Nevada’s Elijah Cooks hauls in the long reception over Idaho State’s Cam Davis at Mackay Stadium in Reno on Sept. 11, 2021. (Photo: Thomas Ranson/NNG)
Elijah Cooks’ body has let him down once again.
Cooks, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the first game of last season, will now miss the rest of this season with a foot injury.
Cooks, who also played in four games for the Wolf Pack men’s basketball team during the 2017-18 season, suffered a Lisfranc injury in the fourth quarter of a 38-17 loss at Kansas State on Sept. 18.
“Cookie has been a great player for us,” Nevada coach Jay Norvell said on Monday. “This is really tough. He’s played so well. I just feel for Cookie.”
Cooks, who has played in just four games over the past two seasons, had 13 catches for 157 yards and four touchdowns this year in just three games. He is second in the Mountain West in touchdown catches behind Fresno State’s Jalen Cropper (eight).
Cooks has played with the Wolf Pack since 2017, catching 115 passes for 1,478 yards and 18 touchdowns (he also had one rushing touchdown). His best season was in 2019 when he caught 76 passes for 926 yards and eight touchdowns. He began that season with a pair of touchdown catches in a 34-31 victory over Purdue at Mackay Stadium.
This Saturday’s game at Boise State would have been Cooks’ third against the Broncos and second at Bronco Stadium. He had four catches for 58 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown to give the Pack a 17-14 lead against Boise in 2018 at Mackay Stadium (the Pack lost 31-27). His greatest game in a Wolf Pack uniform also took place at Bronco Stadium, though it wasn’t against Boise State. Cooks had 14 catches for 197 yards and a touchdown in a 30-21 loss to Ohio on Jan. 3, 2020 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Since that game, however, Cooks has been healthy for just four games.
Cooks had four catches for 57 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown that tied the game at 17-17 in his last game at Kansas State. He apparently injured his foot on a 24-yard reception in the fourth quarter with the Pack trailing 24-17.
Norvell said Cooks has one more year of eligibility remaining and could return in 2022 for what would now be his third senior season.
“We obviously would love to have him back,” Norvell said.
Cooks’ injury leaves Romeo Doubs (17 catches, 259 yards, one touchdown) and Cole Turner (14-135-1) as Carson Strong’s top targets. Tory Horton (nine catches, 172 yards, no touchdowns), Melquan Stovall (12-126-0), Harry Ballard (2-48-1) and Justin Lockhart (4-38-0) are also expected to see increased playing time this season in Cooks’ absence.
“It’s going to have to be a group effort,” Norvell said. “Everyone has to step up.”
WILLIAMS ALSO OUT: Norvell also said Monday that safety Tyson Williams will miss at least the next two games.
Williams suffered a knee injury on the second play of the 38-17 loss at Kansas State, a 68-yard touchdown pass from Will Howard to Daniel Imatorbhebhe.
“We are going to miss his experience,” said Norvell of Williams, who joined the Pack in 2017. “Tyson is really a physical player. We’ll miss Tyson but hopefully we’ll get him back on the field in three or four weeks.”
The 5-foot-9, 200-pound Williams, who came to the Pack from the same high school (Dothan High in Alabama) that produced former Pack defensive end Malik Reed (now with the Denver Broncos), has six tackles and a sack this season. He led the Wolf Pack in tackles in 2019 with 85 and was second last year with 56. He sat out 2017 as a redshirt freshman and had 20 tackles in 2018. Williams’ two career interceptions came last season.
Jordan Lee, Norvell said, will replace Williams in the starting lineup. The 5-11, 205-pound Lee, a Bishop Gorman High graduate out of Las Vegas, has been with the Wolf Pack since 2018. He has 11 tackles this season with seven coming at Kansas State with Williams sidelined.
BRONCO STADIUM FULL OF PACK NIGHTMARES: The Wolf Pack has lost 18-of-20 games at Boise State since the rivalry began in 1971.
