Nevada Notebook: Is the kicker the Wolf Pack’s MVP?

Nevada coach Jay Norvell, center, leads his team onto the field to face Weber State for an NCAA college football game in Reno, Nev., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Lance Iversen)

Nevada coach Jay Norvell, center, leads his team onto the field to face Weber State for an NCAA college football game in Reno, Nev., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Lance Iversen)

Brandon Talton just might be the Nevada Wolf Pack football team’s Most Valuable Player so far this season.

The freshman kicker is a perfect 8-of-8 on field goals and 5-of-5 on extra points this year. At one point this year he scored 19 Wolf Pack points in a row, the last four in a 34-31 win over Purdue, all six in a 77-6 loss at Oregon and the first nine in a 19-13 win over Weber State last Saturday.

Talton’s four field goals and extra point against Weber State earned the Vacaville, Calif., native the Mountain West’s Special Teams Player of the Week award on Monday for the second time this year in just three games.

“One of the things we always tell our players is to be your best when you are the most needed,” Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell said. “Brandon has just gone out and done his job. He’s just mature beyond his years.”

“He’s doing amazing,” Wolf Pack linebacker Lucas Weber said. “He’s gone from nobody even knowing who he was when he came in, to a guy when he goes out on the field you just think, ‘There’s three points.’”

Talton is the first Wolf Pack kicker to convert eight field goals in a row since Brent Zuzo made his first 11 in a row in 2013. In recent years Brett Jaekle also made eight in a row at one point during the 2005 season as did Damon Fine in 2003.

The Wolf Pack record for field goals in one season is 22 by Marty Zendejas in 1984. Tony Zendejas holds the Wolf Pack record of 33 games in a row with a field goal (1981-83).

FANS STAYED AWAY FROM WEBER STATE GAME: Just 14,174 fans showed up to watch the Pack’s win over Weber State this past Saturday at Mackay Stadium. It is the second-lowest attendance in the Norvell era (since 2017) behind the 13,755 that showed up for Colorado State last year.

A couple possible reasons for the low turnout on Saturday was that the Wolf Pack was coming off a 77-6 loss at Oregon and Weber State is a Football Championship (Division I-AA) team from the Big Sky Conference.

Norvell’s Wolf Pack teams have attracted crowds of 20,000 or more just three times in 14 games at Mackay. The Pack crowds have averaged just 16,981 under Norvell overall.

“It (the attendance) does kind of rely on us,” Weber said. “The more we win and the more exciting games we show our fans, the more fans will come.”

Norvell made it a point on Monday to compliment the 14,174 that did show up last Saturday.

“We appreciate the support the fans give us,” he said.

LATE NIGHT AT MACKAY: The Wolf Pack announced Monday that the home game at Mackay Stadium against Hawaii on Sept. 28 will kick off at 7:30 p.m.

The game will be the Wolf Pack’s first Mountain West game of the season and will be televised on ESPN2. It is also the Wolf Pack’s Homecoming weekend.

The Pack will conclude its non-conference schedule this year at UTEP on Saturday (5 p.m., ESPN3).

QUARTERBACK UPDATE: Norvell said on Monday that he fully expects to play senior Cristian Solano and junior Malik Henry at times this year, likely in relief of freshman starter Carson Strong.

Solano and Henry have yet to appear in a game this season though Norvell did use freshman Hamish McClure in mop-up duty at Oregon.

“I just feel that we are going to need Cristian and Malik to help us win some games this year,” Norvell said. “If there is a reason to play Malik and Cristian we won’t hesitate to do that. It’s never been in our nature to play multiple quarterbacks in a game but I fully expect that we will do that this year.”

Norvell said he never gave serious thought to lifting Strong in favor of Solano or Henry against Weber State despite the freshman’s struggles (two interceptions and a fumble) at times on Saturday.

Strong has had a rollercoaster three games this year, playing well in the second half against Purdue and at times against Weber State. He struggled in the first half against Purdue and throughout the entire game at Oregon before having and up and down performance against Weber State.

The freshman has completed 73-of-120 passes this year for 683 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. The offense has scored just one touchdown over the past two games and just five in three games.

Norvell also said that both Solano and Henry “are a bit more athletic than Carson” and might be used in different packages at times during games this year. He also added that Strong’s starting job is not in jeopardy.

When asked if the Wolf Pack has some option-style packages involving Henry and Solano, the Pack coach smiled and said, ‘I don’t know. We’ll just have to wait and see.”


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