The Nevada Wolfpack run an Air Raid offense with second year head coach, Jay Norvell. Last year, they went 3-9, and lost three games by less than one score, which statistically is a 50/50 shot. Prior three years they went 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, which indicates a program at or around .500. They averaged 28.2 points per game in 2017, the most since 29.2 in 2014.
Their last win against a Power 5 team was Washington St in 2014.
After one week into the 2018 season, the offense is 37.5 in S&P+ and ranked 32 in FBS. They scored 72 points against the hapless FCS Portland St Vikings. Of the ten TD’s scored, 8 came from the offense, four passing and four rushing.
They are led by 6’2” 205 lbs Senior QB, Ty Gangi. He has thrown for 4389 yards in his career with 36 TD’s and 18 interceptions. Last week he threw for three TD’s and one pick. He transferred from a JuCo two years ago and has started 14 games since.
Last week Gangi threw for 342 yards with a completion percentage just over 61%. He should thrive in the Air Raid offense, as he is given multiple chances to sling the ball around.
The offense thrives on distributing the ball around to multiple receivers and backs. They lost their number one receiver from last year, 3rd team all conference Wyatt Demps, but have easily replaced him with McLane Mannix. Mannix is a 5’10” 175lbs Sophomore. In the first game of the season he caught four passes for 132 yards and 3 (!!) TD’s. He has sub 4.5 speed and can come out of breaks with quickness.
His counterpart on Kaleb Fossum caught 132 yards worth of passes on six passes with a long of 34. He is a 5’9” 185lbs who runs a 4.5 40.
The Wolfpack have two big targets as well. Brendan Oleary-Orange is a 6’4” 220lbs starter who brought in over 600 yards last year, but he didn’t catch a ball in the season opener. They have another 6+ footer in sophomore, Sophomore Daiyan Henley. It’s curios neither caught a pass, but it goes to show the depth and array of targets available in the pass first offense.
At running back, the stable is full. It is led by Junior Kelton Moore who had 855 yards last year. But last week, the show was stolen by freshman Toa Taua (5’8” 205lbs), who ran for 56 yards and threw a touchdown pass of 73 yards for the longest of the night. Taua runs 4.79, so he is not a home run threat, but in the Air Raid offense, he is a viable weapon. Moore and Jaxson Kincaide each had 43 yards against Portland State.
The OL lost Austin Corbett, a second round pick to the Cleveland Browns. The OL collective starts are down to 42 with three returning starters. Each lineman is 6’3” or more except LG Anthony Palomares at 6’2”. But only two starters are over 300lbs. The Air Raid offense will encourage getting the ball out of the QB’s hands early and often, and that benefits an undersized line going against an SEC front seven.
The run blocking is less essential as the passing game has increased steadily since 2015. The Wolfpack throw it 60% or more of the time.
Like many Air Raid offenses, the strength lies with orchestrating favorable match ups either by speed or size. Then it is incumbent to overwhelm the defense so they give up big plays. Nevada has enough speed and/or size to present matchup problems. There is potential for them to hit on big plays and stun a defense. But, they do not have the OL to keep the Vandy DL out of the backfield or push them off of the line for a successful running game.
However, if Nevada does create a snowball effect, they can exploit missed tackles and poorly covered routes, forcing Vandy to take chances on defense.
Most likely, though, the Wolfpack offense will fall behind and be forced to throw more and more, allowing the front seven to pin back their ears and get after the QB.