Nevada Wolf Pack notes: Norvell takes over play-calling

Nevada wide receiver Elijah Cooks catches a touchdown over New Mexico's Jerrick Reed II in the fourth quarter Saturday.

Nevada wide receiver Elijah Cooks catches a touchdown over New Mexico's Jerrick Reed II in the fourth quarter Saturday.

The Nevada Wolf Pack offense has quietly implemented a drastic change.

Head coach Jay Norvell is now calling the plays.

“I need to have my finger on what’s going on,” said Norvell, who took over the play-calling duties during the Wolf Pack’s 21-10 victory over New Mexico on Saturday at Mackay Stadium.

Norvell, a former offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, UCLA and Nebraska, has extensive experience calling plays in his career. But that responsibility before Saturday at Nevada mainly belonged to offensive coordinator Matt Mumme.

The Pack offense has underperformed this year, averaging just 19.3 points (last in the 12-team Mountain West) and 358.4 yards (11th) a game.

“I still have every confidence in Matt,” Norvell said. “We’ll just kind of play that day by day.”

The switch to Norvell didn’t exactly produce better results, at least on the scoreboard. The Wolf Pack, after all, scored just 21 points and piled up 369 yards against a team that was allowing 37.6 points and 505.2 yards a game.

“I just need to have a better feel for the pulse of the team,” Norvell said.

Norvell’s approach to play calling was a bit conservative against New Mexico, especially when the Pack had a lead. Leading 14-7 at halftime, the Pack threw the ball just 15 times in the second half and ran it 16 times. The Pack also had just seven first downs in the second half.

“We want to protect our defense,” Norvell said. “We don’t want to turn the ball over. We want to win the field position. We realize that our best defense is when our defense is on the sideline.”

The Pack had almost no offense in the third quarter with no first downs and a mere nine total yards on just nine offensive plays. New Mexico had the ball for 10:26 of the third quarter and cut the Pack lead to 14-10.

That all changed in the fourth quarter as the Pack had seven first downs and piled up 99 total yards on 22 plays and had the ball for 10:17.

“Sometimes you have to keep running the ball even when you are not running the ball well,” Norvell said.

Norvell did not say whether or not he will continue to call the plays.

“I do like it,” he said. “It’s very (time) consuming but these are very important situations we’re going into these next three games. I feel like I am well prepared for these situations because I’ve been through a lot of rough situations in my (coaching) life.”

BROWN RETURNS FROM CONCUSSION: Wolf Pack senior cornerback Daniel Brown returned to the lineup against New Mexico after missing the previous two games with a concussion.

“Sitting out is never easy,” said Brown, who has three interceptions and 25 tackles in seven games for the 5-4 Wolf Pack. “I was kind of getting frustrated with our training staff because I felt fine and wanted to come back against Wyoming (on Oct. 26). But I learned that you can tell yourself you are fine with a concussion but they have tests that show you that you are not fine. They kept telling me, ‘You can fight through other types of injuries but you can’t fight through brain injuries.”

Brown had five tackles and broke up a pass against New Mexico. He suffered his concussion late in the Pack’s 41-38 victory over San Jose State on Oct. 12 and then sat out the 36-10 loss at Utah State on Oct. 19 and the 31-3 loss at Wyoming on Oct. 26.

“I felt fresh,” said Brown of the New Mexico game. “The decision to wait until (the New Mexico game) to come back was the right one.

“I never had a concussion before. It’s just kind of weird. You feel OK but you also don’t feel like yourself. You are kind of cloudy in the head and just feel out of it a little.”

OFFENSIVE LINE SHOWS IMPROVEMENT: Left tackle Miles Beach said the Wolf Pack offensive line likely played its best game of the season against New Mexico.

“As a unit I think we did play our best game,” the 6-foot-4, 280-pound junior said. “We just need to keep carrying that on.”

The numbers were not all that impressive. The offensive line allowed two sacks and opened up enough holes for the running game to gain just 64 yards on 34 carries. But the Pack offense did control the ball for 34:45.

“It’s all about confidence,” Beach said. “The coaches are trusting us more and more and giving us positive reinforcement and we’re having more fun out there. If you are having fun out there you are not getting tired.”

Beach started the first five games of the season at left guard and has started the last four at left tackle in place of Jake Nelson, who broke his arm.

“Jake is my roommate so it was hard to see him get hurt like that,” Beach said.

ORSINI OUT: Center Tyler Orsini missed the New Mexico game with a foot injury. Orsini was replaced by Nathan Edwards, who started the first five games of the season at center before Orsini took over.

“We’re not quite sure when Tyler will be back,” Norvell said. “We’re hoping it’s soon.”

DOUBS EXCELLING: Wide receiver Romeo Doubs caught 11 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown against New Mexico.

The 11 catches are the most for a Pack player since Kaleb Fossum had 12 last season against Fresno State on Oct. 6, 2018. Fossum also caught 14 last year against Toledo on Sept. 22, 2018. Doubs’ 167 yards are the most by a Pack receiver since Brendan O’Leary-Orange had 214 yards against San Diego State on Nov. 18, 2017.

“Romeo Doubs is getting in a real good groove and a rhythm now,” Norvell said. “When you have a real good receiver like that you want to get the ball in his hands. And when you do he is always going full speed. Romeo is one of those guys. Romeo is just starting to come into his own.”

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Doubs, a sophomore, was a quarterback at Jefferson High in Los Angeles though he also caught 13 passes.

“We could just see the ball skills he had,” Norvell said. “It’s a combination of body control, agility and intelligence. But he also ran the ball so much as a quarterback, we could see that he could make people miss in open spaces.”

Doubs, who caught a 57-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Carson Strong for a 14-7 lead in the second quarter against New Mexico, has 35 catches for 574 yards and two touchdowns this season in eight games. He had 43 catches for 562 yards and two touchdowns last year as a freshman.


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