Nevada quarterback Carson Strong set a Mountain West Conference record with his sixth consecutive game with 300 or more passing yards as the Wolf Pack overcame a slow start to beat the University of New Mexico Lobos 27-20 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon.
Strong completed 12 of 20 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown in the first half, including a costly interception with just over two minutes left in the first half that led to a George Steinkamp 48-yard field goal and a 13-10 halftime lead for the Lobos.
The 6’4”, 215 pound sophomore from Vacaville, California, would bounce back in the second half, with 208 passing yards and a pair of touchdown strikes to lead the Wolfpack to their fourth victory on the season.
“It’s cool I guess, but I’m really just kind of disappointed. I’m disappointed with how I played tonight,” said Strong after the game when asked about setting the record for consecutive 300-yard passing games.
“It falls on my shoulders a lot how we played, but we once we started moving the chains easier in the third quarter I started to find my rhythm, but that first half was brutal. I’m not proud of the way I played, and so I just want to be a lot better for the team next week.”
Trae Hall completed 17 of 32 passes for 195 yards and an interception, with 27 rushing yards on 16 carries for the Lobos. Running back Bobby Cole led UNM in rushing with 90 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, while wide receiver Emmanuel Logan-Greene led the team in receiving with five catches for 56 yards.
The New Mexico offense had six big plays of over 15 yards passing and five rushing plays of over ten yards, but they were outgained 255 to 194 in the second half and could not keep the Wolf Pack’s passing attack under control down the stretch.
Despite failing to come out on top for the first victory under new head coach Danny Gonzales, the Lobos had a chance at coming through with an upset, down seven points and with possession of the ball with just over two minutes left in the game.
The Lobos started their final drive of the game on the Nevada 43 yard line with 2:34 seconds on the clock. A six-yard run by Cole and a six-yard reception from Logan-Greene gave the Lobos a first and ten on the Wolf Pack 31 yard line.
A dropped pass by Jordan Kress and an incomplete pass by Hall on second down left UNM with a third and long. Hall would complete a seven-yard pass to Andrew Erickson to give the team a manageable fourth and three, but Hall would miss Logan-Greene on his final pass of the game, and the Lobos turned the ball over on downs.
Had the Lobos scored on their final drive, head coach Danny Gonzales told reporters after the game that he was planning on going for two and not playing for overtime.
“If we score a touchdown there at the end, we are going for two. We’re not kicking the extra point and playing for overtime,” said Gonzales on his mindset heading into the final possession of the game.
“When you play a game against a team who you think is better than you, they would have the advantage in overtime. We wanted to try to go win it, and we had the momentum.”
Big plays continue to haunt the Lobo defense, as Nevada used three big plays in the passing game to take the lead and eventually win the game.
Regarding giving up big plays, coach Gonzales called it a broken record and something the team must fix going forward, as two of the big plays were busted assignments in his secondary.
On a positive note, the New Mexico defense sacked Strong twice and posted nine total tackles for losses, and the Lobos had just two accepted penalties in the game compared to six for the Wolf Pack.
Unfortunately, both of the accepted penalties on UNM were 15-yard pass interference infractions that came on third-down plays for Nevada.
With the loss, the Lobos fall to 0-3 on the season and will look for their first victory next weekend against the 1-2 Air Force Falcons in Colorado Springs.
Nevada moves to 4-0 and will host the 3-1 San Diego State in a showdown between two of the best teams in the Mountain West Conference on 11/21.
Photo Credit: Anthony Griego/UNM