Big West lead on the line as Nevada hosts Idaho | NevadaAppeal.com

Big West lead on the line as Nevada hosts Idaho

RENO, Nev. (AP) – Idaho is the defending Big West Conference champion, but the Vandals haven’t had much luck defending Nevada the past two years.

Idaho, which visits Nevada Saturday with the Big West lead at stake, lost only one conference game last year – a 58-23 massacre at home against Nevada. The Wolf Pack also beat the Vandals 42-23 two years ago.

Even though Idaho is 5-3 overall (3-1 in conference) and Nevada is 3-5 and 2-1, the onus will be on Idaho’s defense.

Nevada’s offense is ranked 10th in Division I-A with 460 yards per game. Wide receiver Trevor Insley leads the nation with 99 receptions for 1,461 yards, including 14 for 263 yards in the Wolf Pack’s 41-28 win over North Texas last week.

Quarterback David Neill has passed for 2,415 yards and hasn’t thrown an interception in his past 150 attempts over five games.

Idaho’s defense had performed well in Big West victories over Arkansas State, Utah State and North Texas. It was ranked ninth in the country against the run entering the New Mexico State game, but the Aggies shredded the Vandals for 420 yards on the ground and 475 overall as they broke open a game that was tied 14-14 at halftime.

Idaho will face a tough task in dealing with Nevada running back Chris Lemon, whose 102 yards against North Texas gave him his 23rd career 100-yard game.

”If you can’t run the ball, you can’t throw the ball, and you can’t stop them on defense, you’re going to have a long night,” Idaho coach Chris Tormey said.

”We’ve been in this situation before,” Idaho quarterback Greg Robertson said. ”We have to get it in our mindset that we’re still in the conference race.”

Last year, Idaho earned the Big West title despite the loss to Nevada and went on to upset Southern Mississippi 42-35 in the Humanitarian Bowl.

Nevada coach Jeff Tisdel says preparing for Idaho is difficult because the Vandals are strong in both passing – they threw 61 times against New Mexico State – and running.

”It’s a real contrast offensively what they do from week to week,” Tisdel said. ”I think they’ll run the ball and try to keep their defense off the field.

Nevada is not at full strength physically. Starting linebacker Jason Burk will miss the game because of a cracked rib. Kicker Mike Phillips is out with a hip injury and will be replaced by freshman Ray Sanchez. Three other starters are questionable because of concussions.

Anthony Tenner, Idaho’s leading rusher with 581 yards, was limited to two carries against New Mexico State because of a sprained ankle. He is expected to play more extensively against Nevada.