The Jay Norvell Era Begins As The Nevada Wolf Pack Play Against The Northwestern Wildcats
The Nevada Wolf Pack will be breaking in a new coach and a new offense in their season opener against Northwestern.
A New Era In Nevada Football Begins on Saturday As Jay Norvell Leads The Wolf Pack Against The Northwestern Wildcats.
Date: Saturday, September 2nd
Game Time: 12:30 p.m. PT
Venue: Ryan Field, Evanston, Illinois
TV: Big Ten Network
On Saturday September 2nd, a new era will begin for the Nevada Wolf Pack football program.Jay Norvell will make his head coaching debut on Saturday as he will lead the Wolf Pack into Evanston to face off against the Northwestern Wildcats to open the 2017 season.
Not only will the Wolf Pack debut a new head coach, they will debut a brand-new offense as the Wolf Pack will scrap their run-oriented offense that was used under former coach Brian Polian in favor of the pass happy Air Raid, or Air Wolf offense if you are so inclined to call it that.
One of the many questions that still linger for this offense is who will be the starting quarterback? Will it be Alabama transfer David Cornwell or sophomore Ty Gangi getting the start and from the looks of it a starter won’t be named until the offense takes the field on Saturday afternoon.
Whoever is the starter for the Wolf Pack, Nevada must be able to get the ball to their stable of talented but mostly unproven playmakers on offense and on defense, they must drastically improve against the run. Last season, Nevada was last in the Mountain West in rush defense giving up almost 298 yards on the ground in 2016.
The Wolf Pack are facing a Northwestern team that went 7-6 in 2016 but return 15 starters and boasts a potentially explosive offense that is led by quarterback Clayton Thoroson and running back Justin Jackson.
Last season, Thoroson threw for 3,182 yards and passed for 22 touchdowns while completing 59 percent of his passes. Meanwhile, Justin Jackson led the Big Ten conference in rushing in 2016 with 1,524 yards and scored 15 touchdowns as he looks to challenge Penn State’s Saquon Barkley for the best running back in the Big Ten in 2017.
On defense, the Wildcats strengths are on the defensive line and secondary. On the defensive line, Tyler Lancaster and Jordan Thompson anchor a talented tandem and in the secondary, Godwin Igwebuike (108 tackles, two interceptions) is the leader of that unit.
It is safe to say that the Wolf Pack, already facing a challenge in installing a new offense on the road, will have their hands full with this talented Wildcats defense.
For Nevada to pull off the upset, they must get their offensive playmakers involved early. Outside of Wyatt Demps (686 yards, nine touchdowns in 2016), there really is no established second option for the Wolf Pack starting quarterback (Cornwell or Gangi) to go to on this roster yet.
Whoever the quarterback is for Nevada, someone from the wide receiving corps (Andrew Celis, Just Brent, Brendan O’Leary-Orange, etc.) must step up and be that second option on offense for Nevada.
Another key for the Wolf Pack to get the win on the road is that they must establish the ground game. Yes, the Wolf Pack are going to a pass oriented offense but with one of Northwestern’s strength being their secondary and the Wolf Pack lacking significant game time experience at running back since James Butler transferred to Iowa in July. Nevada must look to either Jaxson Kincaide or Kelton Moore to step in and help balance out the Air Wolf attack.
Lastly, the Wolf Pack defense must stop (or at least contain) Northwestern running back Justin Jackson. Last season, Jackson averaged 117 yards on the ground which was tops in the Big Ten conference.
Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is an excellent running back and gets all the attention (and rightfully so) but Jackson is just as talented as Barkley. It is up to new Wolf Pack defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and all-MW defensive end Malik Reed to find a way to limit Jackson on Saturday.
Nevada’s season opener against Northwestern will pose a test for the Wolf Pack’s new head coach and their new offense.