Nevada’s offense brings the same style as last season, but with one main difference at quarterback. Gone are the days of Cody Fajardo and in comes 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior @Tyler Stewart.
Stewart has great speed and is extremely dangerous when he tries to get out of the pocket, often seeing designed runs as well.
Against UC Davis, he ran 9 times for 61 yards and a touchdown. Stewart does leave a bit to be desired in the air, especially with his accuracy.
He does have a decent arm, but Arizona is likely going to be much more comfortable having Stewart throw rather than take off and run.
It will be interesting to see how much Arizona attacks him, because aggressive blitzing could put the defensive in a bad position for Stewart’s run game, especially on the edges.
Stewart has two primary targets at wide receiver. Junior Hassan Henderson is one of the better wide receivers in the Mountain West conference due to his 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame.
Last season Henderson had 45 receptions, 579 yards and four touchdowns while leading Nevada in yards per catch.
The second primary target is 5-foot-11, 190-pound junior Jerico Richardson. He led Nevada with 56 receptions for 655 yards and three touchdowns last season.
The third receiver is a bit of a change. Brayden Sanchez got the start, but got a season-ending torn ACL in the third quarter of the opener and is now out for the season.
Wyatt Demps only caught two balls last season, but adds more size to Nevada’s receivers. The biggest issue the Wolf Pack now has is that the receivers lack speed, which means some younger guys that aren’t completely ready may have to play in order to be able to stretch the field more.
Like most of Arizona’s opponents, Nevada will likely look at getting its tight end involved. You can make an argument that Jarred Gipson is one of the best tight ends Arizona will face all season, despite him only having two catches last week.
Gipson caught two of his four touchdowns against Arizona last season in addition to finishing with a season-high eight catches.
Of course, the real strength of Nevada’s offense is in the run game and Arizona is going to see plenty of it on Saturday.
Senior Don Jackson will get his fair share of carries one season after he broke out as a junior with 957 yards and seven touchdowns.
Arizona actually contained him last season, but it is a completely different story without Scooby Wright and one that could make Arizona’s defensive staff nervous.
Jackson isn’t the only player that will see carries, as sophomore James Butler is just as dangerous. Last season he had 140 carries, 635 yards and five touchdowns.
Against UC Davis, who is obviously not as good as Arizona, Nevada ran 39 times for 253 yards and three touchdowns.
Arizona hopes that the Wolf Pack won’t average nearly six yards per carry this week, but there is a good chance the Wildcats will face nearly as many rushing attempts because that is simply the bread and butter of Nevada’s offense.
Nevada’s offensive line is a solid unit, which is why the Wolf Pack generally have success running. The best player is probably left tackle Austin Corbett, who made the Outland Trophy Preseason Watch list.
Players to Watch
# 47, TE Jarred Gipson: Arizona was hurt by Gipson last season with the success UTSA’s David Morgan had combined with the absence of Scooby Wright, covering the tight end has to be a concern.
#15, QB Tyler Stewart: This is real simple. Nevada has absolutely no chance of winning this game unless Stewart plays well.
#20, RB James Butler: Jackson gets the attention, but Butler may be better. Don’t be surprised if he finishes with more carries Saturday.
Keys to the Game
1. Contain the run: Nevada isn’t going to win this game unless it establishes the run. If Arizona can stop that from happening, its chances of winning increase dramatically.
2. Get the crowd out of it: Nevada is building the heck out of this game. Arizona would benefit from making a few big plays early to quiet the crowd.
3. Make Stewart a thrower: If Arizona can keep Stewart in the box and force him to make decisions, the defense as a whole is more likely to be successful.