Nevada looks to protect its house
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Protecting Mackay Stadium is what Nevada football coach Chris Ault stressed when he returned to coaching in 2004, and the Wolf Pack have been extremely successful carrying out his wishes.
Nevada (3-3, 0-2) is 12-2 at Mackey since 2004, and rides a seven-game home winning streak into today’s homecoming game against San Jose State (4-1, 1-0), which has won four straight.
Kick-off is at 4:05 p.m., for the key Western Athletic Conference game, and Nevada officials expect a crowd of more than 20,000. Including today, Nevada will play four of its final six at home, and the team needs to split those game to become bowl eligible.
The Pack, happy to be home after four road games in six weeks, faces a red-hot and dangerous Spartan squad, one it barely squeaked by last year, 30-23.
San Jose State has won four straight games for the first time since 1987 when it won eight straight to end the regular season and finished 10-2. San Jose State has won six of its last seven, dating back to the final two games of the 2005 season.
“We’ve done a lot of significant things,” SJSU coach Dick Tomey said. “We’ve done a lot of things that San Jose State hasn’t been able to accomplish. They hadn’t won four in a row since 1987. We hadn’t beaten San Diego State since 1975.
“Our guys have enjoyed it. Some of them had hardly experienced any winning at all, especially successive wins. For them to stack some wins has been really good for them.”
Nevada certainly has noticed the difference.
“They are much better,” Ault said. “They are better on both sides of the ball. They play very hard.
“Their quarterback (Adam Tafralis) is one of the best quarterbacks. He’s much more confident and understands the system better. Their flex linebacker (Matt Castle) lines up about seven yards off the ball and goes from tackle to tackle. They play good defense.”
San Jose State’s defense, led by Castelo (62 tackles) and cornerback Dwight Lowery (7 interceptions) is ranked second in the conference, allowing 20 points a game, and the Spartans have allowed just four scores in the past 14 quarters.
Against Utah State and Stanford, both come-from-behind wins, the Spartans’ defense has pitched a shutout in the second half each time.
The offense, led by Tafralis, receivers John Broussard (29-370-2) and James Jones (38-459-4) and running backs Yonus Davis (67-385-3) and Patrick Perry (44-240-3), is extremely dangerous from anywhere on the field.
Jones is a triple-threat guy. He’s thrown two passes and also carried the ball six times for a 10.8 average. After a sub-par 2005 season, Jones has come on this season.
“It was a surprise to me,” Tomey said. “I thought after spring and camp I expected a great year and he didn’t. He re-doubled his efforts in the off-season, and he’s off to a great start. I’m pleased for him. He can run, throw and catch. He’s doing a lot of things to make a big difference.”
And, he’s on Nevada’s radar screen to be sure.
“He’s a heck of a receiver,” said Tim DeRuyter, Nevada’s co-defensive coordinator. “They find a lot of ways to get him the ball. We have to be able to contain him quickly after he catches (touches) the ball and stay away from big plays.”
Safety Nick Hawthrone said that Nevada must play disciplined defense because the Spartans like to use a lot of “gadget” plays.
Meanwhile, Tomey knows and respects Nevada immensely. The only team SJSU has played that resembles Nevada in talent is Washington.
“Our defense has played well the last four games, particularly the last 3 1/2,” Tomey said. “We’re really stepping up in terms of the offenses we’ll be playing. Nevada is a great offensive team.
“I’d like to continue to move the ball like we have, but we know we’re stepping up in competition. We haven’t played well enough all year to win this game.”
Nevada’s offense got a boost with the addition of veteran guard Barrett Reznick, who hasn’t played in three week. Also, quarterback Jeff Rowe, who suffered a hamstring injury against Hawai’i, is expectd to start. Robert Hubbard, who fumbled twice against Hawai’i, will start at running back. Freshman Brandon Fragger and Luke Lippincott also are expected to play.
Notes: Nevada has played two of the big three – Fresno State and Hawai’i, but San Jose State finishes with those three teams the last four weeks of the season. The Spartans need to win just two more games to become bowl eligible, and with Idaho, New Mexico State, Nevada and Louisiana Tech left, the chances are pretty good… Rowe has an opportunity to move up at least one spot in career passing yards (presently seventh at 7,070), career passing attempts (currently fifth at 1,003) and career passing completions (presently fifth at 609).
• Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281
SAN JOSE ST. (4-1, 1-0) AT NEVADA (3-3, 0-2
When: Today, 4:05 p.m.
Where: Mackay Stadium
TV: ABC (regional broadcast)
Radio: ESPN 630 AM, pre-game starts at 3 p.m.
The pick: Nevada 28, San Jose State 24