Murray's Mailbag: Impact of Carson Strong winning starting QB job over Malik Henry

Carson Strong
Carson Strong will lead Nevada into battle against Purdue. (Julian Del Gaudio/NSN)

Insert fire emoji. Insert fire emoji. Insert fire emoji. The questions came fast and furious this week, with Carson Strong being named Nevada's starting quarterback the main topic, but there were lots of great questions, so let's jump into this week's edition of the Monday Twitter Mailbag.

(Note: If you're not seeing the tweets, it's probably because you're not using Google Chrome. Use Google Chrome).

The upside is a 9-3 season, including a 6-2 Mountain West mark and the program's first West Division title. If everything breaks right, I could see Nevada beating Purdue, Weber State, UTEP, Hawaii, San Jose State, New Mexico, San Diego State, Wyoming and UNLV. That would put the Wolf Pack at 9-3 with the only losses to Oregon, Fresno State and Utah State. That's achievable if all goes well. I do have questions about Nevada's offensive line and secondary and there's still not a ton of depth across the board, so the Wolf Pack has to avoid injuries. But the schedule sets up well with five easy home games, no Boise State or Air Force on the slate and drawing Purdue at home. Additionally, Fresno State, the West Division preseason favorite, is the least-experienced team in the conference and lost as much talent in the offseason as anybody in the nation. The Bulldogs should be the clear West Division favorite, but that ranking is mostly because of what Fresno State did the last two seasons than what it brings back this year. Add in the fact San Diego State crashed at the end of 2018, and the usual West Division favorites (Fresno State and SDSU have won all six West Division titles) are vulnerable. The ceiling is a spot in the MW championship game (most likely against Boise State). The floor is probably five wins. Season three under Jay Norvell could be a special one, although it could be a 6-6 season, too.

Upsets typically come down to three things: (1) the turnover battle; (2) the special teams; and (3) the play of the quarterback. If Nevada wins the turnover battle, gets a couple impact plays from its special teams and Carson Strong has a good outing, the Wolf Pack can beat the Boilermakers. For me, the offensive line play will be huge. If Nevada's offensive line can't get the running game going and falls into third-and-long situations, Strong will be at a major disadvantage in his first start since 2016. He's a solid athlete but not super mobile for a quarterback. On the other side, Nevada's defense has to tame receiver Rondale Moore, who caught 114 passes for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman last season (and rushed for 213 yards and two more scores). He can win a game by himself. Nevada's secondary must be top notch against Moore. This will be a great early-season test. These are the kind of games championship-caliber Group of 5 programs win.

It depends on how Oregon does the rest of the season. If the Ducks go 11-2, wins the Pac-12 and gets to the Rose Bowl, then yes, that'd ranked up there with the Boise State win, especially since the game is on the road. If Oregon goes 7-5 and heads to the Las Vegas Bowl, it might not even make the top-10 wins in program history. Here are my top-five Wolf Pack football wins all-time.

1. 2010 Boise State: Boise State was third in the nation and a 14.5-point favorite to win at Mackay Stadium. It looked like a safe bet early as the Broncos scored the game's first 17 points. But Nevada rallied back and dominated the second half in a jaw-dropping 34-31 overtime upset thanks in part to Boise State's Kyle Broztman missing two short field goals. Boise State had 15 NFL players on its roster for the game, but Nevada finally knocked off the Broncos before finishing 11th in the final AP poll.

2. 1923 Cal: Nevada didn't beat Cal but just tying the "Wonder Team" was a gigantic upset. Cal didn't lose a single game from 1920-24, going 44-0-4 while playing 50 straight games without a loss, but it couldn't beat Nevada in 1923. Cal and Nevada played nine straight seasons from 1920-1928, with Cal winning the other eight by a score of 406-33, so that shows you how big of an underdog Nevada was. More than 1,000 fans crowded the Reno railroad to greet the team when it returned from the 1923 tie (the game ended 0-0)

3. 1900 Stanford: Stanford went 7-2-1 this season and outscored its opponents, 154-20, but lost to the Wolf Pack, 6-0. This was actually the 10th win in program history as Nevada was only a fifth-year program. The game after beating Stanford, the Wolf Pack played the Reno Wheelmen (a 17-0 win), so you could imagine playing and beating a team of Stanford's caliber was a big deal.

