Nevada offensive line needs to improve | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada offensive line needs to improve

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – It isn’t a secret that Nevada’s offensive performance last week against Nebraska, especially that of the offensive line, was sub-par.

Nevada managed just 177 yards total offense, running off a meager 51 offensive plays compared to 96 for the Cornhuskers and gaining only 77 yards on the ground.

The Pack’s young, untested front line, which has two new starters this year, was no match for the Huskers’ defensive front.

“We (the offensive line) definitely feel the pressure to step up our game,” said first-year starting tackle Alonzo Durham prior to Tuesday’s practice. “We definitely want to come back and have a good game Saturday.

“It takes a while (to mesh together as a unit). We’re trying to do it quickly. We have young quarterbacks (Nick Graziano and Colin Kaepernick). They aren’t as experienced as Jeff (Rowe) was. We really have to step up and do a better job of protecting.”

Durham & Co., who will be playing without starting center Dominic Green for the second straight game, will be going up against a big, physical Northwestern front, which averages 280 pounds a man. The group keyed the 27-0 shutout of Northeastern last weekend.

Josh Catapano, Green’s former teammate at Jesuit High in Carmichael, Calif. is holding down the job until Green returns.

“Northwestern has a very physical defense,” Durham said.

“They are a typical Big 10 team,” Nevada head coach Chris Ault said. “They are physical and they are strong. They (Northwestern) have a better quarterback (C.J. Bacher) than Nebraska.”

TAUA COMING ON

One of the bright spots in the Nebraska loss was the play of redshirt freshman running back Vai Taua, a 5-foot-10 235-pounder from Lompoc, Calif.

Taua carried three times for 24 yards, and looked the best among the four running backs that Ault played last Saturday.

Taua hopes his performance might get him a few more first-team reps this week and more than nine snaps which he got against the Cornhuskers.

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Taua said after Tuesday’s practice. “It (the game on Saturday) was a lot faster than high school.”

Taua is a true North-South runner, which is what Ault likes about him. Taua isn’t shifty, but he’s tough to bring down in the open field. Pity the poor cornerback or safety who tries to bring him down in 1-on-1 situations.

“He did a good job,” said Jim Mastro, Nevada’s running backs coach and recruiting coordinator. “We like him a lot. He played well on offense and played well on special teams.

“We’ll see (if he gets more snaps). Luke (Lippincott) and Brandon (Fragger) are still the workhorses. I have no problem putting him in the game, though.”

Lippincott carried four times for minus-5 yards and Fragger carried seven times for 17 yards.

GETTING HEALTHY

Defensive end Erics Clark (knee) should be 100 percent this week, and safety Sergio Villasenor also returns. Safety Michael Samples missed part of the game with an unspecified injury, but did practice Monday and Tuesday.

Freshman quarterback Ryan Howard collided with Dantay Moch, and left the practice session with a sprained ankle.

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