Nevada set to face Utah State | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada set to face Utah State

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

It’s been a long time since a Nevada football team won seven games in a season – eight years to be exact.

The Wolf Pack (6-3, 5-1) have an opportunity to get to seven wins today when they travel to Logan, Utah to face struggling Utah State (2-7, 1-5). Kickoff is set for 12:05 p.m. (KREN-TV) at Romney Stadium.

Even though the Pack are bowl eligible, quarterback Jeff Rowe said the team doesn’t want to stop there.

“There’s a little buzz (about a bowl game),” Rowe said. “This is a big one for us. We want to win out. It would be pretty hard not to get in a bowl game if we go 8-3.”

The Pack, regardless of the outcome of the last two games, will have their5 first winning season since 1998.

“More important (than a bowl game) for us is this is the first time in six years this has been a winning program,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “It’s especially big for the seniors who have gone through an awful lot.”

All that aside, the Wolf Pack won’t take Utah State lightly even though the Aggies have struggled in their first season in the WAC.

And, Utah State coach Brent Guy likes what he sees of the Wolf Pack on tape.

“Obviously they are playing very well,” Guy said. “They are confident in what they do. Obviously they are pretty balanced. They run the football effectively and can throw it. Defensively they run that odd three-man front scheme where they give you lots of different looks.

“I think more than anything they are playing with confidence. They have won at home and on the road (4-1 home, 2-2 road). They have what we want. They are winning and know what they have to do to win. They are not last in the league in anything; they are right in the middle in almost any category you look. They are doing a lot of the little things well.”

Indeed. Even Ault said he’s noticed a little swagger and a little more bounce in the steps of his players in recent days. Conversely, it’s been difficult for Guy to keep up the morale of his players.

“It’s been very tough,” Guy said on Monday. “You have to keep resetting goals and giving guys something to play for and tell them to keep working hard. Telling them that fighting through those things and working hard is part of football, but also is a lesson in life that you have to learn.

“It’s not always going to be easy at times and you’re going to have stretches when you lose five in a row sometimes in life. How you respond is the most important part of it. I asked them all to look in your heart and look in the mirror and see what is there. This is where you find out what you and the team are made of. I haven’t sensed guys not playing hard, it is that we don’t play smart.”

The big question mark for the Aggies is the health of quarterback Leon Jackson III, who suffered an injury to his left (throwing) shoulder against Hawai’i. Jackson’s status is still up in the air.

Freshman Jerod Walker had a 46-yard TD run against Hawai’i and finished the game with 103 yards rushing.

“There doesn’t seem to be much change offensively (when Walker is in),” Ault said. “They recruit to their system.”

Between Jackson III and Walker, quarterbacks have led the team in rushing most of the games thus far. Guy has bemoaned the fact that none of his running backs have stepped up.

Meanwhile, Nevada has gotten great production from B.J. Mitchell, who has five 100-yard games thus far and has rushed for 1,011 yards and 10 scores. Backup Robert Hubbard has rushed for 397 yards and four scores. Hubbard’s success has enabled the Pack to rest Mitchell and keep him fresh.

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281