The Nevada Wolfpack will come to Autzen Stadium fresh off an improbable upset of Purdue over the weekend, when former walk-on kicker Brandon Talton nailed a 56-yard game winner as time expired.
For the second consecutive week, Oregon will be gameplanning for a freshman quarterback — this time Carson Strong — who became the first freshman to start as Nevada’s quarterback since 1998. In his debut against Purdue, he went 30-for-51 for 295 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His 20-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Cook with 53 seconds remaining tied the game at 31.
“They’re a really good football team,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said. “Their quarterback does not play like a freshman. He’s a big guy. He’s got a lot of length and athleticism.”
Elsewhere on offense, Cristobal recognizes the challenges that the Wolfpack will present to an Oregon defense that played very well against Auburn.
“[Their] running backs are powerful guys,” Cristobal said. “They look a lot like CJ [Verdell]. Offensive line does a great job working together up front. They do a lot of stuff with their 11 personnel in the run game that allows them to run the ball effectively - power run game, counters, split zone, all that stuff. They’ll jump into their four-wide stuff and do a lot of the air raid.”
Against Purdue, Nevada trailed 21-7 at halftime and 31-17 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The comeback was the second-largest comeback in program history, and marked their second-ever win against a Big Ten school.
One of the most glaring statistics from their win over the weekend was the turnover differential. The Wolfpack forced five turnovers on defense while not committing a single turnover on offense. With Oregon coming off a game in which a red-zone fumble largely cost them a win, Cristobal realizes how important the turnover battle will be against Nevada.
“They’ve created a lot of turnovers. They play fast. That’s what really sticks out,” Cristobal said. “They’re very different than what we’re used to facing; more of a three-down, stacked-linebacker alignment and configuration, with multiple multiple coverages and very aggressive safeties. They’re very organized and well-coached.”
Senior offensive lineman Jake Nelson and sophomore running back Toa Taua were both named to the Mountain West Preseason All-Conference team. Senior linebacker Gabriel Sewell, the older brother of Oregon sophomore offensive lineman Penei Sewell, led the team with 92 tackles as a junior in 2018 and will look to build upon that production in 2019.
“We can’t let Auburn beat us twice,” Oregon offensive lineman Jake Hanson said. “Going into this week, that’s been the message.”
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