QB Solano leads Nevada to decisive road win over UTEP

Cristian Solano used his arm and his feet in Nevada’s 37-21 victory over UTEP on Saturday.
Mike Smyth/ Tahoe Onstage photos

A pair of new faces appeared under center in Nevada football’s 37-21 road victory over UTEP on Saturday at Sun Bowl Stadium.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Cristian Solano made his first start since Oct. 6, 2018 against Fresno State. He broke his throwing hand in training camp, requiring surgery and allowing redshirt freshman Carson Strong to start the first three games of the season.

Strong didn’t start the game and missed practice this week due to injury, Nevada Sports Net reported.

Solano made the most of his opportunity, completing 13-of-19 passes for 182 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He showcased his mobility out of the pocket with a team-high 100 rushing yards on 10 carries.

Junior quarterback Malik Henry made his first-ever appearance with the Wolf Pack early in the second quarter. The former Florida State Seminole and “Last Chance U” star completed both of his passes for 21 yards before Solano returned to the action. The rest of the Nevada offense didn’t miss a beat.

Solano connected with junior wide receiver Elijah Cooks on back-to-back possessions to give the Wolf Pack a 21-14 halftime lead. UTEP was limited to just seven second half points while Nevada added 16 points — 13 in the fourth quarter.

Nevada had 403 yards of total offense. Running backs Kelton Moore and Toa Taua carried the load on the ground. Moore had 34 rushing yards on eight carries and two touchdowns, his first two scores of the season. Toa Taua added 84 total yards from scrimmage and one touchdown.

Cooks hauled in four catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Kaleb Fossum had four receptions for 46 yards.

The Wolf Pack held the Miners to 278 total yards. UTEP quarterbacks Brandon Jones and Kai Locksley combined for 116 passing yards and three interceptions.

Tyson Williams, Lawson Hall and Jordan Lee each came down with their first interception of the season for Nevada. Junior defensive tackle Tristan Nichols had two sacks. Dom Peterson added another sack for Nevada’s third of the game.

UTEP led 7-0 in the first quarter. Nevada responded with 21 points in the second quarter. The Wolf Pack poured it on in the second half. Brandon Talton drilled his ninth field goal in the third quarter. Moore’s two rushing scores in the fourth quarter put the game away.

Up Next: Nevada, 3-1, returns home to Mackay Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 28 to face the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.

Notes: The Wolf Pack’s 3-1 start is the best under head coach Jay Norvell and the best since 2014. … Saturday’s victory over UTEP was the first non-conference road win for Norvell.

— Isaiah Burrows

Junior quarterback Malik Henry made his first Nevada appearance on Saturday. He was a star on the Netflix series “Last Chance U.”

Toa Taua had 84 rushing/receiving yards and one touchdown against UTEP.

Elijah Cooks hauled in four catches and two touchdowns on Saturday.

About Isaiah Burrows

Tahoe Onstage sportswriter Isaiah Burrows also is a general assignment reporter for CarsonNow.org, an online news source in Carson City. He is a journalism major at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he writes sports for the Sagebrush student newspaper. He is the Reno Aces beat writer for Tahoe Onstage.

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