4. 2005 Fresno State: Nevada caught Fresno State at a good time with the Bulldogs coming off a heart-breaking, 50-42, loss to two-time defending national champion USC the week prior. Fresno State was ranked No. 16 in the nation (the second-highest ranked team Nevada has beaten in football). Nevada clinched the WAC title with this win as RB Robert Hubbard rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns. The Wolf Pack is 4-29 against ranked foes in football, so this was a huge win for Nevada.

5. 2003 Washington: This Washington team didn't end up being too good as the Huskies finished the year 6-6, although it did beat two Top 25 teams (No. 22 Oregon State and No. 8 Washington State). Nevada's 28-17 victory in Seattle was the program's first over a Pac-12 team. It was part of a 5-2 start to the season, but Nevada ended the year 1-4 and coach Chris Tormey was fired upon the conclusion of the year, so the big win didn't help his cause.

I don't see Malik Henry transferring ala David Cornwell in 2017. As is, Nevada was his only option, and that was as a walk-on. Where's he going to go if he leaves? And he's still a backup to a freshman who will start against Purdue and Oregon to open his career. There's plenty of chance for Henry to get on the field early to try and win the job. If he transfers, he'd have to sit out this season and he only has two years of eligibility left. I imagine he'll stay and probably get on the field at some point. It's rare to have one quarterback take all of the snaps the entire season. Nevada needs Henry, too. The Wolf Pack has only three healthy and eligible quarterbacks right now and one is true freshman Austin Kirksey, who isn't ready to play at this level.

I'm curious to see how much leash Strong gets, too. I believe he'll get a lot more than Ty Gangi got two seasons ago when Norvell gave him the quick hook in favor of Kaymen Cureton after two games before turning to Gangi long term. Nevada has worked to downplay Henry to a degree (he wasn't made available on media day, he hasn't been promoted like Cornwell, etc.) so he doesn't become a big focus of the fans. I think Strong is Norvell's ride-or-die, at least until Cristian Solano comes back healthy about a month into the season. And if Strong is playing well, he'll keep the job despite Solano's impending return. The ball is in his hands to dictate his fate.

He's definitely in the mold of John Dutton/David Neill from a skills perspective. All three were 6-foot-4. All three were pocket passers. Dutton was an NFL-level quarterback who never got his big break. Neill was more of a stats compiler, although he was good in his own right (fringe top-10 quarterback in Wolf Pack history). Strong can certainly make NFL-level throws. He's got the arm strength and release. He has good leadership skills and can rally a team. His ceiling is a starter in the NFL. Neill is probably his floor. He can have a Jeff Rowe/Dutton-like career at Nevada for sure.

I addressed Strong's leash above. I think he'll get a decent leash. He is a freshman starting his career against two Power 5 schools behind an inexperience offensive line, so fans should understand that. Norvell understands that. On the other hand, he is the future of the position for Nevada, so the Wolf Pack can't let his confidence get scrambled if things go south. But I don't think they will. I can see him putting up a 3,000-yard, 25-touchdown season with perhaps an inflated interception total as he learns on the job (he also tends to throw high when he's off target, which usually leads to interceptions). There will be ups and downs, but I like him in the long term and believe he gives Nevada a higher offensive ceiling than we've seen in recent seasons.

Mr. Mullet would have been one hell of a WWE nickname for Brock Hekking. But, no. Hekking went to Vacaville High while Strong went to Will C. Wood High. Both schools are in Vacaville, though. (Nut Tree for the win!)

I mean, it's hard to beat the luxury boxes, which I've only been in once for a game when I shadowed Chris Ault the game the field at Mackay Stadium was named after him. The club level is pretty cool, too, because you can walk to your seat outside the club level or sit in the club level and watch the game on television if it's too cold. I didn't go to many games before I started covering the team, but I usually sat with the Zonies, which is the rowdiest section. There are pros and cons to that. Good energy but also lots of drunk people. The club level has the best combination of comfortability and affordability, so I'll go with that.

