RENO, Nev. (AP) — After trailing 24-7 at halftime, Carson Strong, the first freshman quarterback to start a season opener for Nevada since 1998, led the Wolf Pack to a 34-31 victory Friday against Purdue for the second win against a Big Ten team in program history.
Nevada capped the comeback on a 56-yard field goal from freshman kicker Brandon Talton as time expired.
″(Coach) told me at 11 a.m. this morning (I was the starting kicker),” said Talton, who Nevada head coach Jay Norvell awarded with a formal scholarship at the end of the game in the locker room. “We (me and Spencer Pettiet) were battling all week. . coach told me after morning stretches.”
The 17-point Nevada comeback tied the second largest comeback for the program since 1996.
With the game tied and 32 seconds remaining, Purdue quarterback Elijah Sindelar threw an interception to defensive back Daniel Brown. Nevada tied the game with 52 seconds left on Strong’s 20-yard pass to Elijah Cooks.
“It was a pretty amazing game,” Nevada head coach Norvell said. “One of the best I have ever been a part of. . Could not have been prouder of how we fought and held on there until the end of the game.”
Strong hadn’t started a football game since 2017. He sat out his senior year at Wood High in Vacaville, California and again last year as a redshirt. He completed 30 of 51 passes for 295 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“The first quarter was moving a little bit fast,” Strong said. “I wasn’t seeing my reads as well as I needed to, but as the game went on. . it was basically moving in slow motion.”
Purdue looked in control most of the game, and led 31-17 at the beginning of the third quarter.
Sindelar recorded a career high 423 passing yards four touchdowns, but Purdue lost the turnover battle, 5-0, and two of those turnovers were Sindelar interceptions.
“It’s more than disappointing,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “I did’t like it. I got to do some things to get everything fixed.”
Rondale Moore displayed his big play capability in his first half, but was contained for most of the second half. He finished with 11 catches for 124 yards and one touchdown.
“We just want to show that we can play with anybody in the country,” Nevada defensive back Daniel Brown said. “I know they say Power 5 this, but the Mountain West plays some pretty good football.”
Purdue: Purdue committed four turnovers against Nevada in 2016, but still won at home 24-14. They didn’t get away with it in Reno. The Boilermakers were not able to overcome the same turnover margin Friday.
Nevada: Carson Strong, the first Nevada freshman to start a season opener at quarterback, tied Nevada’s second-largest comeback since 1996 and grabbed the program’s second victory against a Big Ten team.
Purdue: The Boilermakers return to West Lafayette for their home opener Saturday against Vanderbilt.
Nevada: The Wolf Pack hits the road for a tough test Saturday at No. 11 Oregon.