Nevada Wolf Pack Notebook: Trick play works again
For the Nevada Appeal
The Nevada Wolf Pack football team pulled one of its favorite tricks out of the bag just in time last Saturday night.
The Wolf Pack started a drive at its own 45-yard line early in the fourth quarter, tied 10-10 with the San Diego State Aztecs. Quarterback Carson Strong, in the shotgun, took the snap at the 40-yard line and immediately handed the ball to his right to running back Toa Taua. Taua then headed to his left on an apparent sweep.
Taua, though, then crossed the left hashmark and flipped the ball back to wide receiver Elijah Cooks, who was coming from the left side. Cooks then rolled to his right and lofted a perfect pass from about the 42-yard line down the middle of the field to wide-open wide receiver Brendan O’Leary-Orange at about the Aztecs’ 12-yard line. O’Leary-Orange, who had to slightly wait for the ball, was brought down at the 5-yard line. Devonte Lee scored four plays later from the 1-yard line for a 17-10 Pack lead in a game Nevada would win 17-13.
“It’s so hard to catch this team (San Diego State) out of position,” said Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell, who took over play-calling duties two games ago. “It’s hard to get behind them. We just felt like we needed to make a play like that along the way to get behind them.”
Cooks’ pass is the first by a Wolf Pack wide receiver this year. It is, however, the eighth time a wide receiver has attempted a pass for the Pack since Norvell took over the program for the start of the 2017 season.
Kaleb Fossum was 0-for-1 last season through the air as was Daiyan Henley in 2017. Andrew Celis, however, was 3-of-5 for 76 yards and a touchdown in 2017. The Cooks pass to O’Leary-Orange is the first completion by a Pack wide receiver since Celis found McLane Mannix for a 28-yard gain against UNLV at the end of the 2017 season.
O’LEARY-ORANGE HURTS AZTECS AGAIN: The catch by O’Leary-Orange was his first since he caught three passes for 62 yards and a touchdown against San Jose State in a 21-12 victory last season on Nov. 17, 2018.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound O’Leary-Orange missed the first five games this season with a hamstring injury. The San Diego State game is just his fourth appearance of the season.
O’Leary-Orange’s 50-yard catch against the Aztecs is also his longest since he had a 53-yard catch also at San Diego State on Nov. 18, 2017 in a 42-23 loss. O’Leary-Orange had 11 catches for 214 yards and three touchdowns that evening two seasons ago at San Diego State. He also had catches during that game of 52 and 48 yards.
O’Leary-Orange has played three games against the Aztecs in his career with 16 catches for 315 yards and four touchdowns. His 214 yards against the Aztecs is the 18th most in a game by a Pack receiver in school history.
MOUNTAIN WEST HONORS TWO PACK ATHLETES: The Wolf Pack was honored with two Mountain West Players of the Week on Monday in two sports.
Defensive lineman Sam Hammond was named the Mountain West’s football Defensive Player of the Week while Lindsey Drew was named the Player of the Week for men’s basketball.
It is just the second time in school history that Nevada athletes in football and men’s basketball were named Player of the Week in the Mountain West on the same day. Linebacker Albert Rosette and guard Deonte Burton were both honored on Nov. 19. 2012.
Drew scored 54 points in two games last week against Utah and Loyola Marymount while Hammond had nine tackles and one sack against San Diego State.
Hammond is just the second Pack player to earn the conference’s weekly award this season. Kicker Brandon Talton has been named the Special Teams Player of the Week three times this year. Hammond is the first Pack player to earn the Defensive Player of the Week since Korey Rush on Oct. 22, 2018.
Running back Kelton Moore (Oct. 9, 2017) is the only Wolf Pack player to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Norvell took over the program in 2017. Three Pack players won the award seven times combined in Nevada’s first five seasons in the conference. Running back Stefphon Jefferson won it three times in 2012, quarterback Cody Fajardo won it once in 2012 and 2014 and running back James Butler won it in 2015 and 2016.
The Wolf Pack football team has now won 22 weekly Player of the Week awards in the Mountain West since joining the conference in 2012. Hammond’s award is the 10th given to a Pack defensive player after Rosette (2012), Brock Hekking (2013), Jonathan McNeil (2013, 2014), Dameon Baber (twice in 2015, once in 2017), Ian Seau (2015) and Rush (2018).
Drew’s weekly award is the 20th given to a Wolf Pack men’s basketball player in the Mountain West but he is just the sixth different Pack player honored after Burton (once in 2012-13 and two in 2013-14), Cam Oliver (one in 2015-16 and two in 2016-17), Marcus Marshall (two in 2015-16), Jordan Caroline (two in 2016-17, one in 2017-18 and four last year) and Caleb Martin (one in 2017-18 and three last year).
ALFORD WANTS JOHNSON TO SHOOT: Wolf Pack men’s basketball coach Steve Alford doesn’t want guard Jazz Johnson to be shy about shooting the basketball.
Johnson was 4-of-10 on threes during the Pack’s 72-67 victory over Loyola Marymount with 20 points in 39 minutes on Saturday night at Lawlor Events Center. He was 3-8 on threes in the Pack’s 79-74 loss to Utah for 16 points in 31 minutes last Tuesday at Lawlor.
“Jazz was consistent (on Saturday) and got back to shooting the basketball,” Alford said. “We need him shooting 10 threes a game. That should be a goal of his.”
Johnson attempted just under five threes a game for the Wolf Pack last season in just under 29 minutes a game.
“He (Alford) just wants me to be aggressive,” Johnson said. “I got 10 up (against Marymount) so I did a good job at that. With the plays we run I can get a few up here and there. He just tells me that (attempting 10 threes a game) so I can have an aggressive mentality.”
The Wolf Pack school record for 3-point attempts in a season is 317 by Caleb Martin last season in 34 games. Martin broke Marcus Marshall’s record of 303 set in 2016-17.