Wolf Pack-Rams set for Norvell Bowl II in Fort Collins

Colorado State head coach Jay Norvell finished 33-26 in his five seasons leading Nevada. He bolted for CSU just days after finishing the 2021 regular season with a 52-10 win over the Rams.

Colorado State head coach Jay Norvell finished 33-26 in his five seasons leading Nevada. He bolted for CSU just days after finishing the 2021 regular season with a 52-10 win over the Rams.
Nevada Appeal file

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A look ahead to Saturday’s (noon) Mountain West football game between the Nevada Wolf Pack (2-8, 2-4) and Colorado State Rams (4-6, 2-4) at Fort Collins, Colo.:

HOW TO WATCH, LISTEN: TV: Nevada Sports Net. Radio: 105.7 FM.

THE POINT SPREAD: Colorado State is favored by 11.5 points.

AT STAKE FOR NEVADA: The Wolf Pack, with two games remaining, is hoping to avoid its second consecutive 2-10 season. The last time Nevada won just four games over two consecutive seasons was 1963 (3-6) and 1964 (1-9).

AT STAKE FOR COLORADO STATE: The Rams need to win their last two games against Nevada and Hawaii to reach six victories and a bowl invitation. Colorado State has not been to a bowl game since the 2017 New Mexico Bowl, a 31-28 loss to Marshall.

COLORADO STATE LAST WEEK: Justin Marshall, playing in his first college game, ran for 119 yards and a touchdown in the Rams’ 22-19 victory over San Diego State.

Quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi was 17-of-30 for 202 yards. The Rams rushed for 183 yards on 44 carries.

NEVADA LAST WEEK: The Wolf Pack lost at Utah State, 41-24. Redshirt freshman A.J. Bianco made his first college start and completed 13-of-25 passes for 161 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Bianco also rushed for 74 yards on 13 carries.

Running back Sean Dollars had 82 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Emany Johnson and Bishop Turner each had interceptions.

CSU-NEVADA LAST MEETING: The Rams beat Nevada 17-14 on Oct. 7, 2022, at Mackay Stadium on a 43-yard field goal by Michael Boyle as time expired.

The Rams’ head coach, Jay Norvell, was Nevada’s head coach from 2017-21. Norvell and Nevada coach Ken Wilson had a verbal altercation on the field during the pre-game warm-up.

Colorado State jumped out to a 14-0 on two defensive touchdowns in the first quarter, a 21-yard interception return by Ayden Hector and a 50-yard fumble recovery return by Mukendi Wa-Kalonji. Two rushing touchdowns (4, 2 yards) by Toa Taua tied the game at 14-14 in the fourth quarter.

Nevada dominated the game on the stat sheet with more first downs (19-13), yards (358-255) and third-down conversions (the Pack was 7-of-19, while the Rams were 1-of-11).

Colorado State quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi was just 11-of-22 for 78 yards and two interceptions in his first college start. Former Wolf Pack running back Avery Morrow had 168 yards rushing for Colorado State.

LAST MEETING IN FORT COLLINS: The Wolf Pack ambushed Colorado State, 52-10, the last time the two teams met at Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins to close out the 2021 regular season.

The game, it turns out, was basically a job interview for Pack coach Jay Norvell and a chance for Norvell to show off his Air Raid offense. Norvell was introduced as Colorado State’s head coach nine days later.

Pack quarterback Carson Strong, playing his final college game, was 17-of-22 for 288 yards and four touchdowns. Tory Horton, now a Colorado State wide receiver, caught two touchdowns. Romeo Doubs, now with the Green Bay Packers, also caught two scores.

THE SERIES: Colorado State has won 13-of-18 games against Nevada in a rivalry that began in 1974. The Rams are 8-1 against Nevada in Fort Collins with the only loss coming in 2021.

Colorado State won the first eight games in the rivalry and the two teams have split the last 10 meetings.

THE FIRST MEETING: Colorado State, a member of the Western Athletic Conference at the time, won the first game in the rivalry, 66-17.

“It sounds stupid, but we went into this game thinking we had a chance to win,” Pack coach Jerry Scattini said after the game.

Colorado State quarterback Mark Driscoll was 17-of-25 for 305 yards and six touchdowns, three of which went to Willie Miller. Driscoll, though, was intercepted twice by Nevada defensive back Greg Grouwinkel.

Pack quarterbacks Jack Fisher and Jeff Tisdel combined to complete 9-of-25 passes for 151 yards.