I can't verify those numbers you stated, but I think Mackay Stadium will mostly be half-full, half-empty again this season. The home schedule is Purdue (good draw), UNLV (great draw), New Mexico (bad draw), San Jose State (bad draw), Hawaii (average draw at best) and Weber State (bad draw). The Wolf Pack ranked ninth out of 12 MW teams in attendance last season (17,181 fans per game), and that was with a strong home schedule. Since cutting its capacity to 26,000 or so seats with the 2016 renovation, Nevada hasn't even approached a sellout. Here is Nevada's attendance marks the last six seasons.

2013: 24,939 fans per game

2014: 23,862

2015: 22,170

2016: 18,500

2017: 16,722

2018: 17,181

This is not a good trend, although it went up a little last season thanks to a better product and stronger home schedule. I'm guessing Nevada sits in that 17,000 range in 2019. It's hard to compete with basketball, especially with ticket prices going up at Lawlor and some fans having to pick between the two programs. That 2016 renovation also really hurt attendance, with a drop of 16.6 percent the year the "new" stadium opened. Re-seating fans is never easy. Norvell is rebuilding the fan base, but it takes way long to build a fan base than to lose it, which happened in the Brian Polian tenure.

I'm partying with Hawaii football coach Nick Rolovich and taking Wyoming basketball coach Allen Edwards with me for a backstreet fight since he's 6-foot-5 and has that long wing span.

By taking his barbecue sauce-colored Ford Freestar to Chick-fil-A?

But, for real, the Purdue game will test Nevada's special teams. All-word receiver Rondale Moore will be the return man for the Boilermakers. He's as explosive as any player in the nation, so Nevada has to be careful with him. I don't recall a time Nevada's special teams has ever been truly elite. The Wolf Pack was 82nd in ESPN's special teams efficiency rankings last year. It was 103rd the year prior. It was 106th the year before that. And 96th the year before that. You get the point. The Wolf Pack has ranked higher than 54th in those rankings only once since 2007, that being the 2010 season (it placed 18th). Everything went right in 2010, apparently.

Nevada has a good history with punters and kickers. Where it has typically lacked is having an explosive returnman. My all-time Wolf Pack punt return rankings would go:

1. Treamelle Taylor

2. Rishard Matthews

3. Tony Logan

4. De'Angelo Wilson

5. Kevin Stanley

If I were Norvell, I'd make Romeo Doubs return punts. He's electric. There are a lot of potential big plays back there. But I get if he doesn't want Doubs to get injured returning a punt. I think you'll see Fossum, Doubs and freshman Melquan Stovall all back there fielding punts. Nevada has ranked 24th and 33rd in the nation in punt return average in Norvell's two seasons and 103rd and 38th in kickoff return average. That's not bad, but I believe it can be improved.

Well, Nevada isn't really running a traditional Air Raid (there are a lot of power run concepts in there, which means different blocking schemes), but beyond that the Wolf Pack has ranked in the top 20 in the nation in fewest sacks allowed in each of the last two seasons, so that hasn't been an issue. And Nevada hasn't had the strongest offensive line personnel during that period. This year's line is pretty inexperienced, so it is a concern, but that's more because of the roster and not the scheme. The offensive line is the big X factor on the offense. Nevada's receiving corps, running backs and quarterback room is good enough for a top-five offensive in the MW. Blending a power run scheme and Air Raid pass principles does make offensive line play at Nevada difficult. You have to be a really good offensive linemen to be able to do both.

The Albuquerque Journal's Geoff Grammer has a much better pulse on how Lobo fans feel about Steve Alford (and Craig Neal), and here's what he had to say when we asked him that question in April: "The boos will probably out-number the cheers 10 fold. There will be cheers. It won't be unanimous. But there will be quite a bit of booing going on that night in The Pit." I get it, I guess. Alford left for a bigger job days after signing a 10-year contact with New Mexico. But he also boosted the program to its highest point ever during his six seasons as the team's head coach. He deserves more cheers than boos, but sounds like it will be the opposite.

