Idaho (2-9) at Nevada (6-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 3rd, 4:05 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mackay Stadium (29,993) -- Reno, Nevada. Television: WAC Sports Network. Home Record: Idaho 1-5, Nevada 4-1. Away Record: Idaho 1-4, Nevada 2-4. Neutral Record: Idaho 0-0, Nevada 0-0. Conference Record: Idaho 1-5, Nevada 4-2. Series Record: Nevada leads, 19-9.
GAME NOTES: One of three teams in the Western Athletic Conference already bowl eligible heading into the final games of the regular season, the Nevada Wolf Pack try to raise their profile a little bit more on Saturday as they take on the Idaho Vandals at Mackay Stadium in Reno.
At one point the Wolf Pack appeared to be well on its way to capture the regular-season title in the WAC, opening the league portion of the schedule with four straight wins, but in the last two weeks the team has suffered back- to-back defeats at the hands of Louisiana Tech (24-20) and Utah State (21-17) and now the team is in second place in the WAC as a result.
As for the Vandals, they have just two wins this entire season, only one of which has come against another member of the Football Bowl Subdivision. Two weeks ago the team played its second overtime game of 2011 and again landed in the loss column with a 49-42 defeat versus USU at home.
The Wolf Pack lead the all-time series against Idaho by a commanding 19-9 margin, giving themselves even more room last year by putting up a staggering 63-17 victory in Moscow.
The Vandals have been a slow starting team this season, scoring a combined 38 points in the first half of 11 games and it only gets slightly better as the games roll on as the team finishes with 21.8 ppg which is last in the WAC and 99th in the nation. Appearing in all but one game and starting eight of those outings, Brian Reader has been the one under the gun for the Vandals at quarterback this season and it has been quite a struggle. Reader has throw for 182.9 ypg which isn't all that bad, but the fact that he has just 10 TD throws and just as many interceptions on 327 attempts has the program ranked 113th in the nation in pass efficiency rating (102.6). The rushing offense has been average at best only part of the time, averaging just 111.9 ypg which is sixth in the WAC and 104th in the country.
Not only has the offense for the Vandals been an issue in 2011, so has the defense which has been limping along with 31.2 ppg allowed which is sixth in the conference and 91st in the country. Currently fifth on the team in total tackles with 59 over 10 starts, Korey Toomer leads the program in both tackles for loss (10) and sacks (four) and has also been credited with one of the team's two blocked kicks this year. Tre'Shawn Robinson is averaging just under 10 stops per game as he leads the group with 108 total takedowns and is tied with Conrad Scheidt for the team lead in forced fumbles with three. Quin Ashley (73 tackles) accounts for one-third of the program's nine interceptions and has one touchdown to his credit, but the bottom line is this is a squad that is 92nd in the country in total defense with 423.2 ypg allowed heading into the season finale.
After scoring no less than 37 points in every game of a five-game win streak, the Wolf Pack offense has hit the skids with just 37 combined points in the last two outings. Last Saturday the team was led by running back Lampford Mark who gained a game-high 111 yards and scored once on 22 carries, while quarterback Cody Fajardo and Tyler Lantrip combined to hit 27-of-35 passes for 315 yards, but just a single TD. Rishard Matthews had yet another outstanding effort with 12 catches for 205 yards and a score, but he probably trade it in for the win. One of the most productive receivers in the conference this season, Matthews has accounted for 1,250 yards and seven touchdowns on 79 catches, his reception total almost twice the number of anyone else on the team. Fajardo's efforts at quarterback have resulted in better than 71 percent accuracy, but just six touchdowns and five interceptions on 199 pass attempts.
While the Nevada offense was rolling up 500 yards and averaging close to seven yards per snap, the defense was trying to get off the field and put the ball back in the hands of Fajardo and Lantrip, but it just didn't work out that way. Brandon Marshall, who is averaging close to eight tackles per game to rank ninth in the conference, came up with a team-best 12 stops in an effort to get the ball back for the Pack's offense. Kaelin Burnett was credited with the only sack for the group and one of only three stops recorded behind the line of scrimmage. Tackles for loss have not been easy to come by this season for the Pack, the team averaging just 4.8 TFLs per game which is 94th nationally, but don't tell that to Brett Roy who has put together an amazing effort this season with 17.5 TFLs and 10 sacks, both of which pace Nevada.
Nevada needs this win desperately in order to finish the season on a positive note and give itself some momentum moving towards a possible bowl appearance. As long as the offense can bounce back and return to playing the way it did during the recent win streak, the victory should be in the bag for the Pack.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 31, Idaho 20
11/30 11:42:54 ET