NEW ... 2010 Nevada Preview
Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick & RB Vai Taua
Want to see lots and lots of running at an all-time great level? Want to see a defense give up passing yards by the truckload? Want to see an offense good enough to crank out three 1,000-yard rushers? Check out the CFN preview of Nevada, arguably, the most interesting team in college football.
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Nevada might be the most interesting team in college football.
Head coach: Chris Ault
27th year: 206-96-1
Ten Best Nevada Players
1. QB Colin Kaepernick, Sr.
2. DE Dontay Moch, Sr.
3. RB Vai Taua, Sr.
4. TE Virgil Green, Sr.
5. WR Brandon Wimberly, Soph.
6. OG John Bender, Sr.
7. RB Mike Ball, Soph.
8. LB Brandon Marshall, Jr.
9. OT Steve Haley, Jr.
10. LB James-Michael Johnson, Jr.
Sept. 2 Eastern Wash
Sept. 11 Colorado St
Sept. 17 California
Sept. 25 at BYU
Oct. 2 at UNLV
Oct. 9 San Jose St
Oct. 16 at Hawaii
Oct. 23 OPEN DATE
Oct. 30 Utah State
Nov. 6 at Idaho
Nov. 13 at Fresno State
Nov. 20 NMSU
Nov. 26 Boise State
Dec. 4 at Louisiana Tech
What it does well, it does well at an all-time level. The problems, however, are worst-in-the-nation bad.
The team is so unbelievable at running the ball that it was No. 1 in the nation by a ten-mile wide margin. With an NCAA record three 1,000-yard rushers leading the way, the Pack ripped off 4,484 yards and 48 touchdowns, averaging a devastating 7.39 yards per carry (UAB was No. averaging 5.96 yards per try), while averaging close to 50 yards per game more than Georgia Tech.
And then there was the pass defense.
UAB (ironically enough) was the only team in America worse against the pass, and only Idaho gave up more touchdown passes. The punt return game was the third worst in America, the passing attack finished 107th, and the red zone defense was 110th in the nation. But for all the problems and all the issues, there's one area Nevada has to improve more than any other.
Nevada, it's time to beat someone.
All head coach Chris Ault has done (check that, Hall of Fame head coach Chris Ault) is win 206 games for the program and put together a revolutionary offense that came up with one of the greatest seasons in college football history, and yet it's not enough.
Whacking around Fresno State 52-14 was nice, and the phenomenal eight-game winning streak in the middle of last year was special, but the opening three losses to Notre Dame, Colorado State, and Missouri, and the two losses to end the year against Boise State and SMU seem to stand out a bit more. And why? Because the offense didn't quite work as well as needed on the ground in those five losses, and nothing has changed much on a defense that hasn't stopped anyone in years.
The potential is there for this year's team to be even more dangerous and even more impressive with most of the defensive front seven returning, both starting corners, and nine starters from the nation's No. 2 offense. All the top receivers return along with QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Vai Taua, and enough good players on the line to make opposing defensive coordinators quake.
With all the experience in place and with all the all-stars, the pieces are there to challenge for the WAC title and be the lead dog in the pack once Boise State bolts for the Mountain West. But the system has to work against the strong, the defense has to finally show some improvement, and a bowl win would be nice after the last four post-season losses.
Nah, Ault really isn't on any hot seat, not with this running game, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for major improvement.
What to watch for on offense: More from the receivers. With a running game so historically devastating it'll be hard to take too many carries away from the stars, but the passing attack could balance things out a bit with so much talent returning. Brandon Wimberly has the talent and the skills to be the WAC's most dangerous receiver, while Chris Wellington, Tray Session, and All-WAC tight end Virgil Green, are terrific running mates. Throw in backups Malcolm Shepherd, Moe Patterson, Rishard Mathews, and L.J. Washington, who look like they're out of central casting, and Colin Kaepernick will do more than just run.
What to watch for on defense: New defensive coordinator Andy Buh. Ault's offense has been special, but the defense allowed 838 total points in 2007 and 2008, and while it improved a wee bit last year, and was fine against the mediocre offenses, it got picked apart way too often. Buh's job will be to keep passing games from making things happen deep on a regular basis and will make his linebackers more active. This will be an even more aggressive defense in several ways, but not at the expense of giving up the big play. At least that's the hope.
The team will be far better if … it runs for over 250 yards per game. Only four teams averaged more than 250 rushing yards per game, and if Nevada doesn't hit the mark, it likely won't win. In the eight wins, the offense exploded for 312 rushing yards or more, while in the five losses the attack ran for 242 yards or fewer. The passing game should be stronger and more effective, so the running game doesn't have to carry everything, but if the ground game is rolling, it might be over.
The schedule: The Pack will get a few games to tune up before dealing with the type of national statement games that can turn the program into something everyone will pay attention to against Cal and at BYU. While Nevada lost to Colorado State last year, the rematch is in Reno, after starting out the year with Eastern Washington. The WAC timing isn't too bad, and while the Idaho and Fresno State games are on the road in back to back weeks, the Boise State showdown is at home. There are only three road games against teams that went to bowl games.
Best offensive player: Senior QB Colin Kaepernick. The 6-6, 215-pound veteran has been a statistical superstar and has the potential to go down as one of the greatest dual-threat quarterbacks in college football history. He has thrown 61 career touchdown passes with just 16 interceptions (and two coming in the final 11 games of last year), but his real worth has been as a runner with 2,906 career yards and 39 scores. He was unstoppable last year when the team was winning, finishing with 1,183 rushing yards, but he was held to under 60 yards in each of the five losses. He's a great player, but he has to come up with more big wins to get the credit he deserves.
Best defensive player: Senior DE Dontay Moch. The WAC Defensive Player of the Year came up with 6.5 sacks and was a dominant force in the backfield … until late. The senior rocked with 20.5 tackles for loss, but only 1.5 of those came in the final three games. Very quick and very active, he's impossible to stop by just a lumbering tackle and when he has a clear path to the quarterback, it's over.
Key player to a successful season: Senior CB Doyle Miller and Junior CB Isaiah Frey. The pass rush will be excellent and the linebackers should be great for the ground game, but the team won't improve without more production from the secondary. The Pack allowed a whopping nine yards per pass giving up 33 touchdowns and coming away with just eight interceptions. The veteran corners can hit, but they have to show they can actually cover.
The season will be a success if … the Pack wins nine games including a bowl. It's time to take another step forward, and with a 13-game schedule (before a bowl), ten wins is a reasonable goal. While Boise State is the best team in the WAC and will likely win the conference title yet again, that doesn't mean Nevada can't crank out an eight-win season and finally break the four-game post-season losing streak. If the Pack beats all the teams it's supposed to, it could be 9-3 with a shot at a ten-win regular season.
Key game: Nov. 13 vs. Boise State. If Nevada wants the WAC, this is the home game it has to win. No one has consistently played the Broncos better over the last few years, but the Pack has little to show for it losing ten straight with the last win coming back in the 1998 Big West days. It's the Pack's final home game of the year and it'll be on national TV on Thanksgiving weekend. The fireworks will be impressive.
2009 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards Per Game: Nevada 344.9 – Opponents 111.5
- Penalties: Nevada 87 for 793 yards – Opponents 66 for 543 yards
- Sacks: Nevada 31 for 175 yards – Opponents 12 for 100 yards
- 2010 Nevada Preview |
2010 Nevada Defense |
Nevada Depth Chart
- Nevada Previews