Nevada football’s historic 34-31 comeback victory over Purdue on Friday night came off the leg of freshman kicker Brandon Talton.
With the Wolf Pack down 31-14 late in the third quarter, Nevada scored 20 unanswered points capped off by Talton’s 56-yard field goal as time expired. It is the team’s second-largest comeback since 1996.
Talton came into the game at Mackay Stadium as the backup placekicker to senior Spencer Pettit, but he ended the night as the hero. Talton picked up a full ride after his clutch kick.
“Congratulations to (Brandon Talton) on earning a full scholarship last night for his performance in our opener vs Purdue. To play so well in his first college game was tremendous,” Nevada Coach Jay Norvell tweeted Saturday.
“I just calmed down, took my steps and kicked it,” Talton said post-game. “Luckily it went through and I’m just happy we got the win.”
Nevada’s ferocious second half charge was on the shoulders of redshirt freshman quarterback Carson Strong. In his first career start, Strong completed 30-of-51 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns.
Strong showed poise under center. He led the Pack to the end zone from their own 13-yard line with 3:32 left, going 7-of-8 for 85 yards capped-off by a 20-yard touchdown to Elijah Cooks to tie the game 31-31.
Wolf Pack defensive back Daniel Brown — who led the team with two interceptions — picked off Purdue quarterback Elijah Sindelar to take over at the 49 yard line after an excessive celebration penalty. Strong connected with Kaleb Fossum for 17 yards with three seconds left to let Talton tie the bow on Nevada’s comeback
The young gunslinger rebounded from a rocky first half and took advantage of a tired Boilermakers’ defense with accurate strikes down the field.
“They were gassed and we knew it,” Strong said. “So we just wanted to keep pushing the pace and make them tackle, make them defend. Coach conditions us real well so we felt like we were conditioned and they looked like they were sucking for air.”
Cooks hauled in seven catches catches for 60 yards and two touchdowns including a leaping one-handed grab in the first quarter. He used his bulky 6-foot-4 frame to haul in his first touchdown with Purdue defenders draped all over him.
Nevada’s come-from-behind victory has strengthened its camaraderie.
“This team just has a lot of heart, we want to win,” Cooks said. “We all know no matter what the score is we can win because we are a band of brothers that all have faith in each other.”
Running back Toa Taua led the Pack with 56 rushing yards and one touchdown. Purdue’s stout bodies up front clogged any rushing lanes for the 205-pound thumper, but he served as a checkdown option for Strong with 8 receptions for 64 yards.
Purdue’s potent passing attack was on full display.
Sindelar completed 34-of-52 passes for 423 yards and four touchdowns. Rondale Moore was the primary beneficiary. The electric sophomore wideout hauled in 11 receptions for 124 yards and one touchdown. His blazing downfield speed tore up Nevada’s secondary.
Running back Zander Horvath rushed for 72 yards on 19 carries. He added three catches for 21 yards in the receiving game.
Nevada’s resilience down the stretch secured the victory, and it builds momentum when the Pack travels to No. 11 Oregon on Sept. 7.
Notes: Defensive back EJ Muhammad strip and recovery marked Nevada’s first forced turnover of the season. … Tyson Williams had a team-high 12 tackles. … Dom Peterson had the only sack of the game for the Wolf Pack. … Nevada had with 13 points off turnovers. … This is the second time Nevada has defeated a Big-10 team. … The Wolf Pack had 11 first down conversions in the fourth quarter compared to eight through three quarters.
— Isaiah Burrows