Nevada Wolf Pack taking quarterback carousel to Fresno State
Special to the Appeal
NEVADA WOLF PACK vs. FRESNO STATE BULLDOGS
WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, Calif.
TV: AT&T Sports Net
RADIO: 630-AM, 94.5-FM
TEAM RECORDS: Nevada (0-4, 0-0); Fresno State (1-2, 0-0)
SERIES: Fresno State leads 27-20-1
The position of quarterback for the Nevada Wolf Pack football team has been a lot like the Northern Nevada weather lately. If you don’t like what you see, just wait a week or two because there’s a good chance it will change.
The Wolf Pack made its third starting quarterback switch in less than a month this week, going back to Ty Gangi as the starter for its first Mountain West game of the season Saturday night (7 p.m.) at Fresno State. David Cornwell was the starter through summer training camp, Gangi replaced him for the season opener at Northwestern on Sept. 2 and freshman Kaymen Cureton replaced Gangi against Idaho State on Sept. 16.
“I have no idea who is going to play quarterback for them,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said earlier this week. “We have to be prepared for everything.”
The result of the quarterback carousel has been the Wolf Pack’s first 0-4 record to start a season since 1999. The Pack will hope to avoid its first 0-5 start since 1964 when its takes on the struggling Bulldogs (1-2).
“We knew we’d have a tough non-conference season,” said coach Jay Norvell, who joins Jack Glascock (1915) as the only Nevada head coaches in school history to lose the first four games of their Wolf Pack head coaching career. “This is a chance for a fresh start.”
This is Gangi’s third chance as the Pack’s starting quarterback. He started the last four games last season, beating Utah State and UNLV to close out the year, after starter Tyler Stewart went down with a season-ending knee injury. Gangi then started the first two games this season, completing 35-of-74 passes for 476 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in losses to Northwestern and Toledo.
“Ty’s got experience,” Norvell said. “That’s really what’s making the difference for him.”
Gangi has a record of 2-4 as a Wolf Pack starter.
“I’m excited to go in there and put in what I have learned the past two weeks,” Gangi said. “It’s time to go in there and execute.”
Cureton fumbled the ball four times and was sacked eight times in just five quarters as the Pack’s starter against Idaho State (four quarters) and Washington State (one quarter). He completed 20-of-38 passes for 213 yards with three touchdowns and one interception before getting benched in the second quarter against Washington State in favor of Cornwell. He also carried the ball 21 times for a net of minus three yards.
“We’ve learned a lot about our football team,” Norvell said. “We know a lot more about what our guys are capable of doing.”
One of the things Norvell learned, he said, is none of his quarterbacks can handle the full playbook of the Pack’s new Air Raid offense. “We’ve simplified what we’re doing,” Norvell said. “We’ll simplify it as we move on and allow our guys to have a chance to execute.”
Gangi impressed his teammates and coaches with the way he handled losing the starting job two weeks ago.
“Ty has been a good teammate all along, whether he’s been a starter or when he’s been asked to sit down,” Norvell said. “You have to be able to handle adversity and Ty’s done that.”
The last time we saw Gangi on the field, his last three drives ended in a sack, interception and incomplete pass on fourth down in a 37-24 loss to Toledo on Sept. 9.
“I don’t ever want to be in that situation,” said offensive lineman Austin Corbett, referring to when Gangi lost the starting job to Cureton. “You work hard all fall camp and get the starting job and then they switch things up. That’s just crushing. I can’t even imagine how it felt. But looking at Ty (the last two weeks), he didn’t seem to mind. It looked like he put the team first. It’s part of human nature to be selfish and think, ‘I should be out there.’ But he just did a great job of stepping back and taking charge of his role (signaling in plays). That just speaks volumes of who he is as a person and his great character.”
Norvell is confident Gangi can improve the Pack offense.
“We just feel that Ty does all the things he’s supposed to do,” Norvell said. “I think we can do some things with Ty at quarterback moving forward. As we go forward we’re going to solidify that spot (quarterback). We should see our point production rise as we move on.”
Both the Wolf Pack and Bulldogs are hitting the reset buttons on their seasons this week.
“It’s an exciting time of year,” said Tedford of the start of the conference season. “It’s important that we learn lessons from the first three games. It’s the same for (Nevada). I’m sure they are saying the same things in their meeting rooms.”
It’s the same message heard throughout meeting rooms all over the country with teams who have had a disappointing non-conference season.
“We’re wiping the slate clean,” Norvell said. “This is a new season.”
The Wolf Pack has lost 11 of its last 15 games while Fresno State has lost 13 of its last 15. The Bulldogs, which are also 5-22 over the last two-plus seasons, have not beaten a Division I-A (FBS) school since Nov. 14, 2015 (42-14 over Hawaii). That was also the last time the Bulldogs, losers of eight conference games in a row, won a Mountain West game.
“We’re walking around with a different mentality now,” Corbett said.
The Wolf Pack has won its last two games against Fresno State, beating the Bulldogs 27-22 last year at Mackay Stadium and 30-16 in Fresno in 2015. The Pack has also won three of the last four games in this 94-year-old rivalry that were played in Fresno.
“Starting 0-4, no one wants that,” Corbett said. “But those games don’t affect the outcome of the conference games. This is when it’s time to make our money.”
Fresno State’s two losses this year have come against Alabama (41-10) and Washington (48-16). The Bulldogs’ only victories since 2015 have come against Division I-AA (FCS) schools Incarnate Word (66-0 this year) and Sacramento State (31-3 last year).
“We’ve played two great teams (Alabama and Washington),” said Tedford, who lost to the Wolf Pack twice (2010, 2012) as head coach at California. “We played hard and competed well but that means nothing this weekend. How that (competing against two national powers) translates to this week, we’ll find out.”
Norvell is also anxious to find out more about his team.
“We want to see where we stand in this league,” Norvell said.