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Nevada to open WAC play at Idaho

Darrell Moody
Appeal Sports Writer

After posting a .500 record in its nonconference schedule, Nevada opens its Western Athletic Conference schedule today against the University of Idaho.

Kick-off is set for 2:07 p.m. (KAME/ESPN Radio 630AM) at the Kibbie Dome. Nevada beat Idaho 45-7 during the 2006 season.

“Anytime conference starts things change dramatically,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said earlier this week. “Last week was so crucial for us. To play that way and beat them (UNLV).

“We’re not there yet. Our defense has to get better, and the offense has to continue to roll.”

Nevada’s defense against UNLV was strong in the second half. Ault is still searching for consistency; four quarters of solid defense instead of two.

The Pack does lead the WAC in rush defense at 78.8 per game which ranks 14th nationally. That stat is a bit deceiving because the Pack played Missouri and Texas Tech, teams that rely on the pass to move the ball.

Idaho is a team that has struggled offensively in losses to Arizona (70-0), Utah State (42-17) and San Diego State (45-17). Part of the reason for that is the health of running back Deonte Jackson, who is averaging just 60 yards a game after rushing for more than 1,000 last season. Jackson has been bothered by back issues, and the Vandals’ coaching staff has had to monitor him daily.

Jackson carried only five times for 13 yards against San Diego State. Idaho got good production from Troy Vital and Princeton McCarty, who rushed for 46 and 82 yards, respectively.

Idaho coach Robb Akey said Jackson is questionable.

“It’s something we’ve monitored ever since two-a-days,” Akey said about Jackson. “McCarty and Vital did good things for us. They are starting to come around a little bit. Troy got his first college touchdown.”

Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle has a rating of 165 through five games. He has completed 54 percent of his passes for 825 yards and seven scores. His favorite receiver is Eddie Williams, who has 26 catches for 358 yards.

“They have an active front,” Akey said of Nevada. “They fly around and get after it.”

Akey is concerned about his defense which gave up four plays that led to more than 200 yards total offense in the SDSU loss. His offense, which may be without starting strong safety Shiloh Keo, will be hard-pressed to stop a Nevada offense led by sophomore quarterback Colin Kaepernick, running back Vai Taua and wide receiver Marko Mitchell.

Kaepernick accounted for more than 400 yards total offense in the 49-27 win over UNLV last week, and Taua continues to be a solid replacement for Luke Lippincott.

“He looks taller and faster (than last year),” said Akey about Kaerpernick. “He is going to make some big plays because he’s a good player. We have to keep it from being too many big plays. We have to be solid in our assignments. We will have people assigned to him (Kaepernick). He’s playing with great confidence now.”

Ault has been pleased with Taua’s progress.

“I think Vai has done a fantastic job,” Ault said. “He gets better and better each week. I’m pleased with his pass blocking.”

NEVADA (2-2, 0-0) AT IDAHO (1-4, 0-1)

When: Today, 2:07 p.m.

Where: Kibbie Dome, Moscow (RealGrass Pro, 16,000)

TV/Radio: KAME/ESPN Radio 630AM, pregame at 1 p.m.

Coaches: Idaho’s Robb Akey is 2-15 in his 2nd season; Nevada’s Chris Ault is 193-87-1

Moody’s prediction: Nevada 35, Idaho 17