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Nevada hopes to break two-year bowl skid

Darrell Moody

BY DARRELL MOODY

Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

Nevada hopes to break a two-year bowl losing streak when it battles Maryland

today in the annual Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl.

Kick-off is set for 1:30 p.m. at Bronco Stadium in Boise. The game will be

televised nationally by ESPN.

Nevada lost 21-20 to Miami in 2006 in Boise when it was the MPC Computers

Bowl and were blanked 23-0 by New Mexico at last year’s New Mexico Bowl.

Nevada, 7-5, enters today’s game having won three of its last four games,

including a come-from-behind win over Louisiana Tech. The only blemish in

that span was a 41-34 loss to Boise State.

The Wolf Pack enters the game averaging 510.6 per game and giving up 395.6.

Maryland, meanwhile, averages 341.9 on offense and gives up 355.0 a game on

defense.

Nevada’s offense is led by Colin Kaepernick, who passed for 2,479 yards and

19 scores while running for 1,115 yards and 16 scores. All told, Kaepernick

averages nearly 300 yards a game total offense. Vai Taua, thanks to the

offensive line of Dominic Green, John Bender, Mike Gallett, Alonzo Durham,

Brad Eskew and Ken Ackerman enters the game with 1,420 yards rushing and 14

scores. Nevada averaged 291 yards a game rushing this season.

It’s that explosiveness that has Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen concerned.

“Nevada is a very good football team,” Friedgen said. “Offensively speaking,

and I hate to say this, I like what they do on offense. They are very

difficult to defend.

“(Colin) Kaepernick is a special guy who runs and throws. Their running back

(Vai Taua) is very impressive. He’s a strong, physical runner. I can see why

they score a lot of points. I’m impressed with their whole defense. They

have two great cornerbacks and two great pass-rusher on the outside (Dontay

Moch and Kevin Basped).”

Nevada’s bread and butter play this year has been the option, but San Jose

State and Boise State did a good of taking away the running ability of

Kaepernick. It will be interesting to see what Maryland, primarily a zone

team, can do with the option play.

“We’ll make the adjustments we have to make ,”said defensive lineman Jeremy

Navarre. “Everyone has to play a gap and play their responsibility.”

Friedgen said what makes the pistol offense hard to stop is that he hasn’t

seen it before. He has a whole season’s tape to look at, but no doubt he

will pay close attention to the Boise State and SJSU films.

Nevada coach Chris Ault compared Maryland’s physical defense defense with

Missouri. Jeremy Navarre, the Terps’ senior defensive lineman, anchors the

unit along with linebackers Dave Philistin, Alex Wujciak and Moise Fokou.

“Maryland’s defense is as physical as Missouri,” Ault said. “I’m very

familiar with him (Navarre). He’s an exceptional player, at least in our

opinion. They feed off his emotion.”

“They are never out of alignment,” Kaepernick said of the Terps’ defense.

“They are in position to make plays. When plays come their way, they make

them. I’m impressed with how hard and how disciplined they play.”

Maryland’s offense is led by quarterback Chris Turner, who started 10 of 12

games this season. Turner completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,318 yards

and 11 scores. Da’Rel Scott gained 959 yards rushing and Darrius Heyward-Bey

rushed for 208 yards and caught a team-leading 38 passes for 561 yards and

five scores.

“Chris has had a very solid year,” Friedgen said. “He’s a smart guy. he

makes plays when he has to make them. Those are his strengths.”

Ault remembers Turner from the recruiting trail. Turner played at Chaminade

High in Southern California.

“I like him,” Ault said. “He fits their system very well. He manages the

offense well. He executs, and that’s what you look for in the offense. He’s

very poised.”

Maryland averages 161.4 rushing. Nevada gives up less than 75 a game

rushing. Nevada discouraged Boise State from running, and it will be

interesting to see if it can do the same thing to Maryland.

“They are good against the run for a reason,” Turner said. ŒWe know we have

to pass the ball, and hopefully that opens up the run.”