Big Ten: Nevada Wolf Pack

Purdue to play Nevada in 2016, 2019

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
12:30
PM ET
Purdue on Friday announced it will play a home-and-home series with Nevada in 2016 and 2019.

The Boilers will host the Wolf Pack on Sept. 24, 2016, and open the 2019 season in Reno on Aug. 31. These will mark the first two meetings between the schools.

Purdue will be just the third Big Ten team Nevada has faced in football. The Wolf Pack most recently had a home-and-home series against Northwestern, winning in 2006 and losing the following year.

The Boilers now have three non-league opponents set for 2016 in Nevada, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. The Big Ten plans to increase its league schedule by at least one game, so Purdue's slate likely is complete for 2016. If the Big Ten goes to 10 league games, Purdue will have to drop one of its opponents.

Purdue's 2019 non-league schedule now includes Nevada and Notre Dame.

Nevada has recorded winning seasons in seven of the past eight years, including a 13-1 mark in 2010 behind some quarterback named Colin Kaepernick. Former Notre Dame assistant Brian Polian takes over as head coach this season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Last week I outlined six items I expected to see around the Big Ten this spring. Here are five things that caught me by surprise.

1. Michigan State's QB race remaining so close -- Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol split all the reps in practice this spring, and it seemed likely that one of them would create some separation in the competition. But much to the delight of the Spartans' coaching staff, the two quarterbacks paced each other and finished the spring with the exact same totals in the spring game (357 pass yards, 4 TDs). Both Cousins and Nichol are expected to play, and the decision on a starter might not come until late September.

2. Ohio State's Justin Boren becoming a presence on the field -- Boren was going to be a story no matter what after transferring from archrival Michigan. There was a chance he would have become a distraction more than a benefit. But the left guard showed this spring that he's most likely Ohio State's best offensive lineman. He also brought a nasty attitude to an offensive line that lacked toughness and consistency for most of 2008.

3. Indiana operating exclusively from the pistol formation -- I knew the Hoosiers coaches had taken a scouting trip to Nevada earlier this spring, but I didn't think the pistol formation would become the centerpiece of Indiana's offense. Quarterback Ben Chappell said the Hoosiers ran "100 percent" of their plays from the pistol this spring. If Indiana gets the timing down, it should have an improved downhill running game and a play-action passing attack.

4. Marvin McNutt emerging as possibly Iowa's No. 1 wideout -- McNutt's athleticism generated buzz when he competed for the starting quarterback spot, but Iowa seemed fairly settled at wide receiver entering the spring with Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Trey Stross. But McNutt impressed the coaches throughout spring ball and moved into a starting role on the post-spring depth chart. Johnson-Koulianos, meanwhile, seemed to fall out of favor.

5. Off-field issues stinging four teams -- I know these problems should never be surprising, but it was unfortunate to see key players on several teams finding trouble off the field. Iowa simply can't stay out of the blotter, while Penn State star linebacker Navorro Bowman is in hot water again after failing two drug tests. Indiana lost its best player, wide receiver-quarterback Kellen Lewis, to a second violation of team rules, and Purdue quarterback Justin Siller, a strong candidate to start, was dismissed from school for violating academic policy.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The pistol formation won't merely be a once-in-a-while element of Indiana's offense during the 2009 season.

Asked how much the Hoosiers operated out of the pistol this spring, starting quarterback Ben Chappell replied, "Pretty much 100 percent."

"We still have the ability to go under center and also the shotgun," Chappell continued, "but we really concentrated on the pistol this spring to get comfortable with it."

Indiana's coaching staff re-evaluated pretty much everything after the team stumbled to a 3-9 record last fall. Although the Hoosiers set records with spread offense in 2007, when they snapped a 14-year bowl drought behind quarterback Kellen Lewis and wide receiver James Hardy, the coaches felt the scheme needed more variety.

They found it in the pistol, a modified shotgun formation where the quarterback and running back are staggered several yards apart directly behind the center.

The Hoosiers' coaches took a liking to the formation soon after the 2008 season and informed Chappell of a likely change. They also took a trip early this spring to Nevada, which pioneered the use of the pistol under head coach Chris Ault.

The pistol maintains the familiar shotgun snap but creates more opportunity in the run game.

"It gives the flexibility of being able to run right or left, depending on the blocking scheme that you want to use," Indiana head coach Bill Lynch said. "Versus in the spread, you're somewhat limited, other than some misdirection. We also think it gives us better play-action. You can sell it a little bit more with the pistol formation."

Indiana loses leading rusher Marcus Thigpen and needs to identify capable ball-carriers other than Lewis, who will primarily play wide receiver this fall after moving from quarterback. Lewis led Indiana in rushing as a sophomore and finished second last fall.

The arrival of the pistol is sitting well with Hoosiers backs like Bryan Payton, Demetrius McCray and Darius Willis.

"They talked about how it makes it a lot easier to make the cuts and see the holes," Chappell said. "It's natural for most of our backs to run from behind the quarterback in an [I-formation]. It gives them good vision and a lot more options."

