Pack looking for win at New Mexico State | NevadaAppeal.com

Pack looking for win at New Mexico State

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Barring a major meltdown in the last three weeks, a bowl game is a good possibility for Nevada’s football team.

Nevada, 5-3 overall and 4-1 in conference, can become bowl eligible with a victory against winless New Mexico State Saturday afternoon in Las Cruces.

It’s the furthest thing from coach Chris Ault’s mind, however, and he quickly dismissed talk about it during Monday’s weekly Western Athletic Conference teleconference.

“We haven’t had a winning season here since 1998 or 1999 (actually 1998),” Ault said. “That is our focus. We’re not interested in bowl games, just about lining up against New Mexico State.”

Ault, who is trying to revive the struggling program, said the key is having a foundation of winning seasons to build upon.

“That’s one of my top priorities,” Ault said. “We have a chance to remedy that this weekend). We have to make it happen.”

Nevada is 1-2 away from home this year, edging San Jose State and losing to Boise State and Colorado State. After New Mexico State, Nevada will visit Utah State and finish at home against Fresno State,

SPECIALISTS SHINE

Overlooked in the kudos thrown out to Nevada’s offense and defense after last week’s 38-28 win over Hawai’i was the play of Nevada’s special teams.

“The special teams were much better,” Ault said. “Robert Hubbard did a nice job and so did Kevin Stanley with punts. (Justin) Bergendahl did a great job punting.”

The Pack entered the game ranked last in kickoff returns in the WAC, averaging around 15 yards a return. Nevada inserted Hubbard in that role and he did a nice job with two 20-yard plus returns.

Ault said that he wanted Stanley to return kicks and punts, but after losing several defensive backs to injuries, he didn’t want to risk injury, thus Stanley is only returning punts. Stanley returned two punts for 25 yards.

Stanley did suffer a thigh contusion after getting run into by a Hawai’i return man.

Was Ault worried when he saw Stanley go down?

“Number one, he wasn’t coming out,” Ault said Saturday after the game. “Marines (Stanley is a former Marine) don’t go down. If he did, a sophomore goes in and plays. You just have to keep going.”

Ault said he would give Stanley an opportunity to get the leg stretched out early this week. Stanley is currently listed as probable.

Bergendahl opened the game with three tremendous punts – 41, 49 and 61 yards – none of which were returned. The last one rolled out at the 1. Hawai’i, thanks to an 87-yard pass play, did manage to drive 99 yards for a score.

WHO IS UNDER CENTER?

Hal Mumme, New Mexico State’s first-year head coach, isn’t sure who will start at quarterback this week against Nevada.

Starter Royal Gill was injured two weeks ago in the overtime loss against Idaho and Joey Vincent started in last week’s 56-6 loss at Boise State. Vincent carried 12 times for a season-high 71 yards and he threw for 115 yards, completing 14 of 38 attempts.

“It’s who will get healthy first,” Mumme said. “Joey took a shot in the first half. He hurt his groin on one of his scrambles early. As the game went on, it toughened up. Royal wasn’t in position to play.”

Vincent is the more mobile of the two quarterbacks and Gill is considered the better passer. Previously, Gill had a 42-yard run against Idaho. His previous best rushing game was a 10-attempt 57-yard effort against California.

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