Yep. No more Montreux. Another site hasn't been determined yet, although tournament officials were already talking with other courses before last weekend's vote went down, so there have been discussions.

We had tournament director Chris Hoff on today's NSN Daily, so you can watch his interview here. He's confident there is another course in town with everything required to host a PGA Tour event. It won't be easy to find a course that: (a) has a championship-level layout; (b) has the facilities (a big enough driving range and putting green, a locker room for 100 or so golfers, a big clubhouse, a big enough parking lot, etc.); (c) has enough surrounding area for stands and fan seating areas; and (d) wants to host a PGA Tour event. It's a tough ask. The top courses that come to mind in Reno are ArrowCreek; Somersett; and Wolf Run. Perhaps Carson's Silver Oaks. Edgewood makes sense, but does that course want to host two events in two weeks next season? There are more options in the Truckee/Sierra/Tahoe region but then you're moving into California and logistics could be more difficult. I hope the Barracuda will find a venue for 2020, but it would have been nice if Montreux gave the tournament a one-year notice rather than giving it this short of a turnaround to keep the tournament afloat.

Not a bad idea. The tournament would prefer to stay as close to Reno as possible, but you would still have the proximity to Tahoe with Genoa, which the players like, and the course and area has a pretty good infrastructure. At this point, the Barracuda can't be too picky. This one could work.

As a former RedHawk resident, I'm a big fan of the course and area, but I don't know if that's a good fit. I imagine they'd use the Hills course (the Lakes course is too short). Parking is good. You could use Golden Eagle Regional Park for volunteer and fan parking. The clubhouse isn't very big. You'd have to set up temporary locker rooms for the players, which is doable. There aren't enough driving range bays, but maybe you can convert some of the Lakes course into a driving range. The putting green and chipping area is big enough. There are some pros with RedHawk, but I don't think it fits. I'm really interested to see how this plays out.

It's Montreux's course, so they can do what they want with it. My beef is Montreux didn't let the membership, which totals more than 500 people, vote on the future of the tournament. Instead, it allowed nine board members to make the decision. On a move of this magnitude, let the entire electorate, the people paying the dues to make the course possible, vote. It might not have changed anything. But I've had some members reach out to me upset their voice wasn't heard (the vote four years ago to extend the partnership was a full-member vote). This reminds me of the Legislature's vote on Boondoggle Stadium (Clark County's pledge of $750 million in tax money for the Raiders' stadium). The citizens of Southern Nevada should have gotten to vote on that rather than politicians, some of whom took donations from the man, Sheldon Adelson, who was angling for that free $750 million). It'd be a shame if Reno lost its PGA Tour stop.

Murky? Uncertain? Precarious? It's not great to lose your host course, although it has happened to a number of PGA Tour events before, and many of those have continued forward. As noted above, it would have been good to get a years' heads up so the tournament wasn't thrown into a scramble mode. Northern Nevada isn't going to ever get a major. As is, it is one of the smallest cities on the PGA Tour cycle. On the plus side, Barracuda, the main sponsor, wants to continue the event and the PGA Tour wants to as well. The tour needs and is invested in this tournament or it would have folded a long time ago. But finding the perfect course will be tough since that perfect course was Montreux.

I've seen a few people saying Austin Corbett could be in jeopardy of a roster spot, but I doubt the 33rd pick of the 2018 draft will be cut entering his second season, especially with the general manager who made the pick still in charge of the franchise. Perhaps he could get traded, but I don't see a straight-out cut. Eric Kush and Drew Forbes have apparently jumped him for the starting right guard position, though. It shows you how big of a jump there is from college to the NFL. He'll keep battling. He's a tough competitor. But the NFL is a production business and he had a rough game against the Colts on Saturday.

