BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO " Nevada football coach Chris Ault doesn't really buy into the theory that the defense is always ahead of the offense in the early stages of fall camp.
However, the first scrimmage of the 2008 season went to the defense which scored twice and allowed only one score in a 90-minute and 90-plus play scrimmage Sunday at Mackay Stadium.
Kevin Basped returned a fumble 23 yards for a score and Jonathan Ott picked off a Nick Graziano pass and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown in the latter stages of the workout.
In between those two defensive scores, quarterback Colin Kaepernick tossed a 5-yard scoring pass to Dwayne Sanders.
Ault, who has challenged the defense to play with more consistency and emotion this season, was pleased with that group's showing. The defense forced five turnovers and had eight stops behind the line of scrimmage.
"I liked the energy of the defense," Ault said. "Our defense played very well last year at this time. I liked the energy.
"I was disappointed with the offense. We didn't have the players who can make plays, make the plays we needed. It's a veteran offense out there."
Four linebackers " Jared Silva-Purcell, Jerome Johnson, Mike Bethea and Joe Easter " paced the team in tackles.
Silva-Purcell led the group with six, while the other three ended up with five each. Bethea, Easter and Silva-Purcell are challenging for playing time. They are competing, and that's one thing Ault talked about was how competition within the team was good.
"We were fired up and went out of there with a lot of energy," said Fallon's Josh Mauga. "We have a lot of guys who are competing and they are stepping up and showing that they want to play."
The defense scored four plays into the scrimmage when reserve center Josh Catapano snapped the ball over Kaepernick's head. An offensive player recovered, but defensive end Dontay Mooch jarred the ball loose at the offense's 23, and Basped took it to the end zone.
Catapano started in place of Dominic Green, who was held out of the scrimmage for undisclosed reasons. Catapano was replaced after the second bad snap in favor of Kenny Ackerman.
The offense did mount one decent drive in the first portion of he scrimmage.
Graziano, who is returning from a broken foot, took the offense from its own 35 to the defense's 13-yard line before the drive ended with two straight incompletions. Graziano completed an 8-yard pass to Marko Mitchell and scrambled for 25 yards and a first down. The other big play was a 14-yard run by wide receiver Chris Wellington.
The offense was a little more in sync in the second half, scoring on its second possession on the short fourth-down pass from Kaepernick to Sanders, capping a 65-yard drive. Kaepernick completed three passes for 30 yards on the drive, all to Sanders.
On the next possession, Graziano's 29-yard completion to Mitchell gave the offense a first down at the defense's 36. The drive ended three plays later, and the offense failed to get a first down in its final three possessions.
"The timing was off a little bit," Kaepernick said. "The skill positions would be on, but the line would be off. Then the blocking would be great, but the skill players were off. We have to find that consistency."
Kaepernick was 8-for-12 passing for 73 yards, while Graziano went 3-for-12 for 39 yards. Running back Luke Lippincott gained 29 yards on seven attempts and redshirt freshman Lampford Mark carried eight times for 23 yards. Mitchell caught four passes for 51 yards, Mike McCoy three for 29 and Douglas High's Andy McIntosh had two grabs for 17 yards, including a nice grab on a deflected ball.
Nevada returns to practice today with its second scrimmage scheduled for Saturday.
Colin Kaepernick 8-for-12, 73 yards, 1 TD
Luke Lippincott 7 carries, 29 yards
Marko Mitchell 4 catches, 51 yards
Jon Ott, Isaiah Frey
Kevin Basped, Jerome Johnson, Chris Slack
Jared Silva-Purcell 6