While he might not be the focal point of Nevada's pass-first offense, running back Toa Taua is determined to make a name for himself this year.
And Taua, who ranks fifth in the Mountain West averaging 85 yards per game, is thankful to be a part of the Wolf Pack's explosive offense even if the biggest stars of the unit so far this season have been quarterback Carson Strong and wide receiver Romeo Doubs.
“It feels different this year,” Taua said on last week's episode of Wolf Pack All Access. "Just starting with the O-line, they bring a whole other type of game this year. They’re so much more physical, so much more smarter with the schemes. I think Coach (Jay Norvell) does a great job with those guys in the Union and just making the plays that we do with Romeo, Carson, Cole (Turner), we just bring a whole new type of offense this year. We’re very balanced passing wise and running, and I think this year is just a different type of game.”
With Nevada's offense ranking second in the MW ins coring at 33.8 points per game, Taua said it’s no shock Strong, a sophomore, is having such an outstanding season.
“It’s not really a surprise," Taua said. "We see it every day, ya know. So when we go out to the game, it’s just like everything that he practiced and that connection he has with receivers He takes control of the huddle, knows how to move the ball and is just great at what he does.”
Another offensive standout has been Doubs, who Taua compared to former Alabama stars Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Jerry Jeudy.
“He brings like a mixture of all of those guys,” Taua said. “He’s just an explosive player all around. Every day we go out to practice we see something new from that guy and we’re just like, ‘He’s a fun guy to play with.’”
Despite Nevada being more pass oriented the season, Taua's touches per game have remained even from last year (17 per game this season). His 6.5 yards per carry is way up from last year's 4.1 and he ranks fourth on the team in receptions per game at four.
Now that the team has been able to grow together over the past few years, Taua says a strong offense is finally emerging after the Wolf Pack averaged just 21.3 points per game last season, its fewest in a year since 2000.
“Very strong chemistry,” Taua said of the improvement. "We’ve all been together and on the team for quite awhile now. We have a lot of returners, a lot of guys that came in my class to play early, young and now we’re all getting a couple of years of experience under our belt. Just being able to be on the field all together at the same time, it’s starting to click now. We’re all getting in the rhythm of things.”
While the season looks different amid the coronavirus pandemic, the running back is not taking anything for granted. Taua missed the first game of the season for an undisclosed reasons; Nevada is not announcing which players test positive for COVID-19.
“I feel like every snap you play is a blessing,” Taua said. “Me, Devonte (Lee), we talk about it after every play. We’re out here healthy, we have to pray for next week. It’s a blessing. Just to walk off the field every day is a blessing from God because any snap could be your last. You gotta take that for everything that it means because this game doesn’t last long.”
The Wolf Pack has started the season 4-0 for the first time since 2010 and heads into a showdown Saturday with San Diego State (3-1), which has traditionally been one of the conference's best teams. Saturday's game is the toughest test for Nevada this season.
“I feel like we can do whatever we want on the field,” Taua said. “We control what we can control. We take every game one by one. We treat every game like it’s a championship game. Every single one of them. We’re trying to win a Mountain West championship this year.”
You can watch Toa Taua's full Wolf Pack All Access video below.