Nevada Wolf Pack looking for bounce back against Weber State
For the Nevada Appeal
The Nevada Wolf Pack football team needs a victory in the worst way.
“Definitely,” senior offensive lineman Jake Nelson said this week as the Wolf Pack prepared to host the Weber State Wildcats at Mackay Stadium on Saturday (4:05 p.m., ESPN3).
“We want to get back to what we know we can do and that is to play hard and play with great effort. And when the game is over we want to know we left it all on the field.”
The last time the Wolf Pack (1-1) walked off a field it lost 77-6 to the Oregon Ducks in Eugene, Ore.
“It was a good learning experience for our young players,” Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell said of the loss to Oregon.
The Wolf Pack, Norvell insisted this week, respects the Wildcats of the FCS Big Sky Conference. The Wolf Pack, after all, lost to a Big Sky team just two seasons ago (30-28 to Idaho State at Mackay Stadium).
“They are one of the best FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) schools in the country,” Nelson said. “We can’t take them lightly at all. They are coming in here wanting to win. They think they’re going to win.”
Weber State, also 1-1 this season, whipped Cal Poly 41-24 last week. The Wildcats lost to the Mountain West’s San Diego State Aztecs just 6-0 on Aug. 31. San Diego State won at UCLA 23-14 last weekend.
“The pressure’s really on them (Nevada),” Weber State linebacker Auston Tesch said after the Wildcats beat Cal Poly. “We’re coming off a good win. We’re really rolling into next week (at Nevada) and you never know what’s going to happen.”
This will be the first meeting between the Wolf Pack and Wildcats since 1993 when Weber State stunned the Wolf Pack at Mackay, 47-30. Weber State also beat the Pack at Mackay in 1992 (23-21), just a year after the Wolf Pack set an NCAA record by rallying from a 35-point deficit (49-14) to beat the Wildcats 55-49 at Mackay.
Those Weber State victories at Mackay in 1992 and 1993 are still the last time the Wildcats have beaten an FBS team (Nevada left the Big Sky after the 1991 season). Since 2001, Weber State has gone 0-25 against FBS teams, including 0-16 against Mountain West teams.
“They are one of the most disciplined and well-coached teams in the country,” said Norvell of Weber State. “I have so much respect for how they prepare.”
Weber State is No. 6 in the nation in the latest FCS rankings. The Wildcats, a member of the Big Sky since 1978 (the Pack joined in 1979), have won the last two Big Sky regular-season championships and have gone a combined 21-6 over the last two years overall.
“They are just a quality team,” Norvell said. “They make you earn everything you get.”
Weber State held San Diego State to just 238 total yards of offense and kept the Aztecs out of the end zone.
“That was about as ugly an offensive performance as I’ve been around in a long time,” San Diego State coach Rocky Long said after beating Weber State. The Aztecs, though, did rebound a week later to pile up 373 yards against UCLA.
“They have one of the top defenses in the country at the FCS level,” said Norvell of Weber State.
The Wildcats are led on offense by 6-foot-2 junior quarterback Jake Constantine, who has completed 38-of-54 passes this season for 256 yards and one touchdown. The Wildcats, though, also had two 100-yard rushers against Cal Poly (Josh Davis with 129 yards and Kevin Smith with 114).
Constantine redshirted as a freshman in 2016 at Boise State before transferring to Ventura College in 2017 (ex-Nevada quarterback Ty Gangi was at Ventura in 2015). He passed for 2,205 yards and 18 touchdowns last year for Weber State.
Constantine, though, suffered a knee injury against Cal Poly in the second half and had to be relieved by sophomore Kaden Jenks and did not practice on Tuesday.
“They are fundamentally sound,” Wolf Pack defensive lineman Dom Peterson said. “If we don’t take care of our assignments they will gash us and make us pay for it.”
Peterson said the Wolf Pack will be a better team moving forward after what happened against Oregon.
“I’m happy it happened now,” Peterson said, “so we can get that bad taste out of mouths. Even against Purdue (a 34-31 Pack win on Aug. 30), we weren’t at our best. We’re not happy with losing but we needed it. It’s great for us to have it happen early and now we can get it out of the way.”
“We made mental errors against Purdue, too,” Wolf Pack linebacker Lucas Weber said. “There were just more (against Oregon).”
Norvell is hoping its team learned a valuable lesson a week ago in Eugene.
“If we would have played that way (on Aug. 30), Purdue would have scored 70 points on us,” Norvell said. “And if we play like that (on Saturday), Weber State will score 70 points on us.”
The Wolf Pack destroyed Portland State, a Big Sky team, 72-19 at Mackay Stadium last season.
“We’ll get it fixed,” said the Pack’s Weber of the Nevada defense. “We’re a resilient team.”
The biggest problem areas the Wolf Pack had a week ago at Oregon was at quarterback and also in the secondary, it’s two most inexperienced areas (at the Division I level) heading into this season.
Freshman Carson Strong completed just 13-of-25 passes for 89 yards and was intercepted twice.
“I’m just going to learn everything I can from my mistakes,” Strong said.
The Pack also allowed Oregon’s quarterbacks (Justin Herbert and Tyler Shough) to complete 27-of-35 passes for 402 yards and seven touchdowns. It is the most passing touchdowns Nevada has allowed in a game since it joined Division I-A (FBS) in 1992.
“We’re still very young at some positions,” Norvell said. “We showed it (at Oregon) in the secondary and our quarterback still has new experiences every time we go out there.”
The Wolf Pack is a 10-point favorite against Weber State. It is the first time this season that the Pack is the favorite.
“Each week is different,” Norvell said. “The challenge is much different every week. And all of these games are equally important to our season.”