Nevada football to play Nicholls State | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada football to play Nicholls State

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – The Nevada defense is squarely behind the 8-ball when Division 1-AA Nicholls State invades Mackay Stadium for the first-ever meeting between the schools.

Kick-off is set for 6:05 p.m.

Nevada’s defense has had a rough two weeks. The Pack is ranked 112th in the country, allowing 44 points a game in setbacks against Nebraska and Northwestern.

And, to make matters worse, outside linebacker Ezra Butler isn’t expected to play because of a quadriceps injury suffered earlier this week.

Nicholls State runs the option, an offense that Nevada hasn’t seen since it beat Rice 35-10 back in 2004. It’s a tough offense to get prepared for in a short time.

“First off, I’m very disappointed in our defense (thus far),” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “They played hard last week. We still gave up way too many big plays last week. We had critical errors in the fourth quarter, mental not physical, and it ended up costing us the game.

“The option offense is a whole new thing. We only have three or four days to prepare for it. The best defense is a good offense. We’ve got to keep our defense off the field and force them to play catch-up.”

That was the key back in that Rice game. Nevada got up by a couple of scores, and Rice was forced to put the ball in the air, and that’s something the Owls didn’t do well back then. The NSU offense is led by fullback Broderick Cole, who has 29 carries for 125 yards. It doesn’t sound like much, but NSU coach Jay Thomas has played a lot of running backs in the first two weeks, and plans to do the same today. Quarterback Vin Montgomery has completed 50 percent of his passes for 249 yards and a score.

“I feel a lot better about it (quarterback spot),” Thomas said. “He’s got a complete game (against Rice) under his belt. I’m encouraged by his confidence level. He’s done a good job of leading the offense.”

Nicholls State is 2-0 , and no doubt the 18th-ranked Colonels are excited about the chance to knock off another Division 1-A team.

“It’s something (playing 1-A teams) that we have to do,” Thomas said. “The trip up there is something we have to overcome first. Obviously this is a tough opponent for us at this point in our schedule. We’re going to use it to get better and try to stay healthy during the game.

“It’s a tough place to go into. They are a very physical team, and their pistol offense is something we haven’t seen a whole lot of. It will be a challenge for our defense. Our offense faces a very physical defense. They are very physical in the box.”

The Nevada offense took big strides last week when it gained 540 yards against Northwestern. However, the Pack scored just seven points in the second half.

“It was great to see us move the ball and get 500 yards,” said Nevada quarterback Nick Graziano, who threw for 337 yards last week. “To see that and us losing, it’s pretty tough to swallow.

“Each game I feel more confident, comfortable. This week we want to get into the win column.”

Nevada also got a boost from running back Luke Lippincott, who ran for 140 yards last week.

“Luke is as physical as you want a back to be,” Ault said. “I thought he ran as hard as any back we’ve had here. That’s good to see. We need other backs to establish themselves.”

The Colonels’ defense has several Division 1-A bounce-back transfers, including Ladarius Webb from Southern Mississippi. Webb intercepted three passes last week while earning Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors. Dominique Cooper (LSU), Collin Moore (University of South Florida) and Lance Moore (Southern Mississippi) are former 1-A players.

The Colonels’ linebacking corp is brand new, thus going through some growing pains.

“We’re playing a lot of guys there,” Thomas said. “It’s hit and miss. They are getting better with each game. They are learning how to fit into the scheme.”

NOTES: Nicholls State is the first 1-AA team that Nevada has played since it beat Sacramento State 59-7 back in 2004 … Graziano’s 337 yards were the most by a Nevada quarterback since Jeff Rowe threw for 351 yards against SMU in 2004 … Nevada is 15-3 at home since Ault returned to the sidelines … After a bye next Saturday (Sept. 22), the Pack hosts UNLV (Sept. 29) and Fresno State (Sept. 6). Both of those game start at 1 p.m. … Tickets will be available today starting at 10 a.m. at either the Lawlor Event Center box office or ticket booths in the northeast and northwest corners of the stadium.

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281

NEVADA (0-2) vs. NICHOLLS STATE (2-0)

When: Tonight, 6:05 p.m

Where: Mackay Stadium

TV: ESPN Regional (Pay-per-view)

Radio: 630AM, pre-game at 5 p.m.

The line: None