The Wolf Pack’s troubles at Boise State began right away. The Wolf Pack lost 56-19 in its first game ever at Boise State on the night of Oct. 14, 1972. Boise State rushed for a then school-record 516 yards and out-gained the Pack 622-219 overall. Boise State’s Harry Riener rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown. Boise State returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the game and then went for two points on the conversion and was successful on a pass.
The Wolf Pack left Boise State impressed in 1972 with the Broncos and their two-year-old stadium. The stadium featured artificial turf in 1972, though it was green like every other stadium in the country. Boise installed its famous blue turf for the 1986 season.
“I’m sick and tired of seeing these good facilities,” Wolf Pack athletic director Dick Trachok told the Reno Gazette-Journal in 1972. “I’d love to see one (in Reno).”
Bronco Stadium’s capacity was 16,000 in 1972 when the Wolf Pack’s Mackay Stadium seated just 6,500. The first Wolf Pack game at Boise State attracted a crowd of 10,336. Boise State’s stadium now seats just over 36,000.
“Nevada and Boise State are supposed to play the same level of football, the college division variety (now the Football Championship Subdivision),” wrote Steve Sneddon of the Gazette-Journal on Oct. 16, 1972. “But the Broncos are almost big-time . . . Bronco Stadium is a dream stadium as far as the Wolf Pack is concerned.”
The Wolf Pack’s only victories over Boise State in the Broncos’ dream stadium took place in 1986 and 1997. The victory in 1986, however, was the first time the Pack played on Boise’s famous blue turf. It was also the first time Boise lost on its blue turf.
ARROYO STILL WINLESS: UNLV head coach Marcus Arroyo now has a record of 0-10 since taking over the program before the 2020 season.
The Rebels lost this past Saturday at Fresno State, 38-30, after taking leads of 14-0, 21-9 and 30-29.
The loss at Fresno State is just UNLV’s second by fewer than 13 points (Eastern Washington beat UNLV, 35-33, to open this season) under Arroyo. The Rebels, at 0-4, are the only team in the Mountain West without a victory this season.
Arroyo’s 0-10 record is the worst in UNLV history after 10 games. Harvey Hyde (1982), Mike Sanford (2005) and Bobby Hauck (2010) had the previous record for the worst 10-game start to their Rebel career at 2-8. The last Rebel coach to have a winning record after his first 10 games at UNLV is former Wolf Pack head coach Jeff Horton. Horton went 6-4 in 1994 over his first 10 games at UNLV.
Arroyo’s 10-game losing streak is tied for just the third longest in UNLV history with Sanford, who lost 10 in a row in 2006. The two longest losing streaks for a Rebel head coach are both owned by Horton, who lost 12 in a row (last two in 1995 and first 10 in 1996) and a Rebel-record 16 in a row (last five in 1997 and all 11 in 1998).
STARKEL STATUS UNCERTAIN: San Jose State coach Brent Brennan refused to shed any light on quarterback Nick Starkel’s latest injury.
Starkel injured his left (non-throwing) arm in the third quarter of a 23-3 loss at Western Michigan on Saturday and did not return to the game.
The injury occurred on the sixth sack of the game suffered by Starkel. Western Michigan would later add two more sacks combined on freshmen quarterbacks Natano Woods and Walker Eget to finish with eight.
“I don’t talk about injuries,” Brennan said on Tuesday. “I never have.”
Starkel, who led the Spartans to the Mountain West championship last year, has completed 69-of-137 passes this season for 992 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions. He was just 6-of-14 for 55 yards and an interception against Western Michigan.
Starkel passed for 453 yards and five touchdowns against Boise State in the Mountain West title game last year and also threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns in a critical victory over Nevada.
Starkel played at Arkansas in 2019 and at Texas A&M in 2017 and 2018 before joining San Jose State last year. He underwent ankle surgery at Texas A&M in 2017 and also injured his left arm in 2019 while at Arkansas in a game against Texas A&M. He did return from that left arm injury in 2019 to play three more games that season.
“It doesn’t matter who’s at quarterback,” Brennan said. “Let’s play.”