Pack football to be challenged by Holbrook | NevadaAppeal.com

Pack football to be challenged by Holbrook

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

The Nevada defense is going from one extreme to the other when it takes the field against New Mexico State’s Chase Holbrook & Co. tonight.

Kick-off is set for 5 p.m., at Aggie Memorial Stadium, and the game is being televised nationally on ESPN2.

A week ago, Nevada faced a predominantly running team in Idaho, and held Deonte Jackson, the then-WAC No.1 running back to 45 yards rushing. Tonight, the defense will face a full-scale aerial assault from the Aggies , who pass first and only run to keep you honest.

“They are going to throw it 45 or 50 times, it’s that simple,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “You don’t want to give it up all in one play. The offense has to be our best defense; keep their offense off the field.”

Nevada is facing an offense that throws underneath routes, and relies heavily on the receivers’ ability to make defenders miss.

The Aggies are without their second-best best weapon – wide receiver and kick returner Chris Williams, who had caught 56 passes for 712 yards. He also was averaging 23.2 on kick returns and 14.7 on punt returns.

Holbrook still has some weapons, however, in Derek DuBois (42-537), Kenneth Buckley (9-94), tight end Nick Cleaver (21-284), Wes Neiman (17-128) and A.J. Harris (47-313), but none as dangerous as Williams.

“I don’t think that they (Hawaii) played us any differently than what they would have, but it is tough to lose Chris because you don’t ever know what he is going to do with the ball,” Holbrook said. “He is a playmaker, and without him makes the game kinda tough. Me and Chris are like brothers out there so it’s really tough losing him.”

No doubt some of the defensive coaches are doing the happy dance now that the Aggies have one less arsenal in their war chest.

“They are a lot different without him,” Nevada coach Ken Wilson said. “He’s such a good receiver. He not only caught the ball, but on special teams …

“They are just like Hawaii. They are going to get their catches. You have to keep them in front and make tackles. Also, you don’t want to give Holbrook enough time to get comfortable in the pocket.”

Holbrook, who was knocked out of last week’s game at Hawaii, has thrown for 2,450 yards and 18 scores this season.

“I feel good, I took a shot to the face, but I am back now and I feel good,” Holbrook said. “Its hard to be 100-percent during this time of the season, but I am as close as you can get.”

New Mexico State’s defense has been hampered by injuries, and coach Hal Mumme has missed three of his four starting linebackers the last couple of weeks.

Running back Luke Lippincott has put together three straight 100-yard games, and he’s ranked 19th in the country at 113.9 a game. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is 11th in quarterback rating at 155. He’s accounted for 1,304 yards and 13 touchdowns this year, most of that coming in the last four weeks.

Marko Mitchell remains a serious downfield threat, averaging 20.2 a catch, and Mike McCoy also is averaging more than 20 yards a grab.

“They are a good team and are a top team in our league, and have a Hall of Fame coach,” Mumme said. “They always have a great rushing attack and you have to really take care of business. We are looking forward to playing at home.

“He (Kaepernick) is a tremendous athlete; he has a really strong arm and can run the ball really well. He is also someone that you have to always have someone assigned to him at all times, because if you don’t he is going to hurt you. Personally, I think they would rather run the ball rather than throw.”

NMSU linebacker Dante Floyd admitted that Kaepernick’s running means he and his teammates need t be disciplined.

“We will be a lot more worried about him running, he can run and scramble with the ball, so it’s two threats in one,” Floyd said. “We are going to have to make sure that everything is solid up front and in the secondary. We need to make sure that we are prepared for all the options he might use.”

This is a critical game for both teams. Nevada is two wins away from being bowl eligible as is New Mexico State.

The Aggies, because they are playing a 13-game schedule, must win at least tree of their final four. They have two Division I-AA wins, but only one counts. Nevada has the allowable one Division 1-AA win, Nicholls State. The fate of a fourth-place WAC team may rely on what Hawaii and Boise State do. If one qualifies for a BCS game, a fourth-place WAC finish would be good enough for a bowl game.

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

NEVADA (4-4, 2-2) AT NEW MEXICO STATE (4-5, 2-3)

When: Tonight, 5 p.m.

Where: Aggie Memorial Stadium

TV: ESPN2

Radio 630 AM, pre-game starts at 4 p.m.

The line: Nevada by 7