Nevada running back Vai Taua ineligible for bowl game
For the Nevada Appeal
The Nevada Wolf Pack football team has lost another 1,000-yard rusher.
The Wolf Pack athletic department announced Saturday that running back Vai Taua has been ruled academically ineligible and will not play in the Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl against the SMU Mustangs.
Taua, who rushed for 1,345 yards this season, is the second Wolf Pack running back that will not play in the bowl game. Luke Lippincott, a senior who rushed for 1,034 yards this year, will also miss the game because of a toe injury.
That leaves just quarterback Colin Kaepernick (1,160 yards) as the Wolf Pack’s lone 1,000-yard rusher to play against SMU. Kaepernick, Taua and Lippincott set a NCAA record this season as the first trio of teammates in NCAA history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in the same season.
“I’m upset and disappointed that Vai didn’t fulfill his obligations as a student-athlete,” Pack head coach Chris Ault said in an athletic department statement released Saturday. “He has let his team down and I will evaluate his future with the program after the bowl game. Our focus now is on the upcoming game and our program is moving forward in that direction.”
Taua, a junior, did not travel with the team to Hawaii. The Wolf Pack arrived in Honolulu late Friday night and will play SMU on Christmas Eve at 5 p.m. (PST).
“This is disappointing for all of us, including Vai,” athletic director Cary Groth said in a statement. “Like all of our student-athletes, Vai was aware of his academic responsibilities. We are all hopeful that this will be a positive learning experience for him moving forward.”
Lampford Mark and Mike Ball are expected to pick up the slack in the backfield created by the loss of Taua and Lippincott.
Mark, a sophomore from Fresno, Calif., rushed for 286 yards and three touchdoiwns this year, including a 114-yard effort against San Jose State. Ball, a redshirt freshman from Las Vegas (Desert Pines High School), rushed for 201 yards and five touchdowns. It was Ball who replaced an injured Taua against UNLV this season and rushed for 184 yards and five touchdowns.
The 5-foot-10, 220-pound Taua rushed for at least 100 yards in a game nine times this year and 17 times over the past two seasons. He currently has a streak of eight consecutive 100-yard games.
Taua’s top game this year was 179 yards and two touchdowns against Fresno State. His best game in a Wolf Pack uniform was also against Fresno State when he rushed for 263 yards against the Bulldogs in 2008.