During practices this week, the Nevada football team attached two big speakers to a golf cart and drove it around the field to try and simulate the crowd noise expected when the Wolf Pack plays at Oregon's Autzen Stadium on Saturday.
Kaleb Fossum, who played at Oregon during his freshman season at Washington State, understood the tactic, but giggled when asked how close that came to simulating reality.
“It’s just like trying to simulate things in fall camp," Fossum said. "You can’t really simulate it. You can’t simulate a game. You can’t simulate the speed. It’s cool for these young guys to experience something like that and us as vets have to calm everybody down when it gets loud on third downs and stuff. We have to come together, slow the game down and get (quarterback) Carson (Strong) ready for that kind of stuff. I think he’ll be fine. He’s played in some big games like last week. It’s a little different atmosphere, but it will be fun for him.”
Autzen's fan noise is one of the loudest in the nation. In a 2007 game against USC, it ranked fourth in college football history with a deafening 127 decibels, which slots in behind LSU's Tiger Stadium, Clemson's Death Valley and Washington's Husky Stadium. Unlike those places, Autzen Stadium's capacity (54,000) isn't nearly as large, making Oregon's crowd arguably the loudest per fan in the country.
Nevada head coach Jay Norvell has coached at Autzen with two different teams (UCLA and Arizona State) and said the Ducks' fan base can get loud. But he didn't think it would impact his team Saturday.
"It’s exciting, but at the same time we don’t play the crowd," Norvell said. "The crowd isn’t going to make one tackle or one throw or one catch. And so you gotta kinda put it in its place. Be excited. I love going on the road because it's just us. It's just our team and the challenge of playing against a good football team in a great environment. But at the end of the day, the crowd isn’t going to have an effect on the game. It’s going to be the guys on the field blocking and tackling, making throws and catches, and that’s the fun part about it."
Two of the top 13 crowds Nevada has played before in school history have come at Autzen Stadium. In its last game there, in 2011, there were 58,818 fans in attendance in the Ducks' 69-20 victory. In 2003, the Nevada-Oregon game drew 56,471 fans. The last time Nevada played in front of a crowd that size was 2016 at Notre Dame, a contest that drew 80,795 fans. Few players on the Wolf Pack's current roster were on that team.
"It's a good environment," Norvell said. "The crowd is right on you. It can be loud at times. But when you’re a competitor you look forward to that. Probably over the years, my favorite games have been environments like that, especially when you’re on the road because it’s you against the world. All you can do is count on your teammates. It’s exciting to be able to play in a stadium like that and have success because you can quiet the crowd and that’s our challenge this week. That's what we have to do. But again you have to put it in perspective. The crowd can't make a play in the game, and that's exciting."
The only Wolf Pack player who has played at Autzen is Fossum, who did so in 2015 as a freshman at Washington State, a 45-38 Cougars win in double overtime. The game drew 57,775 fans. Since the stadium's capacity expanded to 54,000 in 2002, Oregon has drawn at least 50,000 fans in 113 of 114 home games, the only game falling short being last year's contest with FCS school Portland State.
“It was awesome," Fossum said of the crowd in his first game in Eugene. "It was sold out. It was an awesome atmosphere. Really fun to play in. It’s energy. There’s a book that Kobe (Bryant) wrote and he said when he goes places he just absorbs any energy he gets. I think you can feed on that even as an away team. You take it in a positive light. It’s loud, but it’s fun. It makes the game fun. It’s why you want to play college football. It’s going to be loud, but hearing a crowd go silent is pretty cool, too. That’s my favorite part about it.”
Norvell has preached to his players they're playing a "nameless, faceless opponent" this week and to tune out the crowd. The easiest way to do that is to execute and make plays.
“Just focus in and lock it out," Fossum said. "Sometimes Coach brings up the horses who wear the blinders when they’re racing. You can’t look at the outside noise. Get the signal, get your play in and execute. When you start executing, the crowd dies out and it goes silent. When you score, you hear, ‘Ooo,’ and that wind gets sucked out. That’s our goal every play. Execute and the sound will go away.”
After beating Purdue, which beat three Top 25 teams last season, including Ohio State, and boasted star receiver Rondale Moore, in its season opener, the Wolf Pack shouldn't be overwhelmed by playing a ranked Oregon team, Norvell said.
"I told our team we played against an All-American receiver," Norvell said. "We played against a team and beat a team that beat the No. 3 team in the country last year. We shouldn't be intimidated by anybody we play, and we should go into every game believing that if we prepare and do the things we practice to do we should win."