Nevada has been strong in the gold zone | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada has been strong in the gold zone

RENO – In football vernacular, the red zone is referred to as the area from the opponents’ 20-yard-line on in.

Not to Nevada football coach Chris Ault. He refers to it as the gold zone for obvious reasons.

And, the veteran coach has been pleased with his team’s performance in the gold zone this year. Through four games, the Wolf Pack has converted nine of its 11 opportunities for an average of 81.8, and six of those scores have been touchdowns.

“Yeah, I’ve been pleased,” Ault said prior to Tuesday’s workout. “Of course you always want to score touchdowns (every times), but points are points. We tell the kids if we’re in the gold zone four times, we should score four times.

“I don’t know yet how we compare. It’s still early, and we’ve only played four games. It’s all about execution. The quarterback has to manage that.”

Young Nick Graziano has done a solid job when he’s near the opponents’ goal line. Against UNLV, Nevada converted 2 of 3 opportunities. His only blemish came when Graziano, facing a third-and-eight from the UNLV 14, had his pass intercepted by Quinton Pointer.

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Tight end Adam Bishop has been one of Graziano’s favorite targets in the gold zone in the last three weeks. Of his five scores in that span, three have been in the gold zone.

“It hasn’t been planned,” Ault said. “We’re not picking him out. It’s just the read Nick has made based on the play that has been called.”

Another thing that has skewed the gold zone numbers somewhat is the amount of big scoring plays that Nevada has executed thus far.

Against UNLV, Graziano had a 90-yard TD pass to Mike McCoy and a game-winning 43-yarder to Kyle Sammons. Against Nicholls State, Graziano fired a 52-yard TD pass to Arthur King Jr. and a 49-yard scoring toss to Marko Mitchell.

And, Brett Jaekle kicked a career-best 50-yarder against UNLV, capping a drive where the Pack never reached the gold zone.

Though Ault has been happy, stat-wise the Pack is a little behind the pace set in the first three years of the Ault regime.

In 2004, Nevada converted 47 of its 60 opportunites in the gold zone, including 36 touchdowns. In 2005, Nevada converted 49 of 62 chances, including 38 touchdowns. In 2006, Nevada was successful on 44 of 58 gold-zone chances, including 38 touchdowns.

After a rough start against Nebraska where the offense failed to score a touchdown, the Pack is averaging 36 points a game in its last three contests, and showing definite signs of improvement.

Notes: The ticket count hasn’t quite reached 20,000 for Saturday’s Homecoming game against Fresno State. Several players commented favorably on the fans’ support of the team last week against UNLV, remarking they would love another big crowd … Both Ezra Butler and Matt Hines said they enjoyed wearing the silver jerseys that Ault unveiled on Saturday … Ault said that cornerback Jon Amaya (knee) and Arthur King (shoulder, concussion) would miss this week’s game.

•Contact DarrellMoody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281