BYU (7-4) at Nevada (4-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 30, 3:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mackay Stadium (29,993) -- Reno, Nevada. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: BYU 5-1, Nevada 4-1. Away Record: BYU 2-3, Nevada 0-6. Neutral Record: BYU 0-0, Nevada 0-0. Conference Record: BYU 0-0, Nevada 3-5. Series Record: BYU leads, 4-2-2.
GAME NOTES: The Nevada Wolf Pack try to close out the 2013 campaign on a positive note as they clash with the BYU Cougars in non-conference action at Mackay Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
After winning three of their first five games, the Wolf Pack appeared to be moving in the right direction, but the squad then suffered a five-game slide and took itself out of the running for a potential postseason appearance, Two weeks ago, Nevada put an end to the losing streak by capturing a 38-16 win over San Jose State at home.
Meanwhile, BYU had the opposite experience in the middle of the campaign as it posted five straight wins, but has since bowed in two of the last three. Last Saturday, the Cougars were held to just 13 points, matching their season-low, in a 10-point loss on the road to fellow Independent, Notre Dame.
Nevada won the most recent meeting between the teams in 2010 by a score of 27-13, but still the edge in the series goes to BYU, 4-2-2.
After losing just two times through the first eight games of the campaign, the Cougars have now had that happen in the last three outings as they bowed to Notre Dame last Saturday by double figures. Quarterback Taysom Hill converted 21-of-36 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown, but was also intercepted once and taken down for a couple of sacks. When using his feet, Hill ran for 101 yards on 24 carries, matching the effort of Paul Lasike who needed just four attempts to race for more than 100 yards.
Defensively, the Cougars were touched for 235 yards on the ground and the same number through the air during the setback. Credited with an incredible 19 tackles, of which only five were solo, was Uani 'Unga, followed by Craig Bills with 15 stops. Kyle Van Noy was limited to just two tackles in the outing.
'Unga is far and away the top tackler for the Cougars this season, his 125 stops being more than twice as many as Bills, who is second with 62. However, when it comes to impact plays, there's no one greater than Van Noy who is fourth on the unit with 58 tackles, of which 15 have come behind the line of scrimmage. Van Noy is also first with four sacks and 13 quarterback hurries.
Because of the efforts of Hill on the ground, having gained a team-best 1,057 yards on 189 attempts, the Cougars are ranked 13th in the nation with 263.7 ypg rushing and 14th in total offense with 495.6 ypg. Hill, credited with eight rushing TDs, has also thrown for another 17 scores, but has tossed 13 picks and completed 53.0 percent of his throws.
The transition to a new head coach, Brian Polian, from Chris Ault has been a rocky one for sure this season for Nevada. Particularly troubling is the effort put forth by the defense, the unit giving up a massive 506.5 ypg to rank 117th in the nation. On the ground is where the group has been exposed the most, permitting 246.2 ypg which is also 117th in the country this week.
Brock Hekking has tried to stem the tide by producing 13.5 TFL and nine sacks, but it hasn't been enough for Nevada, a team which has one of the weakest third-down defenses and is far too lenient in the red zone. Even with the efforts of Hekking and his teammates, Nevada is still giving up 35.0 ppg which is 104th in the nation.
Like Hill for the Cougars, Cody Fajardo is also a dual threat for Nevada, capable of taking off and running with the ball (602 yards, seven TDs) or hanging around in the pocket and seeking out options further down the field with his 67.6 percent completion rating and 263.8 ypg. Perhaps most impressive about Fajardo is the fact that he has tossed 12 TDs and just two INTs in 324 attempts.
Making Fajardo's job as a passer that much easier has been Brandon Wimberly, who has 87 receptions for 872 yards and seven TDs. The receiver has at least one catch in every game of his career (51), the longest active streak in the country.
Hill and Fajardo will both be looking to put up big numbers against the opposing defenses, but because the Wolf Pack has trouble slowing down the competition, expect BYU to have the upper hand, even on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 35, Nevada 24
11/27 11:09:06 ET