Nevada opens shortened football slate with dramatic OT win
Wolf Pack squeak out home opener despite dominate first three quarters
It certainly wrapped up much closer than Nevada football would have liked, but the Wolf Pack escaped with a 37-34 overtime win against Wyoming Saturday evening.
After the Cowboys kicked a 38-yard field goal to take a 34-31 lead in the first OT period, Nevada responded with an offensive series that looked similar to many of its drives in the first half.
A pair of carries by Devonte Lee setup Carson Strong to fire a nine-yard touchdown pass over the middle of the end zone to junior wide receiver Romeo Doubs.
The walk-off win is the first of the pandemic-shortened season and gives the Wolf Pack its first field storming, even without fans.
At 28-all with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Nevada’s Berdale Robins stepped in front of a Wyoming pass for an interception in the red zone.
“He’s a competitive guy,” said Nevada head coach Jay Norvell of Robins. “He’s been through a lot since he’s been here.”
The pick gave Nevada an easy 21-yard field goal to take a 31-28 lead with 3:26 left.
After a Wyoming punt, Nevada quickly went three-and-out with a little less than two minutes left in regulation.
Nevada punter Julian Diaz trotted out and pinned the Cowboys at the 1-yard line after a 71-yard boot, but Wyoming was still able to force OT after going 74 yards in 67 seconds before tying it with a field goal.
“His punts were absolutely amazing,” said Norvell.
Diaz also had punts of 76 and 65 yards in the final quarter.
Slipping into OT
Overtime was a position Nevada could have avoided putting itself in.
After scoring late in the third quarter to take a 28-6 lead, the Wolf Pack squandered the 22-point lead in just about nine minutes of clock time.
By the time the clock read 8:30 left in the fourth quarter, Wyoming had put together three straight scoring drives and evened the contest at 28-28.
Nevada had four consecutive, fourth quarter drives that resulted in a punt without a Wolf Pack first down.
After opening up a total yards advantage of 453 to 114 midway through the third quarter, the Wolf Pack were held to 10 yards of offense over the fourth quarter.
Penalties also impacted several drives as Nevada committed 12 penalties for over 100 yards.
“We have to clean that up,” said Norvell. “We were put in bad positions on kickoffs several times.”
Youth shines in opener
Norvell openly referred to Carson Strong as ‘Bambi’ last season, but after a 400-yard performance at the Idaho Potato Bowl last season, the quarterback made it look easy to open his sophomore campaign.
Strong completed 75 percent of his passes (39-of-52) for 420 yards and four touchdowns, setting a new career-high in passing yards in the process.
“He was really sharp. That was the way he’s been practicing and I think he’s got a chance to have a great year,” said Norvell.
The opening touchdown came on Nevada’s first drive, ending when Strong lofted a perfectly placed 26-yard pass to freshman Tory Horton in the back corner of the end zone. The catch was Horton’s first of his collegiate career.
On the ground, freshman running back Avery Morrow put together 23 yards on three carries and a touchdown run in the early portion of the third quarter.
Morrow’s score gave Nevada a 21-6 lead early in the third quarter.
Sophomore wideout Justin Lockhart pulled down four receptions for 26 yards.
“We just try to keep adding playmakers. If we keep adding weapons, it just going to continue to get better,” said Norvell. “When you spread the ball around that much, that’s tough for a defense.”
Opening half domination
The Wolf Pack dominated the Cowboys in nearly every statistical category in the opening 30 minutes, yet led 14-6 as it went into the locker room.
On offense, Strong torched the conference foe going 21-of-27 for 253 yards and two touchdowns.
However, a fumble from the sophomore quarterback and another from junior running back Devonte Lee stalled two Wolf Pack drives.
On Nevada’s first drive of the second quarter – which started at the Wolf Pack nine-yard line – went 91 yards initially, but a penalty brought back the score.
With three plays at the Cowboys’ one-yard line, Nevada was stopped three times and turned the ball over on downs.
The two Wolf Pack touchdowns looked as easy going as the offense did when it wasn’t hurting itself.
Strong lofted a 26-yard spiral to the left corner of the end zone for Tory Horton, who reeled in his first collegiate catch for a score on Nevada’s first drive.
Late in the second half, Strong found tight end Cole Turner wide open and streaking down the Wyoming sideline for a 50-yard touchdown strike just before the end of the first half.
Turner wrapped up the first half with five receptions for 105 yards, including the 50-yard score.
UP NEXT: Nevada (1-0) will travel south to face its rival as they’ll head to Las Vegas for a Nevada Day tilt against UNLV.