RENO - When your defensive unit gives up 69 points in a game like Nevada's did against Boise State last Sunday, it's hard to say the unit played better.
However, head coach Chris Ault and defensive coordinator Ken Wilson said there was some progress made compared to the Pack's performance against Fresno State two weeks ago.
"The defense played hard," Ault said earlier this week. "Compared to the week before, the run defense was better and we played with more emotion against a good offensive football team.
"We still made an awful lot of mistakes. In terms of effort, we did (do better). We have to start shutting down the blown assignments and the missed tackles."
The defense has shown a penchant for giving up the big play. Against Fresno State, the Pack defense gave up three scoring plays, all runs, of 50 yards or more. Against Boise State, Ian Johnson broke off a 72-yard scoring run in the first half.
"I think we played better run defense (overall)," Wilson said. "Take away the 75-yard run, and you aren't feeling as bad about the run defense. We did hold them to three field goals. They are a good offensive team and we battled them step for step."
One thing that Ault and Wilson do acknowledge is that injuries have played a big role in Nevada's lack of success on defense. Neither coach uses the injuries as an excuse, however.
Outside linebacker Ezra Butler was suspended for the first game and then missed one other with an injury. He has not come close to playing near his 2006 form. Defensive end Erics Clark battled a knee injury and then caught pnuemonia. He wont return this year. Cornerback/safety Jon Amaya suffered a sprained knee and has missed two straight games. Safety Uche Anyanwu missed the Fresno State game with a leg injury. Linebacker Kevin Porter is playing with a thumb injury which makes it difficult for him to make tackles.
"No question we're thin (not many numbers) up front especially," Ault said. "That's still no excuse for alignment mistakes and missed tackles. Everybody (teams) gets banged up this time of year. When your number gets called (as a reserve), you have to step up."
One player sure to see more time is 6-6 240-pound redshirt freshman Kevin Basped, who has been moved from outside linebacker to defensive end because of injuries up front.
Basped has the quickness to be an effective pass rusher from the end or linebacker spot. The only drawback is that he's still learning the college game, but he figures to get more and more snaps every week.
"Basped is going to be a good player for us," Ault said.
• Wide receiver/kick returner Arthur King (shoulder, concussion) returned to practice earlier this week.
Amaya's status is still unknown. He is one of the best tacklers on the squad, and his absence has been felt.
• Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been named the rivals.com National Frshman of the Week for his performance against Boise State.
Kaepernick rushed for 177 yards and two scores and passed for three more scores in Nevada's 69-67 four-overtime loss last Sunday.
•Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or 881-1281