I'd bring three Packfetti sticks. Purdue's defense is questionable and gave up the third-most passing yards in the nation last season, so while Carson Strong is playing against a Big Ten team to start his Wolf Pack career, it's not like the Boilermakers played elite pass defense in 2018.

I'll start asking for those numbers the week of the game (so next week), but Purdue has apparently done a good job of selling tickets. Purdue has sold out its tailgate section, so the Boilermakers should travel well. I'm guessing a crown in the 21,000 range. Labor Day Weekend has historically been tough for Nevada, but there seems to be enthusiasm for the season and a Big Ten team should help the draw.

Probably. They have that Big Ten money!

Too many Cooks in the kitchen if you ask me.

Nevada wide receivers by touchdowns in 2019.

9 – Romeo Doubs

6 – Elijah Cooks

3 –Kaleb Fossum

3 – Cole Turner

2 – Brendan O'Leary-Orange

2 – Melquan Stovall

1 – Dominic Christian

1 – Ben Putman

1 – Justin Lockhart

1 – Reagan Roberson

1 – Henry Ikahihifo

That's 30 touchdowns for those counting at home. That might be a touch high.

Jomon Dotson, the Washington transfer who joined Nevada as a cornerback last season, was a burner. But, yes, you're not looking at a lot of Nevada players who can run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash or faster in recent history. Those guys go to Power 5 schools or they're tiny for their position and get overlooked by power-conference teams like Mannix and Mitchell did.

Founded in 2000, Nevada soccer is 99-237-29 overall and 34-117-12 in conference play. Simply put, it's been the worst program on campus for two decades. Why? The program got a lot of momentum under former coach Terri Patraw, who inherited a 4-14 team and lead it to the NCAA Tournament three years later. But then disaster broke out as she quit in jest because she wanted an extension. That resignation was accepted by AD Cary Groth and then there were lawsuits and whistleblower cases and a department-wide NCAA investigation (the school was put on probation over violations in men's golf brought up by Patraw), and the program has never been the same. The team had four coaches in five years and had one recent season when it had co-interim head coaches, so it hasn't really been treated like a Division I program for part of its history. Only two of the 29 players are local, so it's not a locally recruited roster, although that's not necessarily a bad thing. I truly don't know how the level of high school girls soccer rates and if you could build a team from Northern Nevada players. Nevada has had just two winning seasons in its history (both under Patraw), so you could argue it's a coaching issue, too. Finally, not having a grass field hurts in recruiting. Most players want to play on grass rather than the FieldTurf offered at Mackay Stadium. It's a shame TMCC, a local community college, has a way better field than Nevada, the D-I school.

This has been a nice clickbait story, but the patent would only "apply for usage of 'The' in ways that clearly signify association with Ohio State and its brand, like for example a scarlet and grey T-shirt with 'The' on the front," Chris Davey, senior associate vice president of university communications for Ohio State, told CNN. So it's not the word "The" for everything, which would be ridiculous. (To be fair, The Ohio State University is ridiculous in the first place). But Nevada should have trademarks on the books already for references to its athletic department, not that UNLV will ever adhere to them.

This prompted me to look up the tallest dorm in the country, which is Illinois State's Watterson Towers at 298.5 feet. Fun fact about that: An 18-year-old freshman fell out of the building at the 18th floor in 1987 but didn't die. She broke some limbs and her back, though. However, a 45-year-old woman tried to climb the building on Halloween weekend 2011 and fell 200 feet to her death. So 50-50 survival odds on falling out of that building.

UNR made the best out of a tough situation. Its dorm blew up. Where else are you going to find housing for 1,300 students with one month notice? Eldorado Resorts will hold more than 1,550 free parking spaces and are installing 65 washers and dryers. There will be 24-hour security. Every student will get an individual bed rather than bunk beds in dorms, and the student cost isn't going up. So it's not a bad deal for the students. The location isn't as nice as the dorms, which are right across the street from campus, and the university cost seems high ($21.6 million), but it was really the only move available.

