Nevada football to face Louisiana Tech
Appeal Sports Writer
Nevada’s hard-charging football team puts its four-game Western Athletic Conference win streak on the line tonight when it visits Louisiana Tech.
Kickoff is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. at Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston, La.
In the past four games, Nevada (7-3, 4-2) has outscored its opponents 158-35. The 35 points allowed means the defense has been top notch. Nevada is coming off a 42-0 shutout of Utah State, and five times this season the Pack have held an opponent to 10 or less points.
Louisiana Tech (3-7, 1-4) has been decimated by injuries on the defensive side of the ball. In its last four games, Tech has allowed 171 points.
However, the last time the teams played in Ruston, Tech walked away with a 38-21 win before a national television audience, spoiling coach Chris Ault’s return to the sidelines.
“They are very capable of moving the ball,” Ault said. “They play a multiple defense. Last year they played well against us.”
Ault got a little good news earlier this week when senior running back Robert Hubbard returned to practice and got much-needed reps. He left the Utah State game in the first half and didn’t return.
Ault said he’s unsure whether Hubbard or Luke Lippincott, who is coming off two good games, will start today. Redshirt freshman Mike Kanellis currently sits at No. 3 on the depth chart. True freshman Brandon Fragger is out for the season with a shoulder injury, which may require surgery.
Because of its trip to Hawai’i last week, Tech coach Jack Bicknell said Monday morning that he was a little behind in preparation, but liked what he’d seen of the Wolf Pack thus far.
“They are a good team,” Bicknell said. “Nevada is extremely good on both sides of the ball. It’s surprising to me that they’ve lost as many times as they have. I think they are up there with all the other teams in the country.
“We’ve always had good games. Even when Nevada wasn’t up there near the top, they have always had good players. We have had some unbelievable games that could have gone either way. Nevada has always had very good football players.”
The key tonight will be whether Tech’s banged-up defense, which allows 474 yards a game (224 rushing, 250 passing), can hang with Nevada’s ball-control offense. It’s hard to stop a team like Nevada when a team is at full strength, but much more difficult with the plethora of injures Tech has suffered.
“I hate talking about it,” Bicknell said. “I don’t know what to tell you. Our defense is banged up. It’s the most unbelievable year.”
Tech has started 10 different players in the secondary this year – five cornerbacks and five safeties. Tech has started four different defensive lineups in the last five games.
Defensive ends Jared Parten and Thad Williams have missed the entire season. Nose tackle Josh Muse, safety Antonio Baker, cornerback Weldon Brown, linebacker Anthony Crosby, safety Dez Abrams, running back Patrick Jackson, wide receiver/kick returner Chris Riser and offensive lineman Bill Jones have all missed multiple games.
There have been other players who have quit or been kicked off the team. Recently, Bicknell dismissed Freddie Franklin from the squad after a three-game suspension.
Offensively, the Bulldogs rank third in passing offense, fifth in rushing offense and sixth overall. Tech averages 336 yards a game, but is only scoring 19.2 points per game.
“We’ve got to score some points and make some more plays,” Bicknell said. “The few games we’ve moved the ball well, we’ve won.”
Bicknell, besides coaching Xs and Os, must do a lot of off-field work with his team’s state of mind.
“The big thing is not to lose confidence,” Bicknell said. “I think this team has great character. You don’t want to see ‘here we go again’ if things start to go wrong out there. I think that happend a little bit in Hawai’i.”
NEVADA (7-3, 4-2) at LA. TECH (3-7, 1-4)
When: Tonight, 5 p.m.
Where: Joe Aillet Stadium
TV: www,wactv.com, cost is $7.95
Radio: ESPN Radio, 6:30 AM
The pick: Nevada 30, Louisiana Tech 14