10 things to watch for in Nevada-Idaho game
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO – Ten things to watch when the Nevada Wolf Pack (7-1 overall, 2-1 in the Western Athletic Conference) takes on the Idaho Vandals (4-4, 1-2) in Moscow, Id., on Saturday …
1. Get ready for an Idaho Air Show
If you missed this year’s Reno Air Races, don’t worry. You’ll get to see a quality air show this Saturday. The Vandals will throw the football. A ton. It could be the best indoor air show in the nation this year. The Vandals’ 16,000-seat Kibbie Dome even looks like an old airplane hangar. Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle is the second busiest quarterback in the WAC (behind Hawaii’s Bryant Moniz), completing 184-of-314 passes for 2,282 yards and 16 touchdowns. Enderle passed for 342 yards and four scores against the Pack last year in a 70-45 loss at Mackay Stadium. The senior is definitely not shy about putting the ball in the air, especially in the controlled environment of the Kibbie Dome.
2. The Pack defensive line is already salivating
The Vandals run the ball only to give Enderle’s right arm a rest. No Vandal back has carried more than 15 times or rushed for as many as 90 yards in a game this year. Idaho hasn’t even run the ball as a team as many as 40 times in a game all season. The Pack defensive line, namely Dontay Moch and Brett Roy (nine sacks combined), is going to pin its ears back and make a bee-line for Enderle on every play. The Wolf Pack had five sacks against the Vandals last year and has sacked Idaho quarterbacks 13 times (10 of those were on Enderle) over the last three games. And, oh yeah, Idaho has allowed a WAC-high 30 sacks this year.
3. Don’t blink or you might miss a touchdown
Last year’s Pack-Vandal game at Mackay featured 10 touchdowns of 20 yards or more. The Wolf Pack had five rushing touchdowns of at least 25 yards. It was a video game come to life. The two teams combined for 115 points and 16 touchdowns. Don’t expect another 115 points or 16 touchdowns but you also might want to wait until halftime to get up to get that diet soda.
4. Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua love the Vandal defense
The two Pack stars have each played three games against Idaho in their careers. And they have made a career out of destroying the Vandal defense. Kaepernick has passed for 624 yards and five touchdowns and has rushed for 308 yards and five scores against the Vandals. That’s 932 total yards and 10 touchdowns. Taua has carried the ball 42 times for 251 yards and six touchdowns against Idaho. Add all these numbers up and you have 1,183 yards and 16 touchdowns by just two Pack players over the past three games in this rivalry.
5. Expect the Wolf Pack special teams to get healthy
The Vandals don’t scare anybody with their kickoff and punt return teams. The Vandals are last in the WAC in both punt returns (5.2 yards a return) and kickoff returns (18.6 yards per return). This is just what the doctor ordered for the ailing Pack kick coverage units. The Pack also has now gone 114 consecutive games (the fourth longest streak in the nation) without a punt return for a touchdown and 145 games (eighth longest) without a kickoff return for a score. Pack punt returner Rishard Matthews and kickoff returner Mike Ball, though, have come very close to taking one to the house in recent weeks. This could be the week one (both?) of those streaks comes to an end.
6. The Wolf Pack needs to take out its frustrations on somebody
The Wolf Pack hasn’t played a complete game since Week 3 against California. And even that game saw the defense give up 31 points. But ever since that magical night the Pack has kind of muddled through games against, for the most part, mediocre opponents. The defense and special teams didn’t play all that well against UNLV and Utah State. The offense looked sluggish against BYU, San Jose State and Hawaii. A year ago the Pack hit its stride and played nearly flawless football for three consecutive games in November against San Jose State, Fresno State and New Mexico State, outscoring them 177-41 combined. Well, November is finally here.
7. The Vandals’ season starts now
Idaho’s hopes of returning to a bowl game this year could be decided in the next two weeks when the Wolf Pack and Boise State come to town on back-to-back weekends. These are the two games the Vandals have been waiting for all season. With both the Pack and Boise heading to the Mountain West Conference over the next two seasons, this might be the last time either school ever ventures to Moscow for a football game. Boise has already said it will never play in Moscow again and the Pack, well, non-conference road games in front of 15,000 fans don’t really help you pay the bills. The Vandals would like nothing better than to send both the Pack and Broncos back home with a loss as a keepsake from their final Moscow trips.
8. Expect Kaepernick to make a statement
The last two games have been a rollercoaster, at best, for Kaepernick. He turned the ball over four times against Hawaii and then he got benched for 11 plays in the first half against Utah State. You can bet he would like nothing more than to just destroy somebody. Kaepernick needs just 804 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns over his final six games (with a bowl game) to become the NCAA career leader for quarterbacks in both categories (he’s currently fourth with 3,677 rushing yards and third with 52 rushing TDs). Don’t be shocked to see him get a big chunk of those yards and touchdowns this week.
9. Will there be a Virgil Green sighting?
The Wolf Pack tight end caught 10 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns combined in the first two games this year. Over the last six games, though, the 6-foot-5 senior has caught a total of 10 passes for 116 yards and no touchdowns. Last week against Utah State he was shut out. It’s time the Pack starts using its talented tight end.
10. Will we see the Pack’s first 500-yard rushing day?
A year ago the Wolf Pack rushed for 500 or more yards in a game three times. They also scored seven or more rushing touchdowns in a game five times. This year they have yet to do either. The Pack, though, rushed for 484 yards and eight touchdowns against Idaho last season and is coming off its best rushing day of the year (387 yards, six scores) against Utah State. Taua hasn’t played in three weeks and is itching to have a big game and we all know Kaepernick is ready to explode.