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Pumped after opener, Nevada now visits No. 16 Ducks

By ANNE M. PETERSONSeptember 6, 2019
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FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2018, file photo Nevada head coach Jay Norvell works the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against San Diego State in Reno, Nev. Norvell is trying to temper his team's excitement over a come-from-behind victory in the season opener with the reality of what the Wolf Pack face next: No. 16 Oregon. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes)
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FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2018, file photo Nevada head coach Jay Norvell works the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against San Diego State in Reno, Nev. Norvell is trying to temper his team's excitement over a come-from-behind victory in the season opener with the reality of what the Wolf Pack face next: No. 16 Oregon. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes)

Nevada coach Jay Norvell tried this week to temper his team’s excitement over a come-from-behind victory in the season opener by highlighting who the Wolf Pack will face next: No. 16 Oregon.

Norvell recalled NFL coach Bill Parcells’ description of how Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor — despite all the adulation he received — only cared about three things: Did the team win, did he contribute to the win, and which opponent was next.

Norvell wrote the sentiment on a whiteboard for the team and posted it to Twitter with the words “Back to Work.”

Nevada (1-0) visits Oregon (0-1) on Saturday at Autzen Stadium, where the Ducks have won 14 straight home openers.

“I’m just really concerned with our team playing good, sound, solid football,” Norvell said at the team’s Monday news conference.

Nevada is coming off a thrilling 34-31victory over Purdue that saw the Wolf Pack rally from a 17-point deficit midway through the third quarter.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Carson Strong hit Elijah Cooks with a 20-yard scoring pass to tie the game with 54 seconds left before freshman kicker Brandon Talton nailed a 56-yard field goal for the victory as time ran out. It was just the second win over a Big Ten program in Wolf Pack history.

Strong was already echoing his coach Monday.

“We’ve got to move on to the next game. It’s great we won the first game, but you’re only as good as your last game, so if we don’t do good on Saturday, then we aren’t very good,” Strong said.

The Ducks are coming off a 27-21 loss to Auburn in the team’s high-profile season opener. Bo Nix threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Seth Williams with 9 seconds remaining to give the Tigers the victory.

Oregon is moving on, too.

“We played hard, and for a good chunk of that game we had our opportunities to close it out. But when you don’t, you just look yourself in the mirror and you take it as a team, as coaches and as players. That’s what our team has done. There is no finger pointing,” coach Mario Cristobal said.

The Ducks were favored by as many as 24½ points in Saturday’s game against Nevada. They’ve won 23 straight at Autzen against nonconference opponents dating back to 2008.

“We feel strongly that we have a real good football team with our goals still sitting in front of us,” Cristobal said. “So certainly looking forward to getting back to Autzen Stadium in front of our fans, our home crowd and get back to playing this Saturday.”

SEWELL BORTHERS: The game will feature brothers on opposite sides: Nevada senior linebacker Gabriel Sewell is big brother to Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell, a sophomore.

“Those two guys have probably had more physical, violet wrestling matches in their household than they’re going to have on Saturday,” Cristobal joked.

Oh, and they’re not the only Sewells who play: Brother Nephi is a defensive back at Utah.

WHAT A KICK: Talton’s 56-yard field goal against Purdue was the third-longest kick in Nevada history.

Talton, a walk-on who had just learned the day before that he had secured the job as the team’s starting kicker, was given the game ball — as well as a scholarship — following the victory. Video of the moment went viral.

ON HERBERT: Oregon senior quarterback Justin Herbert threw for 242 yards and a touchdown against Auburn. He’s thrown a touchdown pass in 29 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation.

Herbert has had to deal with a depleted receiver corps because of injuries. Graduate transfer Juwan Johnson was the latest: Projected to start, he was on the sidelines against Auburn with an unspecified injury. It is unclear if Johnson will be available Saturday.

Norvell called Herbert one of the best quarterbacks the Wolf Pack will face this season. “He’s a pocket passer, he’s a big, strong guy, he’s an experienced player, and that’s the big thing we have to be ready for,” Nevada’s coach said. “We have to get to him, we have to pressure him.”

BEEN A LONG TIME: The Ducks lead the series against Nevada 6-1. The Wolf Pack’s only victory came in the first meeting between the two teams in 1947.

Under Norvell, Nevada is 1-1 against the Pac-12. The team fell to Washington State in 2017 before beating Oregon State 37-35 last year.

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