Nevada must beat Utah State
Appeal Sports Writer
One team will break a losing streak and one team will extend a losing streak when Nevada (2-4, 0-2) visits Utah State (0-6, 0-2) today.
Kickoff is set for noon (ESPN Radio 630 AM, KAME-TV) at Romney Stadium in Logan, Utah.
To say this is a huge game for the Wolf Pack is an understatement. This is the start of six huge games. Nevada needs four wins to reach bowl-eligible status and five to “really” have a shot at a bowl game, and even then it might not be enough.
Nevada should be favored in four or five of its last six games. It’s a lot of pressure to be sure. This is a Nevada team that, to coin a cliche, has to take things one week at a time. From this point on, all games are of equal importance.
“This is a dangerous game,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said earlier this week. “I know it’s going to be a tough game.”
Certainly Utah State, coming off a bye week, has a bit of an advantage. The Aggies, who may be playing to save coach Brent Guy’s job, have had a couple of weeks to study the new-look Wolf Pack with redshirt freshman Colink Kaepernick under center.
“We have to refocus and get ourselves organized,” Ault said. “We have six games left. There has been a lot of adversity we’ve had to play through.
“We have to play better defense. The defense played hard against Boise; there was better effort against a good offensive football team. We’re still making an awful lot of mistakes. There is no excuse for missed tackles or not being aligned the right way.”
Utah State comes in with an offense that averages 18.7 points and only 260 yards a game compared to 36.3 and 443.5, respectively, for the Aggies’ opponents.
“They spread you out and play double tight end (a lot),” said Ken Wilson, Nevada’s defensive coordinator. “There are aspects of what they do offensively that we’ve already seen. They run the read zone play. Their quarterback (Leon Jackson) is probably the best ball carrier in terms of average. If anything, he (Jackson) is like the quarterback from Vegas.”
Actually, Jackson, because of sacks, is averaging only 2.7 an attempt, though he is only three yards behind Derrvin Speight. Running backs Speight (240 yards, 3.6 average) and Curtis Marsh (149 yards, 3.4 average) will rotate in the backfield. In most instances, Utah State will use a one-back set. Marsh is coming off an ankle injury that forced him to miss two games.
“In certain formations we’ll use them both (Marsh and Speight),” Guy said. “We use the fullback a little more than the two running backs together. Using Marsh and Speight certainly creates different opportunities.
“Leon is not carrying the ball as much as he did two years ago when he was our leading rusher. He was banged up a lot then.”
Guy said the Aggies’ red-zone effectiveness has left a lot to be desired. In 20 attempts, Utah State has scored just eight touchdowns and had to settle for field goals eight other times.
“Instead of touchdowns, we’ve had to settle for three points or in a couple of instances, no points. It makes a difference at the end of the game.”
Guy and his coaching staff got a rude awakening watching tapes of the Pack’s last two games against Fresno State and Boise State. They saw what a quarterback who is dangerous with his arm and feet can do to a defense.
Kaepernick has completed 36 of 68 for 638 yards and seven scores, and he’s run for 262 yards and three scores, including 177 last week against the vaunted Boise State defense.
“It’s going to be quite a challenge,” Guy said. “The last two years they had a guy (Jeff Rowe) who could run when he needed to. Tough to defend that with a guy running the read zone.
“It took a tremendous amount of courage for a guy who never started a game to come into that environment and do so well. The running backs and offensive line played very well, too.”
What impressed Guy was Kaepernick’s ability to get around the edge and get into the open field. Guy said a lot of Utah State’s bye-week work was spent on tackling in the open field. Obviously, Guy hopes to keep Kaepernick better contained inside the pocket than Boise State did.
“Those (long) runs were planned plays,” Ault said. “We knew he was capable of this. That’s why we recruited him.”
Running back Luke Lippincott is coming off a career-best 187-yard, four-touchdown effort behind great blocking by Dominic Green, Charles Manu, Greg Hall, Alonzo Durham and John Bender. Brandon Fragger (7 for 32) also ran hard in limited attempts.
• Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281
NEVADA (2-4, 0-2) AT UTAH STATE (0-6, 0-2)
When: Today/ Noon
Where: Romney Stadium (synthetic turf)
Radio: 630 AM, pre-game show at 11 a.m.
The line: Nevada by 7