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Nevada football star Elijah Cooks likely facing season-ending surgery

Elijah Cooks
Elijah Cooks looks on after scoring a touchdown against San Diego State last season. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Elijah Cooks' 2020 season might have lasted a little more than one quarter.

Cooks, the Wolf Pack's best offensive player last season, is likely facing shoulder surgery that could end his season.

"He's got a shoulder injury and there's a good chance that he's going to have to have surgery," Nevada football coach Jay Norvell said. "He's getting a second opinion. We will not see him this week."

Cooks was suspended for the first half of Nevada's season opener against Wyoming. He made his debut in the second half and hauled in two passes for 24 yards, including an impressive one-handed grab. But Cooks injured his shoulder midway through the fourth quarter of that game and didn't return. He traveled with the team to UNLV last weekend but didn't play and has been ruled out of this week's game. With only five regular-season games after Thursday's matchup with Utah State, surgery would likely knock Cooks out for the rest of the year.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior led Nevada in catches (76), receiving yards (926) and receiving touchdowns (eight) last season, but if there's one position where the Wolf Pack could take a blow, it's wide receiver, which is Nevada's deepest position group.

"I think we really like our young players," Nevada coach Jay Norvell said. "Justin Lockhart's done a good job. He played last year as a freshman. I've been really impressed with Tory Horton, our true freshman from Fresno. He's been playing over on the same side as Elijah has been and has gotten a ton of work in practice. He's a tall kid, he's 6-3, he can really run, great practice habits, really intelligent, comes from an athletic family. His brother was a corner at Boise. Great kid. Scored a touchdown in his first game kind of like Romeo Doubs. The first time he touched the ball, he scored a touchdown, which is a great sign. He's done a great job over there at X. Another young guy is Charles Ross, who is getting his first opportunity to play. He was in our program a year ago but had to redshirt."

Lockhart has 10 catches for 62 yards and a touchdown this season. Horton has two catches for 40 yards and a score. Norvell said his young receivers are getting extra practice time without Cooks available, which should expedite their growth.

"Those three guys really have to pick up the slack," Norvell said. "We have a couple of young guys in the slot in Jamaal Bell and Isaac Jernigan, and those guys are really doing a nice job in practice. We'll get them more integrated offensively in our system. We have some good young guys we like. The more we go along with the year and practice, the more reps they get and the more comfortable they are. They're going to have to step up. If Elijah is not going to be able to play, that's going to open the doors for those guys and we'll need them to play productively for us."

Nevada's receiving corps has been led by Romeo Doubs, who has 19 catches for 336 yards and two touchdowns through the team's first two games. Tight end Cole Turner is off to a good start with 11 catches for 191 yards and two scores. Those two will be asked to lead the Wolf Pack pass-catching corps if Cooks is out for the season. While Cooks is a senior, the NCAA granted an additional year of eligibility to all fall sport athletes, so he'd be eligible to return to Nevada next season.

The Wolf Pack faces a Utah State defense on Thursday that has struggled. The Aggies are allowing 40 points per game and have allowed opponents to complete 68 percent of their passes for five touchdowns with no interceptions. The game will kick off at 4 p.m. at Mackay Stadium.

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