Nevada’s football program is experiencing a far cry from the Colin Kaepernick glory days. Heck, Nevada isn’t near the glory days back in 2021 and coach Jay Norvell’s final season.
That year the Wolf Pack went 8-5 and earned their fourth consecutive bowl berth. Norvell left for Colorado State and for his successor Ken Wilson, it has been nothing but tough sledding.
Last week’s 6-0 win at San Diego State snapped a 16-game losing streak. The Wolf Pack lost their last 10 a year ago during a 2-10 season, and their first six this year.
Place College Football Wagers at BetMGM
The game might have been something of a snoozer, but Nevada certainly isn’t giving it back.
This was Nevada’s first Mountain West win since a 52-10 victory at Colorado State on Nov. 27, 2021. It was also the Wolf Pack’s first shutout since a 37-0 win over UNLV on Oct. 8, 2011.
Fittingly, the hero of the game, Brandon Talton, kicked as many field goals as he missed, going 2 for 4.
What has caused this rapid downfall for Nevada?
It’s never one thing, but the struggles at quarterback have been pronounced.
Nevada was spoiled by having Carson Strong at quarterback. In three seasons as the starter, ending in 2021, Strong threw for 9,379 yards, 74 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions.
Last year, Nate Cox and Shane Illingworth combined to complete 54% of their passes for 2,225 yards, seven touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
This year, the quarterback play hasn’t been much better. Starter Brendon Lewis and AJ Bianco have combined to complete 57.2% of their passes for 1,318 yards, four touchdowns, and seven interceptions.
Lewis, a Colorado transfer, passed for 98 yards and ran for 40 against San Diego State, but it was enough for a long-awaited W.
Still, this is a long way from the Kaepernick heyday. From 2007-2010, Kaepernick threw for 10,098 yards, 82 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions. He also rushed for 4,112 yards (6.9 avg) and 59 touchdowns.
More importantly, Nevada went 34-19 and earned trips to four consecutive bowls.
Enough reminiscing, back to the present.
What has really hurt Nevada is how well opposing quarterbacks have played. This year opponents are completing 74.3% for 1,935 yards, 14 touchdowns, and three interceptions.
Plus, even with the shutout, Nevada is 117th in scoring defense, allowing 33.86 points per game. On the other side, Nevada is 127th in scoring offense, averaging 15.7 points per game.
Nobody can say a soft part of the schedule is here because nothing is easy for Nevada, but the next two home games have a chance to be competitive.
The Wolf Pack play the next two at home against New Mexico (3-4, 1-2) and Hawaii (2-6, 0-3).
After that, they are at Utah State and Colorado State before finishing at home against Wyoming,
It won’t be easy for Nevada, but maybe the Wolf Pack can feed off the momentum of the win.
While there are so many questions about Nevada, what about San Diego State?
The Aztecs are 3-5, 1-3, and continue to be confounding. They beat one of the Mid-American Conference’s top teams, Ohio, 20-13, to start the season. There was also a close 34-31 loss to Boise State. Even a 26-9 loss to Oregon State doesn’t look that bad.
The Aztecs are looking to become bowl-eligible for a 14th straight year. After a bye this week, SDSU hosts Utah State (3-5), then visits Colorado State (3-4) and San Jose State (3-5) before finishing at home against Fresno State (6-1).
It won’t be easy to keep the bowl-eligible streak alive but look at the bright side. SDSU could be in the Wolf Pack’s shoes. Nevada has to go 5-0 to become bowl-eligible.