Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack football team’s 42-6 loss to the Wyoming Cowboys on Saturday at Mackay Stadium:
Brendon Lewis started and lasted all of two drives, exiting the game after a sack in the first quarter with an ankle injury. Lewis was 2-of-3 for 8 yards and carried the ball twice (one sack, one run) for a loss of 9 yards. The Colorado transfer ended up starting 10 of the Pack’s 12 games.
Shane Illingworth saw his first action of the year and left Pack fans wondering if the coaching staff buried the best passing quarterback on the bench all year. Illingworth moved the ball through the air consistently, completing 15-of-27 passes for 175 yards and an interception.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander has now played just 14 games over the last four seasons (seven games over 2020 and 2021 at Oklahoma State and seven at Nevada the last two years), completing 168-of-292 passes (58 percent) for 1,875 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Illingworth completed his first six passes on Saturday, leading the Pack to a 40-yard field goal by Brandon Talton late in the first quarter. Illingworth had nine completions of 11 or more yards, seven of 15 or more.
It was a solid performance considering it was his first action behind center since he faced Boise State on Nov. 12, 2022.
RUNNING BACK: C -
Wolf Pack running backs Sean Dollars and Jacques Badolato-Birdsell had 12 carries for 46 yards combined.
The rest of the Pack runs (13 for minus-28 yards) on Saturday were either by a quarterback (six sacks) or a wide receiver (Jamaal Bell’s one carry for minus-5 yards).
Dollars had three carries for 15 yards in the first half and five carries for 16 yards in the second half (finishing with 31 yards on eight carries). He had runs of 11 and 13 yards.
Dollars ended up leading the Pack in rushing this year with 527 yards and six touchdowns on 151 carries.
Badolato-Birdsell, who replaced an injured Ashton Hayes in the middle of the season, was consistent against Wyoming, gaining 2, 3, 4 and 6 yards on his four carries (all in the first half). He had 81 of his 93 yards and 24 of his 37 carries this season in three games (against San Diego State, New Mexico, Wyoming).
Spencer Curtis led the Pack with five catches for 70 yards, all with Illingworth in the game. Four of Curtis’ catches came in the second half, two of them for 19 and 28 yards on back-to-back plays.
Dalevon Campbell, who had 31 catches this year for a team-high 594 yards and two touchdowns, caught just two passes for 32 yards (15 and 17 yards), both in the first half.
Isaah Crocker pulled down a 28-yard pass in the second quarter for his only catch. The 6-1 Crocker finished his first and only year at Nevada (he played 2018-22 at Oregon) with four catches for 106 yards. His last three catches this year went for 20, 55 and 28 yards.
John Jackson caught three passes for 28 yards and ended up leading the Pack this year with 35 catches (267 yards, no scores). Freshman Nate Burleson II caught his first two passes of the year for 18 yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE: F
Wyoming sacked Wolf Pack quarterbacks six times for losses of 27 yards. The Wolf Pack running game was credited with just 18 positive yards on 25 carries.
The 18 yards rushing are the fewest by the Pack in a game since they also had 18 (on 27 carries) against Air Force in a 41-39 loss on Senior Night in 2021.
Those anemic rushing numbers, of course, are ugly because of the sacks. Carson Strong was sacked an alarming eight times against Air Force in 2021 and Illingworth (five) and Lewis (one) went down six times on Saturday.
But take away the sacks against Wyoming and the Pack still had just 45 yards on 19 attempts, an average of 2.4 yards a carry.
Zac Welch was called for a hold. At one point Illingworth was sacked on three consecutive plays.
The Pack ended up averaging just 3.4 yards a carry this year and quarterbacks were sacked 41 times.
DEFENSIVE LINE: D
Sosefo Moeaki had three tackles, stopping Jamari Ferrell after a 1-yard gain in the third quarter and teaming with linebacker Drue Watts to hold Harrison Waylee to a yard in the first quarter.
Thomas Witte also had three tackles, dropping Waylee for a 4-yard loss in the second quarter. Douglas product Chris Smalley had a couple of tackles and Mackavelli Malotumau teamed up with Watts to hold Ferrell to a yard in the third quarter.
But that was about it for the Pack front, a unit that had very little impact all season long. Against Wyoming, it produced no sacks or hurries.
