By Emerson Marcus
RENO — When Nevada quarterback Carson Strong and kicker Brandon Talton attended high school in Vacaville, California, neither paid too close attention to each other.
They were a year apart and both attended rival high schools.
But last year, when they met up in Vacaville at a football game, Strong pitched Nevada to Talton.
A year later on Friday, Strong got his first start at Nevada, and he would not have won without Talton kicking a 56- yard field as time expired, booting the Wolf Pack to a 34-31 victory over Purdue and capping a 17-point comeback for second win in program history against a Big Ten school.
Talton, a walk-on playing his first collegiate game Friday, said his previous long in a game was 47 yards.
“(Nevada coach Jay Norvell) told me at 11 a.m. today (that I was getting the start),” said Talton, who was awarded with a scholarship after the game. “We (me and Spencer Pettiet) were battling all week (for the starting spot). … coach told me after morning stretches.”
Strong got the nod as starter about two weeks ago and became the first freshman quarterback to start a season opener for Nevada since 1998.
Strong hadn’t started a football game since 2017. He sat out his senior year at Wood High in Vacaville 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.”
Nevada went into the break trailing 24-7, and trailed 31-17 at the start of the fourth quarter. 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,” 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.”
Sindelar recorded a career high 423 passing yards four touchdowns, but the Boilermakers 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 didn’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.”
Talton’s Mighty Boot
Brandon Talton’s 56-yard field goal as time expired was the third longest in Nevada program history. The other two: Damon Fine (58 yards in 2001) and Tony Zendejas (58 in 1983).
When Nevada played Purdue in 2016 — the only other time the two programs met— the Boilermakers committed four turnovers and Nevada committed none, but Purdue still won 24-14. In two games against Nevada, Purdue has a turnover differential of 9-0.
Purdue: Purdue’s five turnovers and its inability to score in the second half (seven points) opened the door for a dramatic Nevada comeback.
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.