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Carson Strong Shines as Nevada Beats Tulane in 2020 Idaho Potato Bowl

Jenna CiccotelliCorrespondent IIIDecember 23, 2020

Nevada quarterback Carson Strong (12) plays against San Jose State during an NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/Associated Press

Nevada head coach Jay Norvell had to watch Ohio head coach Frank Solich land on the receiving end of a french fry bath when his team fell on the losing side of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last season, but it was his turn to celebrate after the Wolf Pack defeated Tulane 38-27 on Tuesday.

Quarterback Carson Strong, a redshirt sophomore, didn't waste any time in showing up against Tulane. He completed three first-half touchdown passes to help give the Wolf Pack a 26-7 lead at the break.

Tulane staged a third-quarter comeback, scoring 13 points, but it was too late for the Green Wave, who struggled from the start without multiple top players. The team traveled to Boise without Patrick Johnson, who is the school's all-time leader in sacks and an American Athletic Conference first-teamer, after he attended the funeral of his father last week.

On offense, leading receiver Duece Watts did not play.

Tulane found its first points on a 41-yard pass from Michael Pratt to Jha'Quan Jackson. But just as quickly as Tulane got itself back in play, Toa Taua found the end zone with a 50-yard run on fourth down for his second score of the game.

Pratt couldn't get out of his own way for the rest of the first half, tossing his second interception of the day to end what had been Tulane's best drive of the game. Before the pick, which came with 3:29 left to play in the half, the Green Wave offense traveled 69 yards and ate 4:15 off the clock.

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The second half, however, presented a turnaround. Pratt redeemed himself with a six-yard rush that cut Nevada's lead in half at the start of the third quarter.

Jackson scored again to help diminish the lead to just six, but Pratt, after throwing three interceptions compared to five all season, couldn't bring the Green Wave back for the victory as a 12-point fourth for Nevada sealed the deal.

     

Notable Performers

  • Carson Strong, QB, Nevada: 22-of-28 passing, 271 yards, five TDs
  • Toa Taua, RB, Nevada: 20 carries, 102 yards, TD; six receptions, 77 yards, TD
  • Jha'Quan Jackson, WR, Tulane: two receptions, 69 yards, two TDs
  • Michael Pratt, QB, Tulane: 168 passing yards (12-of-25, two TDs, three INTs), 25 rushing yards (18 carries, TD)

     

Carson's Strong Season

Strong led the Mountain West Conference with 2,587 yards and 22 touchdown passes during the regular season, topping a redshirt freshman campaign where he started in 10 games and threw for 2,335 yards and 11 touchdowns with a 63.4 completion percentage.

His last outing in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl was also strong, when he threw for 402 yards with 31 completions, which were school bowl game records. That career-best stat line was a sign of things to come this season. In the season-opener against Wyoming, he threw for 420 yards.

Though he redshirted as a freshman in 2018, the California native was the foundation of a group that ushered in the current era of Nevada football under Norvell. He was the first player in that recruiting class to commit to the Wolf Pack, making his debut the same year that Nevada had 10 players selected for postseason awards amid an eight-win season.

The quarterback's consistency from 2019 through this season is a reassuring sign, and the Wolf Pack should be in good hands again with Strong returning next season.

     

Michael Pratt's Unexpected Arrival

Pratt, a true freshman and former 3-star recruit, was behind redshirt senior and former Southern Mississippi signal-caller Keon Howard on the depth chart. But after Howard's slow start to the season, Pratt got the call, and he ended the season with 18 touchdown passes, leading all true freshmen on FBS teams.

Most of Tulane's offense has come from rushing this season, with 2,408 yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground compared to 1,952 and 19 touchdowns through the air, but Pratt is a reliable passer and could turn that Green Wave offense into a dual-threat force in the coming seasons as he matures and adjusts to the collegiate game.

     

Recruit rankings and info via 247Sports.