Nevada has a cloud of uncertainty hovering over it with three defensive players suspended for the game and another missing the first half heading into the Wolf Pack’s game against Ohio on Friday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho.
Nevada’s defensive coaching staff is also in a state of flux with help from interim coaches Jody Sears, Josh Brown and former Nevada assistant John Landwehr, who will join the staff for the Potato Bowl. They will serve as replacements for the defensive coaches, including former defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, who were not retained by coach Jay Norvell, a decision announced earlier this month.
“We’re excited to have these high-quality coaches with us as we prepare for a really good Ohio team,” Norvell told reporters recently.
The Bobcats (6-6) were listed 7.5-point favorites at the beginning of the week (and up to 8 at some sportsbooks) partly because of the shift in personnel involving Nevada’s defense.
Nevada (7-5) will be without defensive backs Daniel Brown and Austin Arnold, and lineman Hausia Sekona (all of whom were suspended), and will also be without linebacker Gabriel Sewell for the first half. Those four were sanctioned by the Mountain West for their roles in the postgame melee that followed Nevada’s 33-30 overtime loss to UNLV on Nov. 30.
On top of that, sixth-year linebacker Lucas Weber is questionable for the bowl game. He has missed the second half of the season with a broken ankle. Fellow senior Jake Nelson, an offensive lineman, has also missed games because of injury and is hopeful to return Friday.
“We both obviously want to do it, so we’re just taking it day by day and we’ll see how we feel when the day comes,” Weber said.
Ohio, on the other hand, is riding a wave of momentum behind an efficient offense.
The Bobcats were 4-6 overall and 3-3 in the Mid-American Conference before ending the season with a 66-24 victory at Bowling Green on Nov. 19 and a 52-3 dismantling of Akron on Nov. 26. The victory over the Zips clinched an 11th straight year of bowl eligibility for Ohio and a winning conference record for the fifth year in a row.
The 66 and 52 points are indicative of the offense’s ability to produce, further evidenced by Ohio ranking fourth in the country and first among MAC teams with a 51.6 percent third-down conversion rate (81 of 157).
Senior quarterback Nathan Rourke will play in his 39th and final career game and make his 37th and final career start in the bowl. He owns a 23-13 record as a starting quarterback.
Rourke is ranked first in program history with a career passing efficiency rating of 146.9 and 192.4 passing yards per game, second with 516 completions, 7,313 passing yards, and 60 career passing touchdowns. He ranks second in program history with 48 career rushing touchdowns and 6.1 rushing yards per carry and ninth with 2,547 rushing yards.
“You couldn’t ask for a guy who is a better leader, who had great work ethic, who sets the pace for the rest of his teammates and a guy that’s got talent,” said veteran Ohio coach Frank Solich, who has taken the Bobcats to five straight bowls.
–Field Level Media