Pack, San Jose ready for shootout
RENO – Put San Jose State and Nevada on the same football field, and you can expect plenty of offensive fireworks.
In the last four meetings, the teams have combined for 336 points. Nevada has won the last two games 52-24 and 42-30. The two-game win streak broke a two-game win streak by the Spartans, who won 49-30 in 2000 and 64-45 in 2001.
The Wolf Pack (4-4, 2-2) hope to make it three straight when they host the Spartans (2-5, 1-3) tonight at 6:05 at Mackay Stadium, ending a three-game homestand.
Nevada, which has won four straight at home, needs to win three of its last four to become bowl-eligible.
The Spartans haven’t had a lot of success, but they scare Nevada coach Chris Ault because of their athleticism on both sides of the ball.
“They have some good skill people on both sides of the ball,” Ault said. “Take away the turnovers (five) against UTEP and they were right in there (14-7). They did a nice job against UTEP.
“They like to let it rip (offensively). Dale Rogers (quarterback) has taken charge of that team and is doing a nice job. They have good team speed. I expect a tough contest.”
Rogers, a fifth-year senior, has completed 30 of 60 passes in the last three games. The 6-4 quarterback is second in the WAC and 26th nationally with a 135.6 quarterback rating. His best game was against Rice when he completed 10 of 17 passes for 359 yards and five scores.
Running back Tyson Thompson is another Spartan the Wolf Pack defense, led by linebacker Jeremy Engstrom, a now-healthy defensive tackle Chris Barry and safety Keone Kauo, needs to contain. Thompson has rushed for 731 yards (5.8 average) and five touchdowns. He had his first collegiate 200-yard game against Hawai’i. Four of Thompson’s five touchdowns were from 40 or more yards. He has three 100-yard games, tying the record of Deonce Whitaker in 2000.
The Spartans have five receivers averaging at least 13 yards a catch – Rufus Skillern (13.6 on 25 catches), James Jones (13.7 on 16 catches), John Broussard (16.9 on 15 catches), Casey Miranda (20.4 on five grabs) and Brian Watje (19.3 on six catches).
Conversely, the Wolf Pack offense has played well recently, racking up 89 points the last two weeks in wins over Rice (35-10) and Tulsa (54-48 triple overtime). Quarterback Jeff Rowe has thrown for 467 yards and three scores the last two weeks, and he’s also run for 100 yards the last two games. Wide receivers Nichiren Flowers (14 catches, 186, 2 TDs) and Caleb Spencer (11-178-0) have been superb.
“I see progress, and we’re trying to build from that,” Ault said. “We need to step up and playing more consistently.”
San Jose State has intercepted eight passes in the last four games, and safety Brian Nunez leads the way with four picks. Defensive end Tony Ficklin (6-2, 265) has 13 stops for negative yardage, including five sacks. Ficklin is a guy that Nevada needs to contain up front to have success on the ground and in the air.
Ault admitted that the team’s confidence has picked up, and San Jose State’s Fitz Hill didn’t disagree.
“They have been on a roll,” Hill said. “They have some confidence and are playing hard. It will be a big challenge for us. They’re gaining confidence as the season goes. Anytime you win two conference wins, it gives you a lot of confidence.”
Notes: Today is the annual Hall of Fame game. Former football stars Greg Rea, an All-American lineman in the mid-80s, quarterback Chris Vargas, who led Nevada to the Division 1-AA title game in 1990, and wide receiver Bryan Reaves, an outstanding receiver in the 1980s, will be honored at halftime along with Enoch Borozinski, the former NCAA decathlon champion…The Spartans are still looking for their first road win. They have won at lest one road game every season since 1999. Since joining the WAC in 1996, the Spartans have an 11-24 conference road record …If Nevada wins today, it will be the first time the Wolf Pack have won three straight games since the 1998 season.
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281.