Nevada Notebook: Wolf Pack on track for most penalties this century

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been changed to reflect Tuesday’s announcement at Malik Henry will not be playing this week.

The Nevada Wolf Pack is making yet another quarterback change.

Head coach Jay Norvell said Tuesday in a statement that Malik Henry, who has started the past two games, will head back to the bench.

“We’ll move forward this week with Carson Strong and Cristian Solano as our top quarterbacks as we prepare for Wyoming,” Norvell said.

Henry has completed 42-of-78 passes this season for 593 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions. The junior beat San Jose State two weeks ago 41-38 in his first start and lost to Utah State 36-10 last Saturday. Norvell’s decision this week, however, suggests the quarterback switch had more to do with Henry’s off-the-field issues than his on-the-field performance.

“As a coach, it is my responsibility to help young men grow and mature and be prepared for life after football,” Norvell said in his statement. “I believed that by giving Malik Henry an opportunity on the field, it would help him continue to progress off the field. I’ve made the decision to take Malik off the field so that he can continue to focus on academics and his life outside of football. Malik is not suspended. He is a member of our program and we will continue to support him.”

Strong has completed 80-of-134 passes this year for 729 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions. The freshman has played just one half of a game (against Hawaii) over the Pack’s last four games. Solano has completed 24-of-36 passes for 241 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The senior started one game this year, beating UTEP, 37-21 on Sept. 21.

Norvell hinted after the loss at Utah State that a quarterback change was coming. He then did not announce the change at his weekly Monday press conference.

“Offensively we weren’t productive (at Utah State),” Norvell said. “That was only Malik’s second start. He still has a lot to learn. He did some things well. And he saw where he needs to be better, checking the ball down and being more patient. It was a good learning experience for him. You know there are a lot of things you don’t learn until you start playing in games.”

PENALTIES PILING UP: Nevada lost to both the Utah State Aggies and the officials last Saturday in Logan, Utah.

The Wolf Pack was whistled for a season-high 13 penalties for 110 yards in the 36-10 loss to the Aggies. The 13 penalties equals the most in a single game called on the Pack since an 18-penalty game against Fresno State in 2004. Since the Fresno State game (a 54-17 loss) in 2004, the Wolf Pack has also been called for 13 penalties in a game just twice before this past Saturday, against Air Force a year ago and UNLV in 2013.

“The penalties are inexcusable,” Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell said on Monday. “We have to do a better job of that. We shot ourselves in the foot.”

“It’s just team discipline in general,” Wolf Pack linebacker Maliek Brody said.

Penalties have been a Wolf Pack problem all season long. The Pack was also called for 11 penalties against Purdue, 10 against Hawaii and nine against Oregon and San Jose State. The Wolf Pack has been the most penalized team in the Mountain West this season with 64 penalties for 526 yards. The Wolf Pack is also one of the most penalized teams in the nation, tied for 125th in the country (out of 130 teams) in total penalties (64) with Syracuse and Louisiana-Monroe.

The Wolf Pack has been penalized an average of 75.1 yards a game this year, which would be its most penalized season since it joined the Western Athletic Conference in 2000. The most yards per game the Pack has been penalized in one season since 2000 is 73.7 yards a game in 2000.

At the current rate of 9.1 penalties a game the Pack is on pace for 109 penalties this year in the 12-game regular season. The most penalties the Pack has been whistled for since 2000 is 107 in 2000.

Norvell’s Pack teams are heading in the wrong direction as far as penalties are concerned. His first Pack team in 2017 was called for just 58 penalties (519 yards). The Pack was called for 77 penalties (738) yards last year in 13 games.

ROBINS STANDS OUT: Berdale Robins, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound junior cornerback, started against Utah State in place of injured Daniel Brown and had a fumble recovery and an interception.

“That was Berdale Robins’ best game as a member of the Wolf Pack,” Norvell said.

The interception was the second of Robins’ career. He also picked off a pass against Oregon State last year.

“I knew he (Utah State quarterback Jordan Love) liked to go to No. 80 (Siaosi Mariner) a lot,” Robins said. “He was usually his first read. I just wanted to cover and take his read away.”

Mariner finished with just two catches for 53 yards.

Brown, who suffered a head injury, is expected to return this week against Wyoming.

WEBER, TOOMER OUT FOR SEASON: Senior linebacker Lucas Weber suffered a broken ankle in practice last week and will likely miss the rest of the season, ending his Wolf Pack career. Junior defensive lineman Kameron Toomer also injured an ankle last week in practice and will also miss the rest of the season, Norvell said.

Weber, a McQueen High graduate, joined the Wolf Pack in 2014. He sat out the year in 2014 as a red-shirt and then was given a medical red-shirt for the 2016 season after suffering a season-ending injury in the first game of the season. Weber had 56 tackles last season with 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss. He had 11 tackles this season and one fumble recovery in five games.

“He might be able to come back if we have a late bowl game (in late December),” Norvell said. “We hate to see his senior year come to an end like that with an injury. Lucas has been such an important player for us. He’s invested so much into our program.”

Weber’s father is former Austrian Olympic speed skier Franz Weber.

Toomer, from Palo Verde High in Las Vegas, joined the Pack in 2016. He redshirted in 2016 and played in 15 games over the past two seasons as a reserve defensive lineman. The 6-foot-3, 270-pound Toomer played in six games this year with a career-high 19 tackles. He also had one sack and three tackles for a loss.

NEW MEXICO AT NIGHT: The Wolf Pack announced this week that the home game against New Mexico on Nov. 2 will kick off at 7:30 p.m. The game will also be televised on ESPNU.

The Pack has had one other 7:30 p.m. start this season at Mackay Stadium, a 54-3 loss to Hawaii on Sept. 28.

The final home game of the season against UNLV on Nov. 30 is still scheduled as a noon kickoff.


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