Nevada notebook: ‘Best win I’ve ever been a part of’ Wolf Pack senior says
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO — Daniel Brown had been waiting quite a while for a night like this past Friday night at Mackay Stadium.
“That was the best win I’ve ever been a part of,” the Nevada Wolf Pack senior cornerback said after a 34-31 comeback victory over the Purdue Boilermakers to open the season.
Wolf Pack fans also saw the best of Daniel Brown against Purdue.
The only senior starter in the Wolf Pack’s defensive backfield intercepted two passes, knocked away another and had a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Brown, who made his Wolf Pack debut playing 10 games as a freshman for coach Brian Polian in 2016, had just one interception in his first three seasons at Nevada before Friday night.
“They (his teammates and coaches) have been saying that I didn’t touch the ball enough last year,” said Brown, who graduated from Narbonne High in Carson, Calif. “This year I came in with the mindset of being a playmaker.”
Brown made his first two big plays on Friday late in the first quarter. He tackled Purdue wide receiver Jared Sparks after a catch for a 4-yard loss back to the Wolf Pack 15-yard line and on the very next play he batted away a pass intended for wide receiver Jackson Anthrop, forcing Purdue to settle for a 32-yard field goal.
Brown, though, was only getting started on making an impact in the game.
In the second quarter he teamed up with teammate Maliek Brody to stop Purdue quarterback Elijah Sindelar on a one-yard run at the Purdue 8-yard line.
Brown then snared his first interception of the game with under a minute to play in the third quarter and the Pack trailing 31-17. He stole a Sindelar pass at the Wolf Pack 42-yard line on a crucial third-and-10 play.
In the final minute of the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 31-31, Brown intercepted a Sindelar pass at the Pack 34-yard line. That interception with 38 seconds to play set up Brandon Talton’s game-winning 56-yard field goal six plays later.
“Me, personally, I just felt like the defense had to step up and make a play,” Brown said.
The Purdue game is clearly Brown’s best as a Wolf Pack player. But he’s had some standout moments before.
He had six tackles as a sophomore against UNLV in 2017. His first career interception came last year in the season opener against Portland State. He had a career-high seven tackles last year against Vanderbilt. And he had four solo tackles in the Pack’s 16-13 win over Arkansas State in the Arizona Bowl.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Brown became a full-time starter last year for the first time in his career, starting 13 games. He was named All-Mountain West Honorable Mention after leading the team with 11 pass break-ups and also turning in 53 tackles.
“We want to show that we can play with anybody in the country,” Brown said. “I know they say Power Five (like Purdue in the Big 10) this and that but the Mountain West can play some good football, too.”
PURDUE DEVASTATED BY THE LOSS: The Boilermakers have now lost five of their last seven games since a stunning 49-20 victory over then-No. 2 Ohio State on Oct. 20, 2018.
Purdue closed out last season with a demoralizing 63-14 loss to Auburn in the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., and eight months later traveled to Northern Nevada and blew a 31-14 lead late in the third quarter in a loss to the Wolf Pack.
“It’s a very disappointing loss,” said Purdue coach Jeff Brohm, a former San Francisco 49er backup quarterback in 1996-97, “a very disappointing start to the season.
“We didn’t compete the way we are supposed to in the second half. We came down here and got embarrassed and now the schedule only gets tougher. We need guys who really want to play and compete for 60 minutes.”
Brohm is now 13-14 in three seasons at Purdue.
“This is more than disappointing,” Brohm said. “I’ve seen it happen too much. I don’t like it.
“We should have been able to get more pressure on the quarterback. We should have been able to guard more. We should have been able to challenge more. We weren’t tough enough to make a play when it was needed. ”
COMEBACK KIDS: The last time the Wolf Pack rallied from a 17-point deficit (Nevada trailed 24-7 and 31-14 against Purdue) to win a game was in a 30-20 victory over Hawaii at Mackay Stadium on Oct. 24, 2015. The Pack trailed Hawaii that day 17-0 before starting its comeback.
Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell is now 12-14 at Nevada. The Pack has trailed at one point in nine of its 12 victories under Norvell.
PACK HAS THE POWER: The Wolf Pack is now 8-33 against teams from Power Five conference since it made the jump to Division I-A in 1992.
The eight victories have been against Washington (28-17 in 2003), Northwestern (31-21 in 2006), California (52-31 in 2010 and 31-24 in 2012), Boston College (20-13 in January 2011), Washington State (24-13 in 2014), Oregon State (37-35 in 2018) and Purdue.
The 33 losses have come against Wisconsin (1993), Oregon (1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2011), Oregon State (1998, 1999), Arizona (2012, 2014, 2015), Arizona State (2006), Purdue (2016), California (1996), Florida State (2013), Maryland (2008), Nebraska (2007), Miami (2006), Missouri (2008, 2009), Northwestern (2007, 2017), Notre Dame (2009, 2016), Texas Tech (2008, 2011), Texas A&M (2015), UCLA (2013), Vanderbilt (2018), Washington State (2002, 2005, 2017).
NEW FACES: The Wolf Pack played 11 freshmen against Purdue. Quarterback Carson Strong, cornerback Emany Johnson and kicker Brandon Talton started and Cam Stephens (DB), Daniel Grzesiak (TE), Breylon Garcia (DL), Jaden Dedman (DB), Jayce Godley (DB), Giovanni Miranda (LB), Maurice Wilmer (DB) and Ryan Madole (LB) came off the bench, many on special teams.
Strong was 30-of-51 for 295 yards and three touchdowns, Talton kicked two field goals, including a 56-yarder to win the game, and four extra points, Johnson had seven tackles, Godley had one tackle and Garcia recovered a fumble.
FRESHMAN SENSATION: Strong on Friday became the first Wolf Pack freshman quarterback to beat a Power Five team. The other Pack quarterbacks who have beaten Power Five teams are Colin Kaepernick (Cal, Boston College as a senior in 2010), Cody Fajardo (Cal as a sophomore in 2012 and Washington State as a senior in 2014), Andy Heiser (Washington in 2003 as a junior), Jeff Roe (Northwestern as a senior in 2006) and Ty Gangi (Oregon State as a senior in 2018).
Strong also became the first Wolf Pack freshman quarterback to win his first start since Tyler Stewart beat Hawaii in 2013.
Other freshmen quarterbacks to win their first start in recent years were Jeff Rowe (Southern Utah, 2003), Cody Fajardo (UNLV, 2011) and David Neill (Fresno State, 1998).