Photo Credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images – CBS New York
Nevada’s 0-3 start to the season is disappointing since the team came off of a 5-7 record last season and is returning a large number of starters. The Wolf Pack haven’t been blown out yet, but they haven’t faced a team as good as No. 18 Washington State (3-0) yet this season either.
New head coach Jay Norvell is a disciple of the Air Raid, so a lot of what Nevada’s offense will be attempting to do on Saturday will be familiar to Cougar fans. During their game against Northwestern (all of the below stills came from NU’s highlights on YouTube), quarterback Ty Gangi has been trusted with the offense as it transitions, and he’s not afraid to pull the trigger on the deep routes to get the ball down field in one hell of a hurry; notice how Nevada lines up with trips to the right.
At the snap that wideout in the middle takes a couple of steps back before turning to his right, heading to the sideline and then turning back up field. He would have had absolutely no one around him for an easy six-yard gain, and a chance at picking up the first down, if Gangi hit him.
See him by the line of scrimmage, that’s the receiver that lined up in the middle of the trips. Instead of hitting him for the safe pick-up, Gangi takes the shot down field to McLane Mannix — he’s running the corner route and being double covered; the quarterback tragically under throws the ball and Northwestern picks it off with ease.
Editor’s note: Gangi has been benched, it’s a freshmen starting his first game at the FBS level.
Against Nevada, the Wildcats dropped eight a lot and attempted to force Gangi to take the shorter options…which he refused to take. The junior quarterback was constantly trying to stretch the field on deeper routes, but his wide receivers didn’t have the athleticism to break free of Northwestern’s defenders. If the Cougars drop eight against Northwestern and Gangi continues to try to force the ball down field, it could be a field day for the secondary.
The other thing that jumped out at me is how Nevada’s offensive line is struggling with its new blocking scheme. Northwestern was consistently able to get into the pocket and generate pressure. If WSU’s defense can use is speed to confuse the Wolf Pack’s o-line even more, then they could force Gangi into more bad decisions.
Defensively, the Wolf Pack is going to do what Boise State and Montana State and that’s drop eight men into coverage; especially in passing downs.
While the defenders have beat their blockers, Northwestern’s quarterback has had more than enough time to complete his read and find his guy because the Wolf Pack only rushed four. Because Nevada is going to drop eight on most snaps, this is going to be a great opportunity for WSU’s offensive line to get right and insert its physical dominance…which is something they’ve struggled to do at this point in the season — Oregon State racked up three sacks on Luke Falk last week.
The Wolf Pack are venerable to an effective passing attack as the Idaho State Bengals, Idaho State, passed for 269 yards and two touchdowns (with no picks) against Nevada in a 30-28 victory last week.
Head coach Mike Leach will be calling plays designed to get Falk comfortable with deep passes to his outside receivers to stretch Nevada’s defense horizontally and vertically. Isaiah Johnson-Mack and Tavares Martin Jr. will have big games against smaller and slower defensive backs as their quarterback targets them with regularity. It’ll be another big passing game for the Cougs as the offense marches all over the overmatched Nevada defense.
This will also be a big game for Gerard Wicks as the senior running back will get a bunch of the carries after Washington State takes a big lead early and the coaching staff reduces the number of snaps that James Williams and Jamal Morrow see in the second half.
Defensively, the Alex Grinch will rotate in a bunch of players in an attempt to get as many of his guys live snaps as possible. So it’s likely there’s going to be blown coverages and assignments as the young guys get live snap against a FBS opponent. Despite the high level of rotation, and the loss of Peyton Pelluer, the defense will constantly harass Gangi and force him out of the pocket because of their speed.
Nevada Wolf Pack 21
No. 18 Washington State Cougars 64
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Proud alum of Washington State University, crazy sports nut, and drinker of beer.