Atascadero alum leads team in TD receptions

Only three bowl games remain in the season and one of them will feature a pair of former Central Coast athletes on ESPN. Friday afternoon at 12:30, the Nevada Wolfpack (7-5) will take on Ohio (6-6) in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in the only bowl game slated for the day. 

The Wolfpack feature a pair of Central Coast standouts on their offense — junior wide receiver Elijah Cooks (Atascadero alum) and sophomore running back Toa Taua (Lompoc alum). Each player leads the team at their respective position. Cooks had his break out at the end of his sophomore season and has become the Wolfpack’s go-to pass-catcher this season. 

Cooks, who wears No. 4, leads the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns with 62 catches for 729 yards and seven TDs and could be relied on heavily Friday afternoon as his running mate Romeo Doubs (second in receiving) is questionable to play. 

Elijah Cooks hauls in a touchdown against Toledo. (Photo contributed by Nevada Athletics)

While Cooks leads the receivers, Taua, who wears No. 35, rumbles on the ground just as he did up and down the coast in high school. The 5-foot-9-inch running back bounces off would-be tacklers like a Polynesian pinball and has run for 800 yards this season with six touchdowns. The Wolfpack has generally gone as the running game goes and rely on the ground game to open up the pass, which allows them to take shots to Cooks, who is one of the top jump ball threats in the country. 

Nevada has been on the losing side of a couple of lopsided games this season as the offense struggled to find its groove but enters the Potato Bowl fresh off back-to-back 30-point games. The Wolfpack look to pick up where they left off but do come into the game having been off for a full month. Their last game was on Nov. 30, when they lost 33-30 to UNLV at home. Cooks recorded 12 catches for 151 yards in the loss. 

The Ohio Bobcats come in looking to send their outstanding senior quarterback, Nathan Rourke, who is ranked No. 1 in the program in touchdowns and leads the nation’s 20th-ranked scoring offense, out with a win. Rourke is a threat through the air and on the ground, and the Wolfpack defense will need to be at their best to keep the Bobcats in check. 

The game is in Idaho and will be televised on ESPN at 12:30 p.m. today as well as streaming services online. This will be the first meeting between the two programs and the Wolfpack will be looking for their third consecutive bowl victory.

Getting through this together, Atascadero