Another must win for Wolf Pack | NevadaAppeal.com

Another must win for Wolf Pack

RENO – Nevada’s defense has been under siege all season, and that won’t change today with the WAC’s top rusher, Idaho’s Deonte Jackson, coming to town.

Jackson has five 100-yard games to his credit – 143 last week against New Mexico State, 108 against Fresno State, 111 against Northern Illinois, 113 against Washington State and 214 against Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo which led to Idaho’s lone win of the season.

The Vandal freshman will be Nevada’s main focus when the teams collide today at 1 at Mackay Stadium (ESPN Game Plan).

It’s a must-win situation for Nevada (3-4, 1-2), which has to win four of its last five games to have a realistic chance at a bowl berth, and containing the 5-8 181-pound Jackson is the key to success. Stopping anybody has been tough for the Pack, which is yielding 38.7 points per game.

“I like Jackson and Brian Flowers both,” Nevada defensive coordinator Ken Wilson said, alluding to the Vandals’ top running backs. “They run tough and are primarily inside runners.”

Idaho isn’t expected to have quarterback Nathan Enderle (questionable, tendon injury on throwing hand) under center today, which means Brian Nooy and Quin Ashley are expected to share the quarterback job. Nooy is more of a drop-back or roll-out threat, while Ashley, who threw a season-high 15 passes last week, is used for screens and other short routes. Ashley is a change-of-pace quarterback. The Vandals will use him a lot in option and read zone situations.

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Nooy has completed only 32 of 65 passes for 359 yards and three scores. Ashley is 8 of 19 for 92 yards and a score. Their favorite targets have been Eddie Williams (25-317) and Max Komar (21-301).

“Even within a series they will make a change,” Wilson said. “We’ve seen so many different things on offense this year. Nooy throws fairly well. Obviously Enderle is the guy they would like. Ashley is good at the read zone which we do with Colin.”

Idaho has lost six straight, but that can’t be pushed onto the offense. The offense, despite losing Enderle a couple of weeks ago, has averaged 26 points a game during its six-game losing streak.

“Each week they have gotten better,” Nevada head coach Chris Ault said. “All year the offense has been putting points on the board. They have done a nice job running the ball. Again, our defense has to be alert. They are playing real well.

“It (two quarterbacks) doesn’t make it any tougher to prepare. We have to worry about ourselves and how we’re playing.”

And, Nevada will be doing it without inside linebacker Joshua Mauga, who was one of the top tacklers in the nation before injuring his knee against Utah State. Jerome Johnson was expected to start in Mauga’s place.

Idaho coach Robb Akey said during the weekly WAC teleconference that he hopes Nevada waits one more week before it learns how to stop the run, because if the Vandals are going to pull off an upset it will have to be on the ground.

The only defensive unit in the WAC worse than Nevada’s is Idaho’s. The Vandals, despite another solid season by linebacker David Vobora (93 tackles), allow 424.5 per contest, including 3.9 an attempt on the ground.

That has to be music to the ears of Nevada’s offensive line of Greg Hall, Dominic Green, Charles Manu, Alonzo Durham and either John Bender or Mike Gallent. They should have no trouble controlling the line of scrimmage and opening holes for Luke Lippincott, who has gained 792 yards and scored eight touchdowns.

Freshman Colin Kaepernick makes his third start at quarterback for Nevada. He played sensational in the second half of the Fresno State game and the entire Boise State game, but dropped off against Utah State, which blitzed a lot and seemed to keep the Pack off balance.

Kaepernick has completed 51 of 91 passes for 808 yards and nine scores. He’s also averaging 7.2 a rushing attempt.

“I like their quarterback (Colin Kaepernick) and their running back (Luke Lippincott) has done a tremendous job,” Akey said. “I’d like him not to run all over the place (against us). He’s done a nice job throwing the ball when it needs to be thrown.”

Nevada has had tremendous success with its vertical passing game. Both Marko Mitchell and Mike McCoy are averaging more than 20 yards a catch, and Kyle Sammons is averaging nearly 19 yards a reception.

Notes: Ault has compiled a 12-4 record against the Vandals, including a 7-1 record at Mackay Stadium … Jon Amaya (knee/ankle), running back Brandon Fragger (hamstring) and center Josh Catapano (knee) all will miss today’s game for Nevada.

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281

IDAHO (1-7, 0-4) AT NEVADA (3-4, 1-2)

When: Today, 1:07 p.m.

Where: Mackay Stadium

TV: ESPN Game Plan (pay-per-view)

Radio: 630AM, pre-game starts at noon

Line: Nevada by 17