Another tough road test for Nevada | NevadaAppeal.com

Another tough road test for Nevada

Nevada’s football team takes its show on the road for the second straight week when it visits Northwestern University.

Kick-off is at 9 a.m. (Direct TV Channel 219) today at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. Nevada won the first-ever match-up between the schools last year, 31-21, at Mackay Stadium.

It will be another stern test for the Wolf Pack, who was pounded 52-10 by then No. 19 Nebraska last week.

Northwestern is coming off an easy 27-0 win over Northeastern. Quarterback C.J. Bacher, who went to Jesuit High School in the Sacramento area, completed 23 of 29 passes for 242 yards and one score, and he also ran for another. His favorite receiver was Jeff Yarbrough, who had seven grabs for 68 yards, as the Wildcats threw a lot of underneath balls.

The Wildcats also boast a strong running attack led by Tyrell Sutton, who ran for 108 yards and a score last week. Brand Roberson added 44 on 11 attempts.

“They are a typical Big Ten team – big, strong and physical,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “They are along the same lines of Nebraska except Northwestern has a better quarterback throwing the ball.

“C.J. Bacher is as good as they get. He threw the ball real well in their first game. They like to spread you out and force your defense to make plays.”

Nevada’s defense didn’t make many plays, especially in the second half. Most of that can be attributed to the Pack’s inability to move the chains and keep drives going. The defense was forced to spend too much time on the field, and it showed in the third quarter when Nebraska scored three touchdowns and a field goal.

“We played well early last week, but didn’t sustain it,” said Ken Wilson, Nevada’s defensive coordinator. “We’ve got to sustain our effort this week.”

Defensive end Erics Clark (knee) should be at full strength this week, and the team will have Ezra Butler back. Butler was suspended for the Nebraska game for a violation of team rules. Inside linebacker Kevin Porter gets the start this weekend over Jerome Johnson after racking up 10 tackles against Nebraska.

“They (Nevada) play a 3-4,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “I’ve played in it and coached it. They are extremely active, and they aren’t always going north and south. Their linebackers are very good. They will attack you all the time. They are going to go for the ball.”

On offense, Nevada is coming off a game where it didn’t score a touchdown.

Nevada finished the 2006 regular-season with a 38-7 loss to Boise State, and the Pack’s only score in that one was a Nick Hawthrone interception return. Twice in 2003 (Boise State and SMU) and once in 2000 (Tulsa), the Wolf Pack failed to score an offensive touchdown.

Sophomore quarterback Nick Graziano struggled at times in the opener, completing 8 of 24 for 109 yards. Most of those yards came in the first half when Nevada was still in the game.

“He made a couple of critical mistakes (on reads),” Ault said. “We had some dropped passes.”

The Pack’s run game was non-existent, and that certainly has to change for Nevada to pull off an upset today.

Fitzgerald has noticed a little difference in the Pack’s offense.

“They have a little bit of a new look; a little new identity,” Fitzgerald said. “They played four wide receivers a lot against Nebraska. For the most part, it’s still the pistol and the way they attack you is similar to what they did last year.”

Northwestern got off to a 2-5 start last season, as head coach Randy Walker died before the season started, and Fitzgerald was named his replacement. The Wildcats finished strong last year, going 2-3 in their last five games, including wins over Iowa and Illinois, and a close loss to Michigan State.

“It’s different challenge every year,” Fitzgerald said. “Each year, a new football team presents new challenges. I like the place we’re at right now, but we still have a long ways to go.”

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

NEVADA AT NORTHWESTERN

When: Today, 9 a.m.

Where: Ryan Field (47,130, grass)

TV: Direct TV

Radio: 630AM, pre-game at 8 a.m.

The line: Northwestern by 8