Nevada football faces must win situation
FRESNO – There are no tomorrows for the University of Nevada football team. It’s win two straight or kiss a bowl game bye-bye.
The Wolf Pack (5-5, 3-3), winless in five road games this year, visits red-hot Fresno State (6-3, 3-3) tonight at 6:07 at Bulldog Stadium in the first of two must-win games.
Fresno State has won three straight games, outscoring the opposition 164-35 in that span, including a 70-14 demolition of Hawai’i and a 42-0 blanking of SMU, the same team that beat Nevada by 18 points last week.
The Bulldogs appeared to have shaken off the remnants of a mid-year three-game losing streak, and are well on their way to another successful November. Since Pat Hill took the helm in 1998, the Bulldogs are 23-6 in November.
“We’ve always been very consistent,” Hill said. “The players understand it’s very difficult to stay peaked the entire season. They do understand that games in November have a lot of meaning. Our success in November is due to consistency. We don’t change. We stay the course. Our players believe in the system. This is a young team. We only have four or five seniors that play (much). I think they are starting to bond together.
“They (Nevada) have been playing very well. I’ve known Chris Ault a long time, and I know he’ll have them well prepared. We need to keep working like we have been the last three weeks. We have to (continue to) take what we learn in the classroom out to the field.”
Fresno State, led by offensive tackle Logan Mankins, wrapped up a bowl bid with last week’s 70-14 win over Hawai’i. The Bulldogs, led by offensive tackle Logan Mankins, have a punishing running game. Led by Bryson Sumlin’s 220 yards, the Bulldogs ran for a school-record 503 yards against Hawai’i.
That could make for a long night for linebacker Jeremy Engstrom & Co., who are ranked 94th in the nation in rushing defense (194.30 per game) and 87th in scoring defense (30.10 points per game).
“They are the best team we’ve faced to date,” Ault said. “Obviously they are one of the top teams in the conference and playing well at home.
“Their run sets up the pass. They are a power football team. They have done a good job with the running game.”
Conversely, Ault was disappointed in the Wolf Pack’s running game last weekend against SMU. Nevada ran for less than 100 yards, and on paper, things may not be much better this week with senior Chance Kretschmer and B.J. Mitchell both doubtful with ankle injuries.
Ault said earlier in the week that Drew Robinson, who fumbled twice in the red zone against SMU, is expected to start. Talib Wise, who was switched from running back to wide receiver, should see some time in the backfield.
Nevada quarterback Jeff Rowe is coming off a career-high passing game against SMU. Rowe threw for 351 yards last week. Nevada is 16th in the nation passing, averaging 268.6 per game
Notes: Roderick Stallings is expected to start at corner in place of Paul Pratt (fractured foot), which means that Nick Hawthrone starts at safety… Matt Hines is out with a broken thumb, but P.J. Hoeper is back on the defensive line… Nevada has not been shut out in 209 straight games.