BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Carson Strong threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns to lead Nevada to a 22-17 victory over California on Saturday night in the season opener for both teams.
Strong connected on TDs to Romeo Doubs and Elijah Cooks for a happy homecoming to Northern California.
Strong grew up about an hour away from Memorial Stadium, attending Cal games and camps. But after a knee injury his senior year in high school in Vacaville the Bears didn’t recruit him and he has turned into a star at Nevada.
The win capped a whirlwind few weeks for the Wolf Pack, who have been forced to practice at seven venues since the start of training camp because of poor air quality on campus from wildfires.
Cal scored TDs on its first two drives but then stalled, going three-and-out on the next four drives. While the Bears couldn’t move the ball, Nevada scored 22 straight points.
The Wolf Pack cut the deficit to 14-13 at the half on a pair of field goals from Brandon Talton and Strong’s 43-yard TD pass to Dobbs.
Strong then put together an impressive drive to open the second half to give the Wolf Pack the lead for good. He completed a 17-yard pass to Cole Turner on third and 17, a 46-yarder to Tory Horton on third-and-9 and then a 16-yard TD to Cooks on the next play to make it 19-14.
Nevada added a 49-yard field goal from Talton to make it 22-14 after Cal coach Justin Wilcox declined a holding penalty following an incomplete pass on 3rd and 18 from the 32.
Cal then got into the red zone on the next two drives. But the Bears settled for a short field goal Dario Longhetto on the first and came up empty the next trip after Chase Garbers was sacked on third down from the 9 and Longhetto missed a 40-yard field goal.
Nevada: The Wolf Pack came into the season with high hopes, getting picked to win the West Division of the Mountain West thanks in part to an experienced offense that returned all 11 starters. Beginning the season with a road win against a Power 5 team only raises those expectations.
California: The Beas had been 9-0 in regular-season nonconference games under Wilcox before stumbling in this game. Garbers struggled to move the team, throwing for just 177 yards on 38 attempts. He also threw an interception late in the fourth quarter.
Nevada: Host Idaho State on Saturday.
California: Visits TCU on Saturday.
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