1st and Ten – The Lone
Wolf – He definitely doesn’t garner any of the attention of the big
name quarterbacks around the nation. He’s not a flashy, explosive sort
who is a highlight reel waiting to happen. He’s not the type of guy to
draw attention to himself. But, he is the saving grace for the Wolf
Pack in 2006. In other words, head coach Chris Ault can sleep very well
at night with Jeff Rowe about to enter his third year as the Wolf Pack
starting QB. Regardless of the fact that most people around the nation
don’t have a clue about who Rowe is, there are those teams who’d love to
have #3 slingin’ it for their team. Put Rowe at Alabama or say USC and
most college fans would know who he exactly who he was. But, Rowe is
happy playing at home and should put up another strong season to close
his career. His 2005 season was solid in every respect (outside of the
picks he threw at Boise State), as he threw for just under 3,000 yards
with a better than two to one TD to interception ratio. He was the
beneficiary of a strong 1,000 yard rushing season from BJ Mitchell, but
that shouldn’t change this year with Robert Hubbard toting the mail.
The offensive line has a bit of tweaking in store, but there’s some
solid talent, in particular Barrett Reznick, to keep Rowe happy, healthy
and productive this season. Caleb Spencer was Rowe’s go-to receiver
last year and that shouldn’t change this year with Spencer’s return.
The point being that the Wolf Pack averaged over 34 points a game last
year and they could be even better under Rowe’s leadership this year.
Rowe, with 12 games to play this season, should easily reach the 3,200
yard mark, if he’s healthy, and firmly establish himself as one of the
all-time greats at Nevada. Not that anyone would know, though.
2nd and Seven – Don’t
forget about us – Most years, people will use the number of
returning starters as a basis for evaluating a team in the pre-season.
Well, don’t try that with the Wolf Pack. The Wolf Pack have four guys
who weren’t starters last year, who you should account for in assessing
how good they’ll be this year. Start with Robert Hubbard, running
back. As a backup, he ran for over 700 yards behind last year’s star BJ
Mitchell, but is as talented as any back in the WAC this season. JJ
Milan, the Wolf Pack’s stout linebacker, returns to an already loaded
crop of linebackers after sitting out all last season with an injury.
Paul Pratt, a cornerback, missed all last year with a knee injury and,
if relatively healthy, should bolster that back four. Also returning to
the secondary is Nick Hawthrone, a three-year starter, who will miss the
spring with an injury. Taking into account the depth and the experience
that these former starters/contributors can provide, their return is
that much more vital.
3rd and Three – The
Butler did it – Oh, yes, the Butler did do it. He did it 75 times
last season. Ezra Butler is 6’2” and 248 pounds of big-time linebacker,
and he’s only a junior. Butler started all 12 games last year at the
bandit linebacker spot and gives the team a play making threat on the
outside, in addition to be a physical, head-hunting tackler. In
addition to his 75 tackles, he finished with 16.5 tackles for a loss and
5.5 sacks, which shows how active and aggressive Butler is chasing the
4th and One – Dealing
with being the hunted, not the hunter – For much of the last four
years, the Boise State Broncos were WAC football. Undefeated at 24 – 0
over the three year span of 2002 – 2004, the Broncos were the team in
this league that everyone chased. But, in 2005, the Broncos were
brought back to the pack a bit, by Fresno State, who ultimately was
undone by the Wolf Pack. Consequently, at season’s end, a WAC title
trophy went to Boise State, but another was shipped to Reno for Chris
Ault’s Wolf Pack. That’s where the story changes for the Wolf Pack.
After chasing the champs for so many years, they’re now the champs –
they’re the hunted. Sure, the Wolf Pack still must beat Boise State to
establish true superiority, but the rest of the conference is going to
be gunning for the Wolf Pack this year. You wake people up when you
knock out eight of your last nine opponents like Ault’s squad did last
year, including Fresno State. It’s a different feeling when you’re the
king on the mountain with everyone looking to bounce you off the hill.