(25) Nevada (4-0) at U-N-L-V (1-3)|
Saturday, October 2nd, 10:00 p.m. (et)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The fight for the Fremont Cannon just got a little more exposure,
thanks to Nevada being ranked 25th in the nation as it faces off against the
UNLV Rebels at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
The battle for Silver State bragging rights generally takes on a whole new
level of value for both of these teams each year despite what's happened to
the programs leading up to the meeting. For the Wolf Pack, they've been
cruising right along since defeating Eastern Washington in the opener. The
toughest test for Nevada took place just last weekend at BYU where the Pack
got by with a 27-13 triumph in Provo in order to earn enough voter confidence
to break into the AP's Top-25 for the first time since 1948.
Nevada is off to it's best start since 1991 when it began a perfect 12-0.
As for the Rebels, their first year under new head coach Bobby Hauck began
rather rough with three consecutive setbacks. However, last weekend the team
finally broke through with a 45-10 thrashing of New Mexico which not only
snapped a losing streak, it also counted as the squad's first Mountain West
Conference victory of 2010 as well.
"It's good to get a win, our assistant coaches did a nice job putting the plan
together," coach Hauck remarked after the victory. "Our players did a much
improved job on executing the plan and we're certainly glad to get our first
win. New Mexico did some good things, in particular in the run game that we
weren't ready for, gave some new looks and did some things that gave us
trouble. I'm glad our guys were able to adjust, both the coaches and players."
Nevada owns a 20-15 advantage over its in-state rival and has taken five
straight meetings, including a 63-28 romp in Reno a year ago.
It wasn't pretty, but Colin Kaepernick and the Nevada offense got the Wolf
Pack into the win column once more last week. Kaepernick finished the outing
16-of-25 for 196 yards and a touchdown and also led the team on the ground
with his 82 yards and a score on 17 attempts. Vai Taua also gave Nevada a lift
as he posted a game-high 133 yards and a TD on 29 carries as well.
Kaepernick, who has improved his passing skills with each year in Reno, moved
into a tie for fourth place with his 47th rushing touchdown as a quarterback.
Truth be told, Kaepernick's legs are why he has been able to develop as a
passer, forcing defenses to stuff the box with additional personnel to try and
slow down the options produced by the pistol offense. Kaepernick is now fifth
on the program's all-time passing yardage list because those legs of his have
made him one of the most versatile weapons in college football the last few
From a defensive standpoint, Nevada had the advantage of taking on a BYU
program that is moving fast in the wrong direction, desperate for leadership
at the quarterback position. The Pack limited the Cougars to just 91 yards on
25 rushing attempts and BYU never really got the passing attack in gear, even
though the home team still rolled up 229 yards through the air.
The pass defense for the Pack through four games is allowing opponents 242.5
ypg, but while that sounds like a hefty number the truth is that the end
result for those opponents does not always work in their favor. Nevada has a
pass efficiency defense with a rating of 109.11 and that has the group ranked
first in the WAC and 26th nationally, so clearly something is going right in
However, make no mistake, the Pack is driven by the offense and Kaepernick who
has the rushing attack lighting up opponents for 286.3 ypg to rank first in
the conference and sixth in the country this week. In terms of total offense,
there's no one better in the WAC as Nevada generates 529 ypg (fourth
nationally). Having a fleet-footed signal-caller also makes things easier on
the offensive line and that might be why the Pack has surrendered just one
sack (best in the NCAA).
"I had no idea it hadn't been done, but it feels good," said UNLV wideout
Michael Johnson after he became the first player in 14 years to record three
TDs in one game. "Anytime you score it's great, and to do it three times makes
it that much better and when it's a big game, like the one we needed today, it
feels good to do good for your team given the situation we were in."
Johnson had to feel great about the effort that he and the rest of the UNLV
offense produced against the Lobos last weekend, but they also need to accept
it within the context in that it was achieved against a weak opponent. Johnson
turned his eight catches into 138 yards, as Omar Clayton converted 14-of-20
passes for 194 yards and those three scores. The running attack also
contributed significant numbers as well with 185 yards and two TDs, as
Channing Trotter posted a team-best 63 yards and a score.
Limiting New Mexico to a mere 10 points may have felt like a major
accomplishment for a slumping UNLV group, but the truth of the matter is the
Lobos have been absolutely dreadful on offense thus far. After four games the
Lobos are ahead of only San Jose State nationally in scoring with a scant
10.25 ppg. Daniel Mareko came up with a few big hits for the Rebels, posting
1.5 sacks along the way, but it was like playing against a JV team at times
for the hosts in Sin City.
As a team the Rebels have a grand total of only six sacks thus far, so there
is no single hitter who is forcing opponents to game plan for him when UNLV
hits the field. Averaging just 3.75 TFLs per game, seventh in the Mountain
West and tied for 111th in the country this week, the Rebels also pose little
or no threat to Kaepernick as he dances around in the backfield trying to
decide on his best options. While he has just 14 tackles, Will Chandler has
caused the most disruption for the UNLV defense, accounting for three of their
four interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries which he has returned a
combined 82 yards.
Taking on Wisconsin and Utah in the first two games of this season did little
to provide the Rebels with any confidence. In fact, it showed UNLV that it had
a long way to go to create a threatening offense, one that could average
better than 284.5 ypg (110th nationally) as it does now. Take away the scoring
outburst versus New Mexico and the Rebels were one of the weakest scoring
teams in the country, something that will rear its ugly head again this
weekend as Kaepernick and the rest of the Pack run all over the Rebels.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 45, UNLV 13
09/29 10:33:24 ET