Mountain West Notebook: To go for 2 or not to go for 2

Photo by Thomas Ranson.

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Jay Norvell admitted this week that his decision to go for two points after a touchdown in the third quarter of Saturday’s 34-32 loss at Fresno State might have cost his Nevada Wolf Pack a victory.
“If you play a game that you know is going to be high scoring, you go for (two points),” Norvell said. “But it is still a decision you have to make with your gut.”
The Wolf Pack had just scored on a 30-yard pass from Carson Strong to Justin Lockhart to cut Fresno State’s lead to 21-16 in the third quarter. Norvell then decided to try for two points instead of allowing Brandon Talton to kick the extra point. The Pack failed to score after Lockhart’s score and also failed on a two-point conversion after a 12-yard touchdown pass to Cole Turner with two seconds left in the game.
Looking back, of course, Norvell wishes he would have had Talton kick the extra point after both touchdowns to send the game to overtime.
“I do wish I would have just kicked the extra point, to be honest with you,” Norvell said of the third-quarter decision. “You live and learn.”

The two-point loss at Fresno State is tied for the closest loss since Norvell became Nevada head coach in 2017.
The Pack also lost by two twice in 2017, falling to Colorado State 44-42 on Oct. 14 and Idaho State 30-28 on Sept. 16.
Spencer Petit kicked six extra points in the loss to Colorado State but the loss to Idaho State also came down to a two-point conversion as it did Saturday at Fresno State when Romeo Doubs caught Strong’s pass but landed outside the back of the end zone.
The Pack cut Idaho State’s lead to 30-28 with 58 seconds to play on a 3-yard pass from quarterback Kaymen Cureton to wide receiver Wyatt Demps but Cureton’s pass for the conversion fell incomplete.

The Wolf Pack’s run defense has struggled in its last two games.
Fresno State ran for 205 yards on 30 carries and Hawaii shredded the Pack for 188 yards on 29 carries.
Both Fresno State and Hawaii chewed up yards on the ground with big plays. Hawaii got 156 of its rushing yards on just two plays with touchdown runs of 81 and 75 yards. Fresno State had a 64-yard touchdown run and also four other runs of between 12 and 26 yards.
The Wolf Pack is in the middle of the Mountain West (sixth) in run defense, allowing 143.6 yards a game and 4.2 yards a carry. Those numbers are only slightly higher than a year ago when the Pack allowed 138 rushing yards a game on 4.0 a carry.
The Pack allowed just 49 total yards on 63 carries over two games combined against Boise State and New Mexico State heading into the Hawaii and Fresno State games. The Pack run defense, though, struggled in its first three games, allowing 269 yards to Kansas State and nearly 300 yards combined to Idaho State and California.
The Pack’s run defense statistics have also benefited from the NCAA rule that includes sacks as negative rushing yards (the NFL does not). The Pack has 27 sacks for 194 yards, meaning the Wolf Pack run defense has actually allowed 1,199 yards on 212 carries (5.7 a carry).
“We have to do a better job with our fits,” Norvell said. “The front and the linebackers have to all fit together and do their gap responsibility.
“We are certainly capable of playing the run better. The ones that are killing us are the ones that go for (big gains). They have come on just basic plays and not on anything complicated. These kinds of plays have to be eliminated. It’s hurting us.”

Carson Strong turned in one of the best passing performances in Wolf Pack history against Fresno State, completing 49-of-61 passes for 476 yards and four touchdowns.
The 49 completions are a school record, breaking Chris Vargas’ record of 43 against McNeese State in 1992. The 61 attempts are tied for second with Mike Maxwell (vs. San Diego State in 1995), behind just Vargas’ 75 attempts against McNeese State.
Strong now has completed 702-of-1,036 passes in his Wolf Pack career for 7,659 yards and 58 touchdowns. He is eighth in Wolf Pack history in touchdown passes, fourth in completions, eighth in yards and seventh in attempts.
Strong has also thrown at least one touchdown pass in his last 21 consecutive games and one touchdown pass in 22 of his 26 career starts. He has a record of 16-6 when he throws at least one touchdown pass and 1-3 when he doesn’t. The four games Strong did not throw a touchdown pass in a start came in a row in 2019, during his second through fifth career starts.
“He’s amazed me every week,” Norvell said.

The Wolf Pack is hoping this Friday night against UNLV to avoid its first two-game losing streak since losses to Utah State (36-10) and Wyoming (31-3) on Oct. 19 and 26, 2019 . . . UNLV running back Charles Williams, now in his sixth season, is second on UNLV’s all-time rushing list with 3,654 yards, trailing only Tim Cornett (3,733 from 2010-13). Williams is also third in rushing touchdowns with 26, behind Mike Thomas (37 from 193-74) and Cornett (35) . . . The Wolf Pack will become bowl eligible with a victory over UNLV on Friday . . . San Diego State is 7-0 for the first time since 1975 . . . Utah State leads the Mountain Division at 5-2 overall and 3-1 in league play despite being outscored 201-200 overall this season . . . The Wolf Pack this Friday is expecting its first crowd of over 20,000 fans for the UNLV game at Mackay Stadium since 29,551 showed up in 2015. Norvell's first two home games against UNLV, in 2017 and 2019, attracted crowds of just 17,359 (2017) and 16,683 (2019).


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