Nevada tries to keep bowl hopes alive
Appeal Sports Writer
One team is playing for pride. The other is playing to keep its bowl hopes alive.
That will be the scenario when Nevada, still in the hunt for fourth place in the WAC and needing a win to become bowl eligible, visits San Jose in the Spartans’ home finale today at Spartans Stadium.
Kick-off is set for 1 p.m. (KAME TV/ESPN Radio).
Nevada (5-5, 3-3) players haven’t talked about bowls since losing 28-26 to conference co-leader Hawaii last Friday night at Mackay Stadium. One of the reasons is they don’t hold their own destiny. Even with two wins, Nevada needs either Boise State or Hawaii to reach a BCS game or another conference to not fill its required amount of games.
“I’m a senior, and I’m going to try to rally everybody,” senior linebacker Ezra Butler said. “They have a good offense. They run from different formations. It should be a good game.”
The Spartans, under coach Dick Tomey have never beaten Nevada, losing two years ago at San Jose and last year at Nevada.
“They have an excellent defense and they will throw it around all over the place,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “They won’t be 50-50 (run and pass). They are going to throw the ball a lot. They will throw from empty sets and all kinds of different sets. He (Adam Tafralis) is as good a quarterback as we’ve played against all year.”
Yes, the Spartans have become pass heavy because of early season injuries which cost them the services of starting running backs Yonus Davis and Patrick Perry.
That’s a lot to lose. Jacob French (85-269), James T. Callier (62-150) and Dominique Hunsaker (34-96) and Cam Island (12-56) have tried to step in, but are nowhere near as good as the Spartans’ injured runners.
That has left the offensive burden on Tafralis, who has passed for 2,680 yards and 16 touchdowns, and is the No. 2 rusher on the team with 170 yards. Tafralis has eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark the last four games.
Tomey was absolutely gushing in his praise of Tafralis.
“You ask a quarterback to play with first of all a new center, almost a whole new offensive line, new wide receivers and (new) running backs, and he’s done a phenomenal job,” Tomey said. “You can’t ask anybody to do better. He’s been very positive.
“He’s taken good care of the ball. He’s playing with a broken thumb. He’s fought through everything and hasn’t missed a practice. He’s done an amazing job considering the circumstances he’s been under.”
Another bright spot on the offensive side of the ball for the Spartans has been the play of wide receiver Kevin Jurovic, who had 233 yards in receptions two weeks ago to win the conference’s top offensive honor. He has caught 77 passes for 1,092 yards and eight scores.
“They do everything,” defensive coordinator Ken Wilson said. “Anything you’ve seen on television they’re doing it or have done it. They do some pistol. They run some Hawaii. They run the power game they ran last year.
“Jurovich has done a good job. They are trying to get back to being more balanced. You have to be disciplined because of the different sets they give you.”
Nevada’s defense is coming off one of its best efforts of the season, holding Hawaii to three touchdowns and two field goals in a 28-26 loss.
“They (Nevada) have some really nice players on defense; (Matt) Hines and Butler,” Tomey said. “Offensively, they are the most physical team in the league the way they run the ball. Colin Kaepernick has made a tremendous difference. He presents such a running threat as well as throwing the ball. (Luke) Lippincott is an outstanding runner.”
Lippincott has rushed for more than 100 yards in five straight games. He has passed for 1,194 yards and 11 touchdowns. Kaepernick has rushed for 488 yards and six scores.
Tomey knows that his defense, led by linebacker Matt Castelo and cornerback Dwight Lowery, will be put to the test by the Wolf Pack.
Nevada hasn’t had many problems moving the ball against anybody in the WAC this year thanks to an experienced offensive line, Lippincott and the multi-talented Kaepernick, who has passed for 1,382 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Tomey also thinks that his team will shake off last week’s loss to Louisiana Tech, which knocked the Spartans out of the postseason.
“It’s the last time they get on their home field (this year),” Tomey said. “We’ve won 12 of our last 14. The only losses were to Boise State and Hawaii in that time. We’ve played very well. We haven’t beaten them yet since I’ve been here.
“This senior class in the last 2-plus seasons is 15-11 and has brought winning football back to San Jose State.”