Nevada eyeing bowl game
Nevada Appeal Sports Editor
Simply put, Nevada controls its own destiny. Win and move on to a fourth consecutive bowl appearance. Lose and hope for a lot of help to continue the 2008 season.
That’s the scenario as Nevada (6-5, 4-3) visits Louisiana Tech (7-4, 5-2) today (11:30 a.m./ESPN Game Plan PPV) in the regular-season finale at Joe Aillet Field.
Nevada is coming off a heartbreaking 41-34 loss to undefeated Boise State, while Tech rallied for a 35-31 win over New Mexico State which made it bowl eligibe for the first time since 2001.
“There won’t be a problem getting these guys motivated,” senior center Dominic Green said. “They know what’s on the line.”
A year ago, these teams met in the final regular-season game with the winner going to a bowl and the loser staying home. Nevada won 49-10 and received an invitation to the New Mexico Bowl.
Nevada has dominated the Bulldogs the last three years, winning 47-27, 42-0 and 49-10. That fact hasn’t been lost on Tech coach Derek Dooley, son of former Georgia coach Vince Dooley.
“I don’t ever do the revenge thing,” Dooley said. “We should be motivated to play another WAC team no matter what happened the previous year. I didn’t feel like we competed. If we get revenge, I’d like to get revenge on ourselves.
“What a phenomenal football team (Nevada is). Their quarterback is phenomenal and the offense is as good as anybody in the country. Their defense is very disruptive, It starts with the two ends (Kevin Basped and Dontay Moch). Nobody in the league has blocked them. They fly to the ball and do a great job of tackling.”
No doubt Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick is first and foremost on Dooley’s mind. Kaepernick was held to 70 yards rushing and 385 total yards. In the last two weeks, San Jose State and Boise State involved their safeties more in an effort to take away the read option play that has been so successful for Kaepernick. It will be interesting to see if Tech tries to employ the same strategy.
“You take every game,” Dooley said. “I don’t think you stop their offense. They are too explosive. Their quarterback is a perfect fit for what they’re doing. Even when you have things drawn up, he can run around you. We have to mix it up, play hard and do a great job of tackling.”
If Nevada’s run game is slowed dow by Tech, which plays the run well, Kaepernick will be looking to get back on the right track throwing the ball. He was a less-than-impressive 19 for 50 fo 241 yards last week and had a rough outing the week before against San Jose State.
If Tech commits more people to the run, Kaepernick should be able to find Marko Mitchell, Mike McCoy or Chris Wellington. The Pack star said he’s been spending extra time working on mechanics this week.
“They have a very sound defense,” Nevada coach Chris Aut said. “They do a nice job. They have been very good against the run.”
Nevada’s defense played hard against Boise State, but allowed a season-high 414 yards by Kellen Moore. The unit did intercept three passes, two of which were returned for scores by Jerome Johnson and Josh Mauga.
The Pack defense will be facing the polar opposite of Boise State. The Bulldogs run the ball and they run it well with Daniel Porter (1,036 yards) and Patrick Jackson (565). Both have scored seven touchdowns.
“They are a very good football team,” Ault said. “They are averaging 38 points in their last four games. They are sound and from what I’ve heard have the best running back in the conference (Porter) and the best offensive line. We will have our hands full. They are good at what they are doing with Porter.”
Dooley gushed when talking about his two backs.
“Our running game starts with Porter,” Dooley said. “He’s over 1,000 yards already. Patrick has come on and played well. Patrick struggled early. Patrick has done a good job of catching the ball coming out of the backfield. When both guys are going well we’re a good offense.”
The key for Nevada is to force Louisiana Tech into third and long situations as much as possible. Tech averages only 147 yards per game passing which ranks 107th in the NCAA.
Tech’s sophomore quarterback Ross Jenkins has completed more than 50 percent of his passes, but for only seven TDs. The Bulldogs have been unable to develop a consistent passing game this year, though Jenkins has led Tech to five wins in its last six games.