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Nevada going back to Carson Strong as starting quarterback versus Hawaii

Carson Strong
Carson Strong will return to the starting quarterback position for Nevada. (Julian Del Gaudio/NSN)

Nevada senior quarterback Cristian Solano got his first start of the season Saturday at UTEP and delivered a near flawless performance.

But the Wolf Pack is going back to its original starter this weekend against Hawaii in Carson Strong, who sat out the game against the Miners after taking a number of hard hits in the two games prior.

“It will most likely be Carson," Norvell said of the starting quarterback against Hawaii. "Carson’s healthy now. If he would have responded differently last week, he would have started last week. But he’s much better this week, practicing better, so we’ll start Carson on Saturday.”

Solano, who was returning from a broken hand suffered early in fall camp, completed 13-of-19 passes for 182 yards, two touchdowns and one interception at UTEP, posting a QBR of 90.5 (out of 100). He also rushed 10 times for a team-high 100 yards. Florida State transfer Malik Henry also made his FBS debut, completing both of his passes for 21 yards while leading two series.

“I was really pleased we were able to play Cristian and Malik both," Norvell said. "Both of those guys did a really good job. I thought Christian played really hard in the game. Obviously he made some really important yards for us rushing as well as throwing the football.”

Norvell said he was pleased Solano got the opportunity to start a game for Nevada given his five-year tenure with the program and bad break early in fall camp. This was Solano's first win as Nevada's quarterback in two career starts.

“It was a blessing," Norvell said. "It was just such a bad break when he broke his hand in camp. He put so much hard work into it. You hate to see that to any player, but especially his senior season. Just his attitude and the way he’s worked since he got injured. He was ready to play. Just so proud of his performance. He played really hard. I was pleased with Malik, too. Malik didn’t throw an incompletion. He went in there and made plays. I think we have three quarterbacks we can win with. I really do. I’ve felt that since the spring. I’ve been impressed with the way they’ve competed and improved, and they all have to be ready. We feel a lot better about where Carson is this week. He was really banged up last week and could have played, but we didn’t feel like it was right to put him in that vulnerable of a position."

Strong, a redshirt freshman, started Nevada's first three games, beating Purdue and Weber State while losing to Oregon. He has completed 73-of-120 passes for 683 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. Norvell said his decision to return to Strong is based on his belief Strong gives Nevada its best team.

“We feel like he gives us the best chance to win," Norvell said. "Obviously things can change. But right now he’s performed the best and he’s been the most consistent in the things we’ve asked him to do over the last few months. It’s not just something that’s happened this week or the last couple of weeks. It’s been a body of work over time. At the same time, we have a lot of confidence in Cristian and we have a lot of confidence that if we put Malik in a situation he can execute. That’s a credit to those kids and the way they prepared and the way they worked, but Carson is the guy who we feel gives us the best chance to win this week.”

Norvell said it was good for Strong to sit out a week after taking seven sacks against Oregon and Weber State. He didn't have one specific injury, Norvell said, but it was rather an accumulation of hits that had limited him the week leading up to the UTEP game (Strong suited up but didn't throw during practices). He was back active on the practice field Monday, although Henry did not take part in practice.

“Stomach flu today," Norvell said.

Nevada will likely need a good offensive performance to beat Hawaii in its Mountain West opener. The Rainbow Warriors are averaging 32.8 points per game this season, which ranks fourth among MW teams. Three of Hawaii's first four games have come against Pac-12 opponents. Despite saying Strong was going to start, Norvell didn't rule out playing multiple quarterbacks against Hawaii.

“We could play them all," Norvell said. "We could play one. Obviously I’m not going to give Hawaii the game plan, but they’re certainly all available to play every week. We are a little different depending on which guy is in the game. We’ll look for certain opportunities to get them in there and if they can help us, we’ll do that.”

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