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Wolf Pack notes: Idaho State game to air on NSN; Nevada loses starter to injury

Daniel Grzesiak
Daniel Grzesiak celebrates a sack against Cal during Nevada's season-opening win over the Bears. (Nevada athletics)

The Nevada football team's home opener Saturday against Idaho State will be broadcast by Stadium and air on Nevada Sports Net, which also will air a 30-minute pregame show at 7 p.m.

The Wolf Pack opened its season with a 22-17 win at Cal and is scheduled to host Idaho State, an FCS foe, at Mackay Stadium this weekend, although the athletic department will continue to monitor the air quality. Nevada football coach Jay Norvell declined during his Monday press conference to outline any contingency plans in place in case the Wolf Pack is unable to host the game due to nearby wildfires.

"We couldn't be more excited to come home to Mackay and play in front of our fans," Norvell said. "And we want to thank our fans who traveled to Berkeley last week. It was awesome to see so many people there in Wolf Pack gear. Now we get to come home, and obviously we'd love to pack the Mack this week and get as many fans as we can in Mackay."

The matchup with Idaho State will be a revenge game for Nevada, which lost to the lower-division opponent in 2017, Norvell's first season as head coach. The Wolf Pack was a 33.5-point favorite but lost 30-28 in Kaymen Cureton's first start at quarterback as a true freshman. Cureton started one more game in his Wolf Pack career.

"I think our kids are very aware of that game," Norvell said of the 2017 loss to Idaho State. "And I think it's important knowing your opponent. We have respect for every team. I think that's part of playing the game. You know everybody practices, everybody works hard, everybody prepares for games. And when you come to a game, you have to respect the opponent and you have to prepare with respect. That's part of being mature, but it's also part of being a good football team. When you're a good football team, you look forward to your opportunities and you're expected to perform."

Norvell said he has a much different team four years later and the Wolf Pack will be ready to play the Bengals, who lost their season opener to North Dakota, 35-14. Two Mountain West teams lost to FCS foes in Week 1, including UNLV to Eastern Washington and Colorado State to South Dakota State.

"We're excited and looking forward to this next week," Norvell said. "We have our home opener against Idaho State. It's a team we played our first year. They came in here, we were playing a freshman quarterback and really didn't have a respect for preparation and understanding our opportunity, and they came in and beat us here. We respect them as a program. We respect their talent, and their competitive nature. We expect them to come in and play great. We have to be a team that's mature. That's where our focus is, it's on our preparation. They're a spread offensive team. They have a transfer quarterback from Wyoming in Tyler Vander Waal, a big, athletic kid. This team played six games in the spring, and they're a very prideful team."

Kickoff on NSN is set for 7:30 p.m. In Northern Nevada, NSN is available over the air on channel 21; Charter channel 787 in HD or 7 in SD; DirecTV and Dish Network on channel 21; or on AT&T U-verse channel 1021 in HD or 21 in SD. The games can be seen from the following counties: Washoe, Carson, Humboldt, Churchill, Pershing, Douglas, Lyon, Mineral, Lassen, Lander and Eureka.

Nevada loses Andrew Cannon to injury

The Wolf Pack had two starting offensive linemen suffer injuries during the season-opening win at Cal, and one has been ruled out for this week.

Andrew Cannon got his first career start at offensive guard but suffered a knee injury early in the game and didn't return. He will not play against Idaho State.

"Andrew suffered a knee injury and he will not be available this week, and we're not quite exactly sure what his status is," Norvell said. "He's going to get an MRI on that. And hopefully it won't be serious. It'll be something that he can heal up and be back soon. But he will be unavailable to play this week."

The Wolf Pack's other starting guard, Jermaine Ledbetter, suffered an ankle injury and exited the game. He also did not practice Monday, although he could return in time for the Idaho State game.

"Led hurt his ankle, and it's not nearly as bad as it could be, which is a great," Norvell said. "He did not practice (Monday), but we're hoping as the week goes along, he's going to be available to play."

Carson Strong, meanwhile, was a little ginger after getting banged up on a sack against Cal. Strong had two offseason knee surgeries and has been working his way back to full health since missing some practices at the start of fall camp.

"He's got twisted up on one of those sacks, and he's doing fine," Norvell said. "You know, he's healthy and he's probably not quite 100 percent. But as we go through the week, I think he should be feeling a lot better. He practiced (Monday) and is a little bit sore like most guys after game. But it was a hard-fought physical game Saturday, and we had a long bus ride home. And so it's kind of a normal Monday. Everybody's working the cobwebs out and getting ready for the week."

Coach Norvell praises Elijah Cooks

Strong and Elijah Cooks struggled to get on the same page for much of the Cal game, but they did hook up for the go-ahead 16-yard touchdown pass, one of two receptions for Cooks, who missed all but one half of last season with a shoulder injury.

Cooks was targeted seven times and had two catches for 23 yards in addition to drawing a pass interference call. Norvell said he was pleased with Cooks' willingness to lend a helping hand on special teams.

"It was great to have Cookie back out there, and I tell you, I've just been so impressed with his unselfishness," Norvell said. "He's doing a great job on special teams. You just don't see too many all-conference receivers lining up on punt team, lined up on punt return, just doing whatever he can to help the football team. I was so excited to see him get that touchdown, and we're just really looking forward to watching him play this year. I think he'll just continue to improve every week."

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