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Wolf Pack grades: Defense nets Nevada a win over San Jose State

Toa Taua
Toa Taua had a big game in Nevada's win over San Jose State. (Nick Beaton/Nevada athletics)

Grades from Nevada’s 21-12 win over San Jose State on Saturday afternoon at CEFCU Stadium.

Offense

C- — San Jose State’s defense entered this game allowing 38.7 points per game and 496.3 yards per contest. Both figures rank in the bottom nine in the nation out of 129 FBS teams. Nevada’s offense made that defense look a lot stouter. The Wolf Pack did move the ball with relative ease, piling up 463 yards, but it didn’t cash in many drives, scoring three touchdowns on 12 possessions. Quarterback Ty Gangi completed 19-of-32 passes for 314 yards – that’s a nice 16.5 yards per completion – and he accounted for two touchdowns (one pass, one rush). But he also had two costly turnovers, an interception that gave SJSU the ball on the Nevada 1-yard line and a self-induced fumble with the Wolf Pack approaching the red zone. The Wolf Pack missed a field goal to spoil another drive and was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 2 to end another series. The 21 points were basically the worst-case scenario given how well Nevada moved the ball. The Wolf Pack struggled to gain traction on the ground, rushing for 149 yards on 47 carries (3.2 yards per carry). Toa Taua had 121 yards on 29 carries. WR Romeo Doubs posted his second straight 100-yard game, reeling in five balls for 105 yards. In SJSU’s first 10 games, opponents scored 44-plus-points five times and 30-plus eight times, so Nevada’s 21 points were a little disappointing, although it was more than enough given how well the Wolf Pack defense played.

Defense

A- — Nevada did what it was supposed to against a team using its third-string quarterback (starter Josh Love was injured, so senior Michael Carrillo got his first career start). The Wolf Pack held SJSU to fewer than 100 yards over the first three quarters and limited the Spartans to 200 yards overall. SJSU scored just twice, both times starting in Wolf Pack territory, including one in which the Spartans began their drive on the Nevada 1 following a Gangi interception. The other touchdown came when SJSU began its drive on the Wolf Pack 43. Outside of those series, SJSU got nothing. Nevada forced five three-and-outs on 13 defensive series and got a key stop on a 2-point conversion attempt late in the third quarter that would have tied the game. SJSU came in with the nation’s worst rushing offense on a yards-per-carry basis, and the Wolf Pack continued that trend, stuffing SJSU for 1.2 yards per attempt (and just 3.8 yards per play overall). Senior LB Lucas Weber had the best game of his career, notching seven tackles, including three for loss, and two sacks. Safety Dameon Baber record the lone turnover, an interception that gave the Wolf Pack the ball on the SJSU 39 (the ensuing drive resulted in a turnover on downs). Nevada’s offense was a little sleepy. Its defense wasn’t.

Special teams

C+ — Things didn’t start well when K Ramiz Ahmed missed a 28-yard field goal on Nevada’s first drive. He was replaced by Spencer Pettit, who hit all three of his extra points. The Pack didn’t have a kick or punt return but its coverage units were good. P Quinton Conaway averaged 40 yards per punt on four attempts, dropping two inside the 20 (he also drew a running into the punter penalty that allowed Nevada to go for a fourth-and-1, which it was stuffed on). SJSU’s punt game was stellar, pinning five of its seven punts inside the 20. (The Spartans also missed an extra point). It was not a bad game for the Wolf Pack special teams by any means, but there weren’t really any impact or noteworthy plays from Nevada in this facet outside of the missed field goal.

Coaching

B- — Nevada did not play its best game, but it did notch its seventh victory (the school’s most in the regular season since 2014). Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel mostly rushed three and played zone behind that, and it worked quite well. SJSU had only four plays that went longer than 12 yards, so the zone effectively shut down any big-play opportunities. Against a strong opponent, the Wolf Pack's overall team effort was unlikely to net a victory, but Nevada had more margin for error playing SJSU, which has won just three of 21 games the last two seasons. The change in game time might have affected the Wolf Pack to some degree, and Nevada really did dominate this game for the most part – namely 263 more yards and 13 more first downs that SJSU, and as a wise sage once said, “Never apologize for a victory.” Nevada will take this win into its regular-season finale against rival UNLV looking for a rare eight-win season.

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