It is a code red for nevada |

It is a code red for nevada

Appeal Sports Writer

A sea of red.

That’s what the Nevada football players will see when they run onto the Memorial Stadium turf to open the 2007 season at 19th-ranked Nebraska.

Kick-off is set for 12:30 p.m., and a crowd of 85,000 is expected for the first-ever meeting between the schools, and the biggest game in Nevada’s history. The game will be televised on a regional basis by ABC.

“The kids are excited to be playing a storied program like Nebraska,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “The great thing about playing Nebraska is that you don’t have to explain you are playing Nebraska. Their name speaks for itself. We’ve talked about the atmosphere already and the wonderful opportunity to play one of the storied programs in the country.

“This is one of the beauties of Nebraska football – the homefield advantage they get. There is nothing in a bottle that helps you deal with that. So our interest is keeping our focus on us. We can’t worry about it. We want to do well and be competitive. We are playing a team that is deserving of a top ranking in the country.”

The players share Ault’s excitement for the game.

“It’s real exciting,” Nevada sophomore quarterback Nick Graziano said. “We need to get off to a good start and see where it takes us.”

With a partisan crowd, a quick Nevada start would calm the adoring Cornhusker throng somewhat. Make no mistake, this is still a monumental task for a Nevada squad which has 66 freshmen or sophomores on its roster.

Graziano is definitely on the hot seat. The sophomore saw limited action last year as a redshirt freshman, and this will be his first collegiate start. Ault said earlier this week that back-up Colin Kaepernick also will see action, too.

Ault said that Nebraska has made nice progress since Bill Callahan’s first season when the option was scrapped and the West Coast offense was inserted. Nebraska went 5-6 that year.

“They are so much more multiple,” Ault said. “They are still a power football team so they are going to line up and you have to stop the run. They have so many more packages and they do so many things out of their packages. You have to be disciplined, defensively speaking.”

The Huskers have a new quarterback in Sam Keller, a senior transfer from Arizona State, who succeeds Zac Taylor. Keller threw for more then 3,000 yards in three years at Arizona State.

“He (Keller) is a veteran quarterback who has great experience,” Ault said. “He is in a fine offensive scheme that fits him well. He has seen a lot of defenses and there is nothing that we can throw at him that will surprise him.”

Callahan refused to get into a discussion comparing Taylor and Keller. He pointed out that this is Keller’s first game as a Cornhusker.

Keller will face a defense without star linebacker Ezra Butler, who was suspended for the opener for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Ken Wilson said the Pack will keep the same attacking scheme, but use multiple players to fill Butler’s role. Look for Kevin Basped, Nick Fuhr and Dontay Moch to get more playing time.

Jon Amaya also will be making his first start at cornerback after playing free safety last season. No doubt he’ll get tested plenty by Keller & Co.

Cody Glenn, Quentin Castille, Roy Helu and Marlon Lucky are the top I-backs for the Huskers, who are expected to challenge for the Big 12 North title with Missouri. Both Glenn and Lucky have been hampered by injuries, but Callahan expects both to play.

“Marlon (concussion) is back and he has been back for some time,” Callahan said. “So Marlon is cleared. He has been at practice. He is ready to roll.” Glenn was cleared earlier this week.

Normally, the Huskers open the season with a Division 1-AA opponent (now known as Football Championship Subdivision). This game could prove a little more stringent than past Nebraska openers. Much will depend on how Nevada players handle the atmosphere.

“We’re anxious and eager to get going for the home opener, and we’re playing against a good opponent that we have a lot of respect for,” Callahan said. “Reno is the type of team that has had considerable amount of success in the past. It is a team that we have great respect for. As you look at them historically and you look at the success they have had and the opponents they have played, they do deserve that attention and respect.

“I just go back recently to their bowl game against Miami (21-20 loss), and as I was visiting with one of the guys in the media pool I was telling him that if you look at their success in that particular game you know it’s impressive. You look at the way Reno matched up against Miami, it’s awfully impressive.”


When: Today: 12:30

Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska

TV: ABC regional telecast

Radio: ESPN Radio 630 AM, pre-game at 11:30 a.m.

The line: Nebraska by 21