Taua has made the most of his opportunity for Wolf Pack
BY DARRELL MOODY
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer
RENO ” One of the best things about being in a bowl game is the extra practices a team can have before it plays.
“I think it’s very valuable,” said Nevada coach Chris Ault on the 15 or so practices the Wolf Pack will have before facing Maryland in the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl on Tuesday in Boise, Idaho. “It gives us a chance to look at players that haven’t played as much. We can develop some of our younger guys. We have a lot of younger players, and we’re young behind them. That is encouraging.”
One of those younger players is running back Vai Taua, who rushed for 1,460 yards and scored 14 touchdowns this season after starter Luke Lippincott went down with a season-ending knee injury against Texas Tech. Taua, a sophomore, also caught 29 passes for 226 yards and two scores.
“It’s interesting,” Ault said. “We’ve had 42 different players start this season. The first major catastrophe was Luke. We had planned on him carrying the load. Vai was going to play some. How fast he developed we didn’t know. He’s done everything we’ve asked and he’s continued to get better. He has a much better feel for our offense.
“Vai is a little bigger back. Luke was more of a slasher. Vai is a little more powerful. They both can catch the ball out of the backfield.”
It will be interesting to see if Ault can find enough time or carries next year for Taua, Courtney Randall, Michael Ball and Lippincott ” should Lippincott be awarded a sixth season by the NCAA.
Taua had six games where he rushed for more than 100 yards and one game (Fresno State) where he rushed for 263. In on stretch, he had five straight games of 100 yards or more. In the Fresno State game, he had just one touchdown and his longest gain was 57 yards. Taua kept pounding away the entire game, and the Bulldogs were defenseless to stop him.
The Nevada sophomore said he wasn’t scared when he had to move into the No. 1 slot. He embraced the challenge.
“My mindset was that it was time for me to step up,” Taua said. “I wanted to be able to be a leader on the field. I’m pretty confident in what I’m doing.
“I have the easy job. The credit goes to the offensive line. There are times when I’m four or five yards downfield before I’m getting touched. They have done a great job all season. It’s a great feeling. I’m getting better every day. We’re a young team and we’re getting better.”
Taua admitted that preparation is much different when you are No. 1 compared to just a guy coming off the bench because “your teammates are relying on you more”.
“Vai is a great back,” Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. “He had the opportunity to step in. It was a great opportunity. Unfortunately it came because of an injury. He stepped up and handled it physically. He’s great to have on the field. He’s done a great job.”