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2023 Football Preview: Nevada Looks to Snap 10-Game Skid

A review of the 2022 Wolf Pack Season and analysis of their offense, defense, and schedule

Posted on June 11, 2023

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

Nevada football was rolling at a pretty good clip for most of this century, appearing in 14 bowl games in the 17 seasons between 2005 and 2021.

Season One of the Ken Wilson tenure did not add to that illustrious recent history. The Wolf Pack limped through a 2-10 season going winless in the Mountain West.

The current 10-game losing skid stands as the second-longest active streak in the nation tied with South Florida and trailing only the 11-straight losses by Northwestern.

I preview the 2023 season below with a look back at last season and an analysis of the Wolf Pack offense, defense, and schedule.

Nevada Wolf Pack Fast Facts

2022 Record: 2-10
Head Coach: Ken Wilson (2-10 at Nevada)
Offensive Coordinator: Derek Sage
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Bethea/Kwame Agyeman
Home Stadium: Mackay Stadium (27,000), Reno, NV
Last Conference Title: 2010, WAC


2022 in Review
The biggest problem for the Wolf Pack last fall was not that Jay Norvell was no longer on the sidelines, it was that a whole bunch of players Norvell brought in were no longer there either.

Welcome to the new landscape of college sports.

On the offensive side of the ball, Nevada averaged just 304.7 yards per game to rank 122nd in the nation.

Defensively, they allowed 396.2 yards per game to rank slightly better at 80th. On the scoreboard, they were outscored 30.9-18.8 over the 12 games.

The run game a season ago could only muster 119 yards per game, but the Wolf Pack still nearly produced a 1,000-yard back in Toa Taua, who finished the campaign with 911 yards on the ground.

Taua, however, is gone, but the cupboard is far from bear in the backfield.

A pair of Pac-12 RBs have matriculated to Reno for 2023.

Sean Dollars transfers in from Oregon where he ran for 188 yards on just over 30 carries for the Ducks. Ashton Hayes returns to his hometown after a season with California.

They should be joined in the backfield by another former Pac-12 player as Brendan Lewis comes over from Colorado and should be the starter under center.

Brendon Lewis at spring camp | Nevada athletics
Colorado transfer QB Brendon Lewis | Nevada athletics

Shane Illingworth is still in the mix as well, but one would have to think it is Lewis’s position to lose.

The added depth at the skill positions on offense will certainly help, but they still need to get people blocked.

It does not matter how talented those guys are if they are getting hit in the backfield. There is only so much they can do on their own. In 2022, Nevada allowed 6.85 tackles for loss per game.

The offense will need to be able to open holes for the backs to work.

Lewis is a proven QB and should be able to produce with short passes, but the line will need to provide some time.

Defensively, the Pack will want to get pressure and push the point of attack behind the opponents’ line of scrimmage.

If they can make plays behind the line it will speed up the improvement rate of the team.

The strength of the defensive unit could be the pass rush, and they could get that production from their linebackers.

Dru Watts should be able to build upon a fine freshman season in which he tallied nine TFL and three sacks. It is not a stretch to consider him the best player on the roster.

Another Oregon transfer, Jackson LaDuke could be Watts’ backer mate. Both players are versatile enough to play inside or outside should they be called upon.

Oregon transfer Jackson LaDuke | Nevada Athletics

The big problem for Nevada last season was the backend of the defense and that is the spot it needs to shore up.

Against teams that could throw the ball effectively last season the Pack really struggled, and improvement is essential in 2023.

Even if the front seven can create some havoc if receivers are left open a D-1 QB will find them.

There is hope in the secondary. Jaden Dedman and Issaiah Essissima are both capable and could develop into a productive tandem at cornerback—and Nevada will need them to be.

Tre Weeds comes from Eastern Washington and should be solid at the safety position.

2023 Nevada Football Schedule

Sept 2 at USC
Sept 9 vs Idaho
Sept 16 vs Kansas
Sept 23 at Texas State
Sept 30 at Fresno State
Oct 14 vs UNLV
Oct 21 at San Diego State
Oct 28 vs New Mexico
Nov 4 vs Hawaii
Nov 11 at Utah State
Nov 18 at Colorado State
Nov 25 vs Wyoming

On the bright side, the Pack gets a home date with New Mexico this season. On the other side of the coin, the opener is a trip to the Coliseum for a date with USC.

But ignoring the opener, Boise State and Air Force are not on the schedule and that will certainly help.

The bottom line is this is a team that should be improved from a season ago—they really could not go much further the other way. They will be improved.

In a perfect world, the offense will be able to get the ground game going and Lewis can make things happen, especially with short precise passes feeding off the run.

Mackay Stadium | Nevada Athletics

But again, it will all come down to the line on offense. Last season the Wolf Pack were outscored 109-58 in the first quarter.

If they can avoid digging the early holes it will also help them keep balance on offense.

If they can get pressure on defense and the backend can allow the pressure time to get there the defense will be much improved.

There is still some room to go before things are back to what had been the norm for the last 18 years. But aside from the opener and a week two meeting with Kansas, the schedule is not daunting.

There is a pathway to four to five wins. When you get to that point you have got a chance.

Who knows? Were the Pack to steal another one or two games here or there, they could even be bowling again.

—More from Stephen Vilardo—