Mountain West foes open conference play on Friday

Mountain West foes open conference play on Friday

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Nevada quarterback Shane Illingworth throws the ball during an NCAA football game against Iowa, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

After smoke disrupted practice last week and lightning delayed the Iowa game for several hours on Saturday, the Nevada Wolf Pack have another obstacle in their way.

This time, it’s a road game against the Air Force Falcons’ triple-option offense to open Mountain West Conference play. The game also falls on Friday night, giving teams less time to game-plan the offense that gives them fits.

In their series history, Nevada is 2-4 against Air Force and the main reason is that the triple option offense is difficult to prepare for.

Nevada will try to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 2017.

Nevada's Bentley Sanders tackles Iowa linebackers Seth Benson (44) and Jack Campbell (31) during an NCAA football game, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

In its previous six games against Nevada, Air Force averaged 41 points and scored 40 plus five points.

This season, the Falcons lead the nation in rushing offense, averaging 6.9 yards per carry and 396 yards per game. They have the fewest penalties in the country, with just 2.67 fouls per game.

Nevada’s rushing defense is ranked 46th in the nation. In the first two games, the defense has been struggling against high competition, holding the opponent to 74 yards.

Incarnate Word piled up 210 yards on the ground in a 54-41 shooting loss, while Iowa rushed for 162 yards and averaged five yards per carry.

Nevada Toa Tawa runs against Texas State during their game at Mackay Stadium on September 3, 2022 in Reno.

Where Nevada may have an advantage over Air Force is in the turnover department. The defense has recorded 11 takeaways so far and is forcing turnovers.

The Falcons seem to have been bitten by the transition bug, coughing up five fumbles in three games while being efficient and impenetrable on the ground.

Wolf Pack defensive tackle Dom Peterson should have a big game leading Nevada’s defensive line. If the defense presses down on the opposing line and forces Air Force to turn the ball over, the offense will have short fields to work with, taking the ball away from the Air Force offense.

Read more:Nevada defenseman Dom Peterson was named to the preseason watch list for the Bednarik Award

Nevada running back Devonte Lee rushes during an NCAA football game against Iowa, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

On the other side of the ball, Nevada’s offense is coming off a 27-0 shutout loss at Iowa, marking the first time the offense has been shut out off the board since 2009.

In four games, there are many negative statistics. Out of 131 NCAA Football Bowl Division teams, Nevada ranks 119th in total offense, 88th in rushing, 116th in passing yards, 119th in sacks allowed and 95th in third-down conversion percentage.

The quarterback contest between the first two games was split between senior Nate Cox and sophomore Shane Illingworth.

Cox played the entire game against Incarnate Word and nearly completed his comeback, but his time in Iowa was limited due to injury. If Cox is ready to go Friday, the offense should have more potential.

Nevada's Dom Peterson tackles Texas State's Laine Hatcher during their game at Mackey Stadium on September 3, 2022 in Reno.

While Nevada’s offense has been inconsistent, Air Force’s defense has been steady through the first three games. After averaging just 14.7 points in the first three games, the Colts are 32nd in total defense, 33rd in turnovers and 39th in red zone defense.

After two blowout wins over Northern Iowa and Colorado, Air Force lost to conference foe Wyoming 17-14.

Iowa left tackle John Wagoner pressures Nevada quarterback Shane Illingworth during an NCAA nonconference football game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

Despite the win, Wyoming still gave up 171 yards on 4.3 carries on the ground.

Nevada has the tough task of making plays against a defense that hasn’t given up a big backcourt, and that might be too much to ask of a team that’s still figuring itself out.

Nevada quarterback Shane Illingworth throws the ball to running back Toa Tawa during an NCAA football game against Iowa, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

Friday game

Nevada (2-2, 0-0MW) at Air Force (2-1, 0-1MW)

Friday at 5 pm

TV: FS1.

Radio: ESPN 94.5 FM

Bet: The opening betting lines had Nevada as a 23-point underdog with an over/under of 49.5. The lines now have Nevada as a 24-point underdog with an over/under of 45.5.

Air Force wide receiver Cade Harris scores a touchdown against Wyoming in the fourth quarter at War Memorial Stadium.
Air Force quarterback Haziq Daniels (4) is sacked by Northern Iowa running back Kendall Robinson (31) during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Parker Seibold/The Gazette via AP).

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