116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Iowa football’s final nonconference opponent of 2022 is far from the most challenging team it’ll face.
The Nevada Wolf Pack is in a clear rebuilding mode under first-year head coach Ken Wilson.
Last week, the Wolf Pack became the first FBS team to lose by more than one possession to Incarnate Word, an FCS school in San Antonio.
Nevada (2-1) has some interesting players to watch, though. Here are five to keep an eye on at Kinnick Stadium Saturday night:
RB Toa Taua
Running back Toa Taua has a key role in the Wolf Pack’s offense.
The 5-foot-9 senior from Lompoc, Calif., has surpassed the 100-yard mark in two of Nevada’s three games in 2022 — already as many times as he reached that mark in 2021.
Taua also is a capable receiving threat, picking up 65 receiving yards on three catches against Incarnate Word.
The fifth-year senior has accumulated quite the resume in his time at Nevada.
He was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year in 2018 as a true freshman and earned spots on the preseason watch lists for the Doak Walker Award and Paul Hornung Award.
DB Bentlee Sanders
Nevada’s defense has experienced some challenges through the first three games of 2022, but safety Bentlee Sanders has been a bright spot for the unit.
He already has four interceptions — more than 114 FBS teams’ entire secondaries and twice as many as any other player at the FBS level. Part of the lead is a result of playing three games when most FBS teams have only played two.
Sanders returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown, so the Nevada safety has as many touchdowns so far this season as Iowa’s entire offense.
The 5-foot-9 safety also handles the Wolf Pack’s punt returns.
The former South Florida transfer was a three-star prospect from Tampa, Fla., in the 2017 recruiting class.
WR B.J. Casteel
Jamaal Bell has been Nevada’s leader in receptions and receiving yards so far in 2022, but B.J. Casteel is another wideout who could be worth watching Saturday.
Casteel came to Reno, Nev., after five years at Arizona.
The Pasadena, Calif., native was a key part of the Wildcats’ offense in 2019, 2020 and 2021, appearing in 28 of Arizona’s 29 games in that span.
Casteel was second on the team with 326 receiving yards on 33 catches in 2021.
Now at Nevada, he’s among the receivers who will look to replace several offseason departures, including current NFL wide receiver Romeo Doubs.
DB Isaiah Essissima
Isaiah Essissima, like Sanders, transferred from a Power Five school and has made a difference in the secondary.
His presence has especially been noticeable as a senior after having a smaller role in the position group last year.
Essissima had two interceptions in Nevada’s 2022 season opener against New Mexico State after only once interception in 2021.
The Houston native came to Reno after two years at Wake Forest, where he played in 10 games as a true freshman and six games as a sophomore.
QB Nate Cox
Nate Cox, Nevada’s likely starter at quarterback, is a step down from what Iowa saw last week from the Cyclones’ Hunter Dekkers.
Cox went 22-for-43 — a 51.2 percent completion rate — for 302 yards and two touchdowns against Incarnate Word. His lack of protection didn’t help matters. Incarnate Word sacked him six times.
Should Iowa’s secondary limit his options downfield, he has shown the ability to run with the ball, garnering at least one 10-plus-yard run in each of his three games this season.
Cox isn’t Nevada’s only option at quarterback.
Oklahoma State transfer Shane Illingworth could also see time. Illingworth and Cox split opportunities in Week 0 and Week 1, but Cox took the reins in the Week 2 loss vs. Incarnate Word.
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