Wyoming ran for 244 yards on 43 carries for an average gain of 5.7 yards.
Drue Watts led the linebackers with six tackles. The sophomore also had the only Wolf Pack sack. Watts led the Pack linebackers with 60 tackles this year.
Tongiaki Mateialona had just two tackles and had 12 over his last five games combined after getting 42 over the first seven games.
Marcel Walker-Burgess, Jackson LaDuke and Micah Lilo had just one tackle Saturday. Wyoming ran and threw the ball without much resistance the entire game, averaging 6.7 yards on each of its 61 plays and controlling the ball for 34:35.
Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley was an efficient 12-of-18 for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Peasley’s dozen completions went to seven different receivers. Eight of his completions went for 10 or more yards.
Peasley, who found a wide open Will Pelissier for a 34-yard touchdown pass and a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, was 6-of-7 in the second half for 66 yards.
K.K. Meier was called for pass interference.
Emany Johnson led the Pack with 13 tackles, two on running back Jamari Ferrell after a pair of 1-yard gains. Johnson ended up leading the Pack in tackles this year with an even 100. He also led the team with three interceptions.
Caine Savage stopped Peasley for a yard loss on a run while Richard Toney Jr. trapped Ferrell for a 6-yard loss on a run.
The Pack allowed quarterbacks to complete 226-of-347 passes this year for 3,047 yards (8.78 per attempt) and 24 touchdowns.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -
Brandon Talton, playing his final college game, made his two field goal attempts from 40 and 47 yards out.
The Pack could have had Talton attempt another field goal from just 35 yards out in the third quarter, giving the fifth-year senior another field goal and three more points on his school records (83 field goals, 390 points). But the Pack decided that going for a 4th-and-11 despite being down 35-6 with a little over four minutes to go in the third quarter was more important. They didn’t get the yard and Talton never stepped on the field in the second half.
Matt Freem had an uneventful night, averaging just 37 yards on four punts. Two of his punts went out of bounds at the Wyoming 37 and 15-yard line. He also had a 36-yarder to the Wyoming 43.
Aedan Seiuli was called for an illegal block in the back on a punt return. Jamaal Bell fumbled away the second-half kickoff, setting up a Wyoming touchdown that basically ended the game (the Cowboys led 28-6).
The Wolf Pack coaching staff was thoroughly outclassed on Saturday night. The Wyoming Cowboys, who had not won a game on the road since 2022, simply toyed with the Pack the entire game.
Wyoming, which had already qualified for a bowl game, came out ready and excited to play. The Pack, its season over on Saturday no matter what happened, seemingly went through the motions from the start and never showed any fight.
The Pack did almost nothing positive, interesting or unpredictable on offense or defense. The Pack offense produced zero touchdowns, just 14 first downs, 201 total yards and was able to keep the ball for a mere 25:25.
The Pack defense looked like a meaningless extra in a Hollywood superhero movie. Wyoming had five offensive touchdowns, 24 first downs, was 7-of-12 on third down and controlled the ball for nearly 36 minutes.
Ken Wilson is now 0-2 on Senior Night at Mackay Stadium as a head coach and has been outscored 83-20 in front of crowds of 12,501 (last year in a 41-14 loss to Fresno State) and 12,044 (Saturday night).
Year Two of the Ken Wilson Experiment ends once again with a 2-10 record, no real improvement from the first year to the second and no discernible direction, no legitimate starting quarterback and a defense that can’t get off the field.
What was that we witnessed in the second half? Was that a team continuing to fight and play hard? Hardly. That was a team that basically quit on the season and couldn’t wait for the season to end.
The Pack had just three offensive drives and had the ball for just 7:48 after halftime.
Wyoming, up 42-6, took over the ball at their own 15-yard line with 9:54 to play and never left the field. The Cowboys proceeded to run 14 plays, pick up 74 yards and five first downs and even had the gall to commit a penalty and call a timeout and they still killed off the final 9:54.
Wyoming literally strutted into Northern Nevada on Saturday night and took over Mackay Stadium for the final 10 minutes.
That was, without question, an embarrassing way for yet another embarrassing Wolf Pack season to end. No fight, no life, no intensity, no reason to be optimistic heading into another long off-season.