This offense is a peculiar hybrid: it has many of the legacies of Hall-of-Fame Nevada coach Chris Ault’s pistol offense, combined with the air raid of OC Mumme (son of the famed Hal). The result is the “air pistol,” but it’s not as fun as it sounds.
The biggest issue is that the formation they line up in tells you which legend’s playbook they’re operating out of, and telegraphs the playcall in an obvious manner: when the single-back is offset, regardless of whether a tight end is in or not, they pass 98% of the time; when they’re in the pistol with no TE it’s balanced, but a pistol with one or more TEs means rush 78% of the time.
Nevada only rushes about a third of their snaps, and overall I charted only 8 successful rushing plays vs 11 failures. That’s a shame because I feel they’re wasting an excellent back in #35 RB Taua (interestingly, the younger brother of the RB coach). Here’s a selection of his outstanding plays:
(Reminder - you can right-click or long-press any of these videos to play them in ½ or ¼ speed)
- :00 - Nicely blocked off-tackle power, with Taua breaking one arm tackle and earning another yard and a half hitting the backer hard.
- :14 - Another off-tackle run, here he speeds around the corner before the safety can make it down.
- :26 - Not a rush obviously, but included to show off Taua’s remarkable body control and balance which helps him when he is running.
Fortunately their pass-heavy offense is operated by a very promising redshirt freshman, #12 QB Strong. I saw some typical freshman mistakes with accuracy and progressions in the first half, but he really cleaned things up in the second. Some representative plays:
- :00 - Strong’s eyes get to his checkdown a bit too fast and stick with him thereafter, but great footwork dealing with a collapsing pocket, not dropping his vision, and making a difficult ball placement.
- :16 - First read all the way, but great arm here; that’s all the way from the far hash to the sideline and a bullet at that.
- :26 - A lot of faith in the receiver here, but it’s rewarded; Strong pulls the trigger the instant he sees the separation and that the DB isn’t going to be able to get his hips around and make a play on the ball.
- :45 - One of several successful scrambles I saw; he spots the open grass as the defense drops eight on 3rd & long in the redzone and just takes it. Not the most graceful slide though.
Sadly that pass offense is not very efficient; 18 successes vs 32 failures (they also threw 6 screen passes, all unsuccessful). The reasons are just the ones you’d expect: receiver errors (I counted five drops), some QB jitters in the first half, but far and away the biggest issue was a porous offensive line:
- :00 - Both tackles just get crushed, and nearly give up a safety.
- :20 - Here the whole line is collapsing against just a three-man rush and it forces a quick throw for minimal yardage, though we do get to see a pretty rad catch.
- :35 - This play has the LG kicking out to block the standup DE who’d been terrorizing them all game long and misses, meanwhile the LT tries to help the C with the void this creates, which doesn’t work, and then he can’t get to the rusher on his end.
DC Casteel landed at Nevada after his time at Arizona, and is continuing to employ his 33 stack defense: three down linemen with three linebackers “stacked” right behind them on most plays, though he’ll walk down a backer to play standing up on the line about a third of the time.
Several of Nevada’s defensive linemen impressed me playing against Purdue last week, and I think they’re the strength of the defense. The Boilermakers also like to throw the ball on about a 2:1 basis, so my sample size on the Wolfpack rush defense isn’t great, but they did a little better than average: 15 successes vs 12 failures. Here’s a representative mix of plays:
- :00 - #54 DT Green, #57 DE Lewis, and #98 DE Hammond all get into the backfield for a nice TFL. Green hitting the center’s playside shoulder hard helps negate the double-team.
- :06 - Great job by #16 LB Broady rocking back the LT so he doesn’t get caught up, then bouncing off and making the tackle, with #7 LB Sewell (brother of Oregon’s Penei) helping clean up.
- :19 - Here’s one of the big vulnerabilities of the 33, when the backers are at depth in coverage and only rushing three, it’s easy to slip multiple o-linemen downfield to set up blocks on a big run, as in this QB draw, or alternately a screen pass.
The d-linemen continued to impress in the pass rush:
- :00 - Nice pressure around both edges to force a quick throw short of the sticks on 3rd down, and be sure to note Lewis hustling over to help with the tackle.
- :09 - Here Broady is up on the line making more of a 4-man front; #99 DE Peterson terrorizes the RG so that #30 LB Hall can blitz unobstructed and force a nearly picked-off throw.
- :23 - More penetration here, and #1 CB Robins, I think their best defensive back, almost gets the interception.
Outside of Robins, though, I wasn’t exactly taken with the DBs or the LBs in pass coverage, and thought they wasted the efficiency of a strong 3-man rush buying them numbers, producing 25 successes vs 27 failures:
- :00 - This is quite possibly the most effective rub concept I’ve ever seen.
- :17 - Here’s one of many problems I saw with Nevada’s adherence to a baby-soft zone, this slant is comically wide open both because of how far the CB is playing off and how deep the safety is backpedaling.
- :32 - Look at how much of the defense is overreacting to the back heading out for a fake screen pass, so much so that the high angle camera operator can’t believe it or show the slot receiver running down the sideline.
- :48 - The tight end heads up the seam and camps out in the deep hole of zone coverage; I saw this eight times and Nevada never defended it well.