Nevada football looks strong in scrimmage

RENO - Nevada football coach Chris Ault gave his team a thumbs up after the Wolf Pack concluded their spring practice with the annual Silver-Blue scrimmage.

"It was an excellent spring in terms of competition," Ault said after putting his team through a two-hour, 94-play scrimmage on Friday. "That's what you look for in spring; how people competed."

The Wolf Pack has gone to the "Pistol," a half-shotgun format, and the offense racked up 516 yards unofficially and scored four times, two of the scores coming on the first two possessions. The defense scored once on an 88-yard fumble return by Nick Hawthrone and forced three other turnovers.

Offensively, the Nevada coach came away from the spring session especially pleased with quarterback Jeff Rowe, freshman guard Dominic Green, tackles Tony Moll and Adam Keifer plus wide receivers Nichiren Flowers and redshirt freshman Mike McCoy.

Rowe seems to be at home in the Pack's new formation. He capped off the spring with a 14 for 23 effort for 123 yards and a TD. He also scored on a 5-yard bootleg. He completed his first seven passes, five of those coming on the first two scoring drives.

"Jeff has had an excellent spring," Ault said. "He really likes this offense. I'm really pleased with the way he's thrown the ball and picked things up. He ran the ball, and we'll run him more."

Rowe's backups - sophomore Travis Moore and freshmen Ben Galbraith and Brenden Gaskins - also played. Moore completed 4 of 8 for 37 yards, Galbraith went 4 of 6 for 71 yards and Gaskins completed 4 of 9 for 93 yards.

"Travis was a little slow to start," Ault said. "The last six practices he looked better. When Bren and Ben know what they are doing, you can see they are two talented kids; they are good football players."

Flowers, who caught five passes for 31 yards, remains the leader of the receiving corp. Caleb Spencer made a couple of nice grabs (4 for 71), but the big battle is shaping up between McCoy and Kyle Sammons, a JC transfer from Santa Rosa Junior College, for the third receiver spot. McCoy caught four for 35 and Sammons had four catches for 90, including a 52-yarder from Gaskins.

"This was McCoy's best day," Ault said. "He showed the type of talent he has. He has terrific hands. It's a new system, and he and Kyle are really battling.

"We're not where we need to be (in terms of depth). We need one more. The freshmen coming in are going to have a shot (to play)."

Robert Hubbard had a 62-yard run early in the scrimmage, setting up Rowe's 3-yard scoring pass to Travis Branzell, but only gained 17 yards on 11 carries thereafter. B.J. Mitchell carried 17 times for 63 yards and a score.

Barry Sacks, the Pack's co-defensive coordinator, was impressed with his unit's play at times.

"I saw a lot of good things," he said. " I liked the way we were flying around. I saw some good things in the secondary. We are really starting to understand the defense."

"We have to start out faster," Sacks said. "We have to be in game tempo right away."

Sacks was referring to the way the defense gave up the two early scores, yielding a 15-play scoring drive and a quick three-play scoring drive.

Matt Virden had an interception and the defense stopped the offense on the next three possessions.

"I thought the defense got better," Ault said. "It's all about competing. Last year there was no response (when things went bad). The defense came back and made some big plays."

Ault praised the play of nose guard Matt Hines and the physical play of Hawthrone, who was in and out of the starting lineup last year because of poor play and injuries.

NOTES: Ex-Douglas stars Luke Rippee and Andy McIntosh, both of whom redshirted last season, saw action. McIntosh caught the only ball thrown to him for eight yards, and was stopped by Rippee, who lined up at cornerback and not safety. Dusty Cooper, also from Douglas, carried one time for one yard. Carson's Nick Shine was in on three tackles.

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