How many football players also run track at the FBS level? Maybe two dozen? I don't think it'd have any impact. Nevada would be better served spending the $2 million or $3 million it costs to run a men's track and field team and invest that into the football program. An indoor facility would still be nice.

The second one. Wisconsin basically had three 1,000-yard rushers in 2010, the year after Nevada set the record. James White rushed for 1,052 yards, John Clayfor 1,012 and Montee Ballfor 996. Neither records will be easy to break, but I like the yards per carry average to last the longest. One of those triple-option teams should be able to post three 1,000-yard rushers in a season.

San Jose State will not win more than eight games. My Final Four is Michigan State, Kentucky, Villanova and Florida as a sleeper. You can add Duke, Texas Tech, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville and Virginia to those top four to round out my top 10.

1. Johnny Carson (easy)

2. Kit Carson (our state capital is named after him)

3. Carson Daly (TRL was my jam)

4. Carson Wayne Newton (you did not know Carson was his first name; I just taught you something!)

5. Carson Palmer (if only he didn't tear his ACL)

Apologies to Carson Wentz (he could still rise), Carson McCullers ("The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" is an outstanding book) and Carson Kressley (never watched his show).

I'm not really a car guy, but I'd go:

1. Ferrari LaFerrari

2. McLaren 650S

3. Batmobile

Feel free to contact me if you would like to buy me one of these.

Considering I'm 2-16 as a youth soccer coach over two seasons, you clearly picked the right person to ask. My five keys to success.

1. Have the best players (at this age, coaching matters way, way less than talent when it comes to winning and losing).

2. Start every practice and game with a team joke (it loosens them up. Example: Q: Why can’t Cinderella play soccer? A: Because she always runs away from the ball).

3. Do "Sharks and Minnows" every practice and dedicate at least 40 percent of practice time to scrimmages (the kids will only want to scrimmage).

4. Make sure your girls know the top two goals for the season are: (a) to have fun; and (b) to be a good teammate (everything else is a bonus).

5. Throw a pizza party at the end of the season (coaches who don't do that aren't cut out for the job).

Aliens overtook the Wolf Pack basketball players' bodies and slept-walked through the final month of the season. #Area51

As for chipotle or aioli, it depends what you'e eating and putting it on, but I'll take a good chipotle over a good aioli.

No. The only way the Dodgers have a "successful season" is if they win the World Series. That's how high of a standard the franchise has set. Simply getting to the World Series (and having an MVP and Cy Young Award winner while taking home 105 regular-season victories) wouldn't be a success. Meanwhile, the Giants are happy to be sitting around .500 while running a top-five payroll.* Different standards.

(* - denotes unnecessary cheap shot at the Giants)

You're grasping at straws: The Dodgers are 4-2 against the Braves this season and have out-scored them 37-19 over the course of those six games. The Dodgers will be in the World Series. I'll start worrying about their fate after that.

I love the Balboa Park area, and Carlsbad is awesome if you want to venture north. There are tons of great things going in the Gaslamp Quarter and Petco Park is fun to walk around. My favorite part of town is Little Italy. Some great food down there. They also have a Ghirardelli, which is my favorite dessert place. Congrats on the move!

Morning run or hike. Afternoon at the beach. Early cocktails and dinner out with my wife. Puzzle or board game at night. I like doing stuff. Retirement actually scares me as I don't want to just sit around with nothing to do.

The Nazi Party, followed by the KKK. But PETA is up there, too.

(Awaits email from PETA.)

This is why we need MarioKart rules in real life. I've been stumping for this for a long time. Why doesn't Elon Musk ditch his Mars thing and set up real-life MarioKart where we can hit other cars with turtle shells and banana peels and fireballs if the driver is acting a fool?

Chris Murray's RealLife MarioKart (my company would invent the scenario above).

Yes, this is my desk. And, yes, this is my banana. But this is all part of my long-term plan. This is my roasting pot as I prepare to make bananas foster for the newsroom. You have ruined the surprise for everybody, so I will no longer make said bananas fosters for the group. It's very sad it has come to this. I'll just have to throw away the banana now. See y'all next week.

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