Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack after a 52-31
For the Nevada Appeal
Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack after a 52-31 victory over the California Golden Bears on Friday night at Mackay Stadium . . .
If Colin Kaepernick was playing for the team on the other sideline Friday night he’d now be getting serious Heisman Trophy consideration. The Pack quarterback has transformed himself from a great college quarterback into a phenomenal one this year. He was 10-of-15 for 181 yards and two touchdowns through the air against Cal and also ran for 148 yards and three touchdowns. He is now less than 100 yards short of David Neill’s school record for total yards. Kaepernick is having a tremendous year, throwing for 728 yards and six touchdowns (57-of-81, 70% )and running for 369 yards and seven scores in three games. He’s on pace for a 3,000 yards through the air and 1,600 yards on the ground this year.
RUNNING BACK: A
Vai Taua struggled early in the game on the ground with just 21 yards on his first nine carries. The senior, though, dominated the Bears the rest of the game, finishing with 151 yards on 25 carries. It was Taua’s 54-yard touchdown run that sealed the victory with 7:43 to play, giving the Pack a 45-24 lead. He also had 37 yards on six carries on the Pack’s second scoring drive and he went 10 yards down to the 3-yard line on the third scoring drive.
Rishard Matthews and Tray Session hauled in touchdown passes as the Pack only used it’s passing game to complement its running attack. Two of Session’s three catches came on the first drive and Matthews actually fumbled the ball into the end zone on his TD. Brandon Wimberly caught just two passes and now has just eight catches this year. TIght end Virgil Green, a huge factor in the first two games, was an afterthought against Cal with two catches for 35 yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A+
The Pack offensive line — center Jeff Meads, tackles Steve Haley, Jose Acuna and guards John Bender, Chris Barker — dominated Cal. The offensive lne has yet to allow a sack all season (86 passing attempts). The Wolf Pack ran for 316 yards on 49 carries. This Pack offensive line, despite the loss of two starters this year, has been the best in the country for two years in a row.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B
Dontay Moch had a big sack, Brett Roy had four tackles and Ryan Coulson had five. Cal’s Shane Vereen, though, ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns.
James-Michael Johnson had another nice game with seven tackles and a sack. And he also broke up a key pass. Brandon Marshall had five tackles. Kevin Grimes, who is really a linebacker in a safety’s body, had six tackles. But did we mention that Cal’s Shane Vereen had 198 yards and three touchdowns?
The numbers are not all that impressive — Cal quarterback Kevin Riley completed 23 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown. But forget the numbers. This was the best the Pack secondary has played in recent memory. Riley had trouble finding open receivers all night long. Cornerback Doyle Miller had an outstanding game, intercepting a pass and knocking one away. Isiah Frey led the team with eight tackles, forced a fumble and also batted away a pass. Duke Williams had seven tackles and an interception. Marlon Johnson had the play of the game with a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Anthony Martinez continues to play like he is a 10-year NFL veteran. The redshirt freshman from McQueen High booted a field goal (after three Cal timeouts) and seven extra points to remain perfect on the year on 24 kicks (20 PAT’s, four field goals). The Pack also held Cal to just 18 yards on each of its five kickoff returns. Ricky Drake had three touchbacks on his nine kickoffs.
The Pack seemed perfectly prepared for everything the Cal offense and defense threw at them. Cal QB Kevin Rikey never seemed to be comfortable all night long while the Cal defense never seemed to figure out where Kaepernick was going. The Pack’s run-heavy mix (49 runs, 15 passes) also seem to be the perfect plan against this Cal defense which was missing linebacker Mike Mohammed. The Wolf Pack secondary also always seemed to know where the Cal receivers were headed — and where Riley wanted to throw the ball.