Chappell spent much of the winter watching Nevada film and trying to adjust his footwork for the pistol. The staggered formation changes the timing for handoffs and play-action passes, and Chappell admits the timing is slightly different with each running back.

"It's just a matter of getting reps in it and getting used to it," he said. "It wasn't too awful. I'm trying to get consistent and make the runs and the passes look the same."

By moving Lewis, a former All-Big Ten quarterback, to wide receiver for most of the time, Lynch reaffirmed his faith in Chappell, who split time with Lewis in 2008. Chappell had mixed results last season, completing 52.3 percent of his passes for 1,001 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. But he led Indiana to its only Big Ten victory, against Northwestern.

Being the definitive starter with the coaches' support helped Chappell this spring as he adjusted to the pistol.

"After a 3-9 season, you've got to take a step back and see what you did and what you need to change," Chappell said. "We didn't panic, but we made some good changes in different areas. Everyone has stepped it up."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A dozen years ago, Joe Tiller changed the landscape of Big Ten football by installing the spread offense at Purdue. Team scoring records immediately began to fall.

As Tiller departs a league filled with adaptations of the spread, another system could be catching on in the heartland.

Indiana is spending much of the spring operating in the pistol offense, the abbreviated shotgun system where the quarterback and running back are staggered in the backfield. Hoosiers coaches recently visited their counterparts at Nevada, home of pistol offense creator Chris Ault.

Nevada first implemented the pistol in 2004 and has finished in the top 30 nationally in total offense in four of the last five seasons, placing fifth nationally last fall (508.5 yards per game).

Indiana hopes the pistol creates a better rhythm with the offense and jump-starts a running game that has been too reliant on quarterback Kellen Lewis the last few years.

"Our plays now, out of the pistol, give us more of an option of where to run," running back Demetrius McCray said. "In the gun, it's hard to see everything, because you're going at an angle. In the pistol you're going straight on, and you have more options."

The Hoosiers aren't the only Big Ten squad exploring the pistol offense. Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel undoubtedly will be asked Thursday whether he plans to incorporate more elements of the pistol system when the Buckeyes open spring practice.

Ohio State dabbled with the pistol during preseason camp last summer and used it at times during the 2008 season. And Tressel reportedly is interested in adding the Wildcat offense or more of the Pistol to Ohio State's repertoire to accommodate versatile sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

After finishing 76th nationally in total offense last fall, Ohio State needs to do something different. Same goes for Indiana, which finished 71st in total offense in 2008.

If Indiana and Ohio State see some early success with the pistol this fall, you can bet other Big Ten teams will catch on. Maybe then, a league that still gets branded as being behind the times schematically can catch up in a sport that craves offense more than ever.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Very light day in link land. Can spring ball start already? Please? 

"Toledo -- with an average home-football attendance of 17,000 and athletic department revenues of $18 million -- could make between $4 million and $5 million off this game, depending on its expenses for using Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Ohio State, a school with an average attendance of 105,000 per home game and athletic department revenues of $118 million, could be looking at making less than $1 million off this game."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- Tyrell Sutton reached a breaking point last season. He wanted to shut it down, take a redshirt, close the book on 2007.

But Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald wouldn't let him do it. The team had a legitimate shot at a bowl game, and Fitzgerald needed whatever he could get from Sutton, no matter how little. Even as the weeks went by and Sutton watched from the sideline with a high ankle sprain, Fitzgerald made sure the running back would be available.

"I'm glad he didn't give me the option of copping out," Sutton said. "It's always in the back of your mind, like, 'Yeah, I wished I'd redshirted,' but I really didn't want to. I'm just glad he didn't let me. I wanted these guys to know that I wasn't quitting on them."

Sutton burst onto the scene in 2005, winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors after rushing for 1,474 yards. His numbers dipped as a sophomore as Northwestern experienced off-field tragedy (death of coach Randy Walker) and on-field struggles (4-8 record), but he still rushed for 1,000 yards.

Primed for a strong junior season, Sutton injured his ankle against Nevada. Two weeks later the Ohio native tried to return against Ohio State in Columbus, but his ankle didn't respond well in pre-game warmups. Then three more weeks went by.

"I wanted to give my team a full season," Sutton said. "As soon as (the injury) happened, I didn't know I was going be out for like seven games. Then when it came, I was like, 'Man, maybe I should (redshirt).'"

But the decision was made: If Sutton could play, he would. After serving as a "decoy" against Eastern Michigan, he saw significant time in the final four games, twice eclipsing 100 rushing yards.

He enters this season as the Big Ten's leading active rusher (2,996 career yards) and has an outside shot of breaking Damien Anderson's school rushing mark (4,485). Sutton doesn't mind the fact other Big Ten backs (Beanie Wells, Javon Ringer, P.J. Hill) garner more hype -- he has his own goals.

"I feel old," he joked.

"I've got to prove I've still got it. It's been a long time since we've been out there and I've got to prove to myself that I still have that want-to and that drive and that tenacity I had freshman year."

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