against UNLV.
Norvell has hinted numerous times this year that this could be the last season Strong and other talented Pack players will be on the roster. The Pack clearly treated Friday night, like it has all season, as if it was a Strong showcase.
The Pack allowed Strong to throw passes on 49 of the team’s 68 offensive plays and on 20-of-22 plays in the second half against UNLV. Another Strong pass was nullified in the second half by a Pack penalty. Strong has thrown passes on 211-of-312 Pack plays (68 percent) over the last four games combined, 110-of-150 (73 percent) over the last two games.
“He’s gotten more mature, more patient,” Norvell said. “Last year he was really anxious to throw deep. He still loves to throw deep but now he’s learned to take what the defenses give him.”
STRONG’S NFL DRAFT POSITION UNCERTAIN: Despite what Norvell said Friday, there is still a chance Strong could return to the Wolf Pack in 2022.
Many internet NFL mock drafts do not have the Wolf Pack quarterback drafted in the first round after reports last spring that he was the possible overall No. 1 pick.
CBS Sports has Strong going No. 11 overall to the Denver Broncos but Pro Football Focus, NBC Sports, Walter Football, The Sporting News and Yahoo do not have Strong even picked in the first round.
The concerns about Strong, according to internet reports, are Strong’s inability to get away from pressure and his surgically repaired right knee that saw him miss his entire senior season at Wood High School in Vacaville. Strong also had a minor procedure performed on the knee this past off-season and sat out spring practices. He currently wears a brace on the knee.
“He may not be a slam-dunk first rounder,” writes Walter Football.com “But his tools are easily worthy of a look on Day 2 . . . Two NFL scouting directors say he is a legitimate early-round prospect but not a high first rounder.”
Pro Football Focus says Strong’s ability to throw deep is his strength but “Strong often gets caught locked in on receivers which causes him to miss opportunities to subtly slide away from pressure. It’s not only led to a high 23.8 percent pressure-to-sack rate but also consistently poor performances under pressure. He’s earned an unsightly 35.6 passing grade under pressure for his career. Trevor Lawrence, for example, was 63.7 for his career.”
Yahoo writes that Strong “is not very agile even when fully healthy and was never regarded as a scramble threat” but he “might have the best arm talent in the class. He’s shredding opponents through the air despite minimal help from the run game.”
STRONG REFLECTING ON CAREER: Strong was asked by the media to look back on his Pack career Friday night.
“It’s like night and day different,” said Strong when asked to compare his first practices at Nevada in the spring of 2018 to this season. “When I first got here I was throwing to tackling dummies because I couldn’t get guys to throw with me. I was something like seventh string.
“It’s different now, I’d say. I have the guys’ respect. You get that through the wins and the losses, the ups and the downs. We’ve been here through it all together.”
How much practice did he get that first spring when he arrived early on the Pack campus from Wood High School in January 2018? Well, the tackling dummies didn’t make many catches.
“I spent more time shagging the ball than I did throwing the ball,” Strong said with a smile.
RUN GAME DISAPPEARS: The Wolf Pack and UNLV combined for one of the lowest rushing games in Wolf Pack history.
The two teams combined for just 43 rushing attempts and a net of 31 rushing yards. The Wolf Pack had just 19 carries for 21 yards while UNLV had 24 attempts for just 10 yards.
The two teams also combined for just five rushing first downs, with the Pack getting just two. The teams combined for more first downs by penalty (six, four by UNLV) than rushing.
Although records before 2000 are not readily available, it is believed that the 31 total rushing yards by the two teams and the 10 rushing yards allowed by the Pack on Friday is among the lowest in Pack history.
The last time the Pack had fewer than 21 rushing yards was in 2004 against Louisiana Tech when it had just seven total rushing yards on 31 carries. Pack quarterbacks Jeff Rowe and Travis Moore were sacked nine times that day for 58 yards in losses.
The 2000 Pack also had just 17 rushing yards against Tulsa, 11 against TCU and 19 against SMU.
The last time the Pack had fewer than 19 rushing attempts was 18 against San Diego State in 2017.
The Pack’s two rushing first downs against UNLV is its lowest total since it also had two against San Diego State in 2015. The last time the Pack had fewer than two rushing first downs in a game was in 2000 against Tulsa and Colorado State when it had just one both times.
UNLV’s three rushing first downs on Friday night is the fewest rushing first downs the Pack has allowed since San Jose State had just two in 2019.
TALTON HONORED AGAIN: Wolf Pack kicker Brandon Talton was named the Mountain West's Special Teams Player of the Week this week after kicking three field goals and six extra points against UNLV. His 52-yard field goal against UNLV is the second longest of his three-year career, after the 56-yarder that beat Purdue in his first college game in 2019.
Talton now has been awarded six weekly awards by the Mountain West in his career, the most by any current Pack player. Carson Strong has been named the Offensive Player of the Week four times. Both Strong and Talton have won two weekly awards this season.
The only other current Pack players honored with a weekly award in their careers by the Mountain West are running back Toa Taua, Julian Diaz (punter, kickoffs), and defensive linemen Dom Peterson and Sam Hammond. 


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