University of Nevada president Max Milam was in the stands at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, the first Pack president to attend a road football game since N. Edd Miller in 1968 at Hawaii.

The Colorado State head coach in 1974 was Sark Arslanian. The Pack would get a measure of revenge against the Arslanian family for the 1974 rout by beating Dave Arslanian (Sark’s son) and his Weber State Wildcats in 1991, rallying from a 49-14 deficit for a 55-49 win at Mackay Stadium.

PACK-RAMS GO BOWLING: The Wolf Pack and Rams made dubious history in 2015, becoming the first two teams from the same conference to meet in a bowl game since 1979.

The Wolf Pack beat the Rams, 28-23, in the Arizona Bowl on Dec. 29, 2015, as James Butler scored on a 4-yard run with 1:06 to play. Nevada’s Brent Zuzo also had three field goals in the game and Butler set a Pack bowl game record with a 77-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Butler’s 189 yards rushing are also a Nevada bowl game record.

Then Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson called the matchup “a travesty” and said the NCAA needed to take steps to make sure two teams from the same conference never met in a bowl game again.

Two members of the then-Big Eight Conference, Nebraska and Oklahoma, met in the Orange Bowl in Miami on Jan. 1, 1979, with Oklahoma and coach Barry Switzer beating Nebraska and coach Tom Osborne, 31-24.

The 2015 Arizona Bowl coaches were Nevada’s Brian Polian and Colorado State’s Mike Bobo. Bobo is now Georgia’s offensive coordinator while Polian is the athletic director at his alma mater, John Carroll University (in a suburb of Cleveland).

THE HEAD COACHES: Nevada’s Ken Wilson, 59 years old, is 4-18 overall and 2-12 in the Mountain West, in his second year as head coach.

Colorado State’s Jay Norvell, 60, is 6-15 overall and 4-9 in the Mountain West in two seasons as the Rams’ head coach.

Norvell was 33-26, 23-17 in five seasons (2017-21) as Nevada’s head coach.

Norvell and Wilson have met just once when both were head coaches with Norvell winning, 17-14, last season in Reno.

The two, though, also were on opposite sidelines in 1993, 2016 and 2017.

Norvell coached Wisconsin’s wide receivers and Wilson coached Nevada’s linebackers in 1993 when the Badgers beat the Wolf Pack, 35-17, in Madison, Wis.

Washington State (Wilson coached linebackers) beat Arizona State (Norvell coached the wide receivers), 37-32, in Tempe, Ariz., in 2016.

Norvell was the Pack head coach when the Pack lost at Washington State (Wilson was a linebacker coach), 45-7, in Pullman Wash., in 2017.

COLORADO STATE OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi is 251-of-402 for 2,898 yards, 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Vann Schield (376 yards, three touchdowns), Avery Morrow (212, 1) and Justin Marshall (119, 1 in one game) lead the rushing attack.

Tory Horton has 81 catches for 872 yards and six touchdowns. Louis Brown (41-398-3), Dallin Holker (57-710-6) and Justus Ross-Simmons (39-631-3) are Fowler-Nicolosi’s top targets.

The Rams average 25.9 points a game and lead the Mountain West with 319.7 passing yards a game.

NEVADA OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Brendon Lewis has completed 111-of-209 passes (.531) for 1,136 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions. A.J. Bianco is 42-of-76 (.553) for 589 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

Lewis also leads the Pack in rushing with 443 yards and three touchdowns on 104 carries. Sean Dollars has 427 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 123 carries.

Jamaal Bell, who plays wide receiver and running back (and returns kickoffs), has 133 rushing yards on 28 carries and also leads the team with 30 catches.

Dalevon Campbell (24 catches) leads Nevada with 490 receiving yards and two touchdown catches. John Jackson has 26 catches for 198 yards while Spencer Curtis is at 22 catches, 276 yards.

Nevada averages 18.2 points a game.

WOLVES IN RAMS’ CLOTHING: The Colorado State roster and coaching staff still includes numerous former members of the Wolf Pack.

Norvell’s staff includes former Wolf Pack assistants Matt Mumme (offensive coordinator), Freddie Banks (defensive backs), Bill Best (offensive line), Tommy Perry (special teams) and Chad Savage (wide receivers).

Norvell’s roster includes ex-Wolf Pack wide receivers Tory Horton and Justus Ross-Simmons, quarterbacks Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi and Clay Millen, running back Avery Morrow, tight end Peter Montini and offensive linemen Trevyn Heil and Jacob Gardner.


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