WOLF PACK NOTES: Kaepernick praises teammates for their help | NevadaAppeal.com

WOLF PACK NOTES: Kaepernick praises teammates for their help

JOE SANTORO
For the Nevada Appeal

RENO – Colin Kaepernick wishes the Western Athletic Conference would give out its weekly awards to entire teams.

“It’s all about my teammates,” said Kaepernick who was named the WAC’s Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for the eighth time in his four-year Nevada Wolf Pack career. “I’m only able to do the things I do on the field because of my teammates. I’ve had great teammates here at Nevada who work so hard every day in practice and play hard for me in every game.”

Kaepernick rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 171 yards in a 35-34 come-from-behind victory at Fresno State.

“Other than the interception he threw, Kap was outstanding,” Pack coach Chris Ault said.

Kaepernick scored on a 47-yard run to tie the game at 7-7 in the first quarter and on a 19-yard run in the third quarter for a 28-24 lead.

The senior also led the Wolf Pack on its game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, completing two key passes for first downs along the way.

“He had a great game,” Ault said. “They (Fresno State) were keying on Vai (Taua) so we went to Kap. And he almost broke a couple more long ones that would have given him a huge, huge game.”

Kaepernick, who went to high school near Fresno at Pitman High in Turlock, Calif., also set the Wolf Pack career record for rushing touchdowns on Saturday. The quarterback now has 54 rushing touchdowns, breaking Chris Lemon’s record of 53 set from 1996-99.

“That’s definitely a special record,” Kaepernick said. “And it’s even more special to do it close to home.”

PACK INCHES UP RANKINGS

The Wolf Pack moved to No. 18 in the Bowl Championship Series standings on Sunday, up three spots from No. 21 the previous week.

Nevada, now 9-1 this season, also moved up three spots to No. 18 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and two spots to No. 19 in the Associated Press media poll.

The Pack has just three regular season games remaining, at home against New Mexico State on Saturday (1:05 p.m. kickoff) and Boise State on Nov. 26 (7:15 p.m. ESPN2) and on the road on Dec. 4 at Louisiana Tech. A victory over New Mexico State (2-8) on Saturday will give the Pack its first 10-victory season in Division I-A (FBS) in school history.

The Wolf Pack, which has already qualified for its sixth consecutive bowl game, still has a chance to equal its school record for victories in a season at 13, set in 1986 (13-1) and 1990 (13-2). Both teams were also coached by Ault.

Ault, though, insists that he isn’t concerned with the rankings and rarely even mentions it to his team.

“About the only thing we tell them is, ‘You are a nationally ranked football team. So go out there and play like it,'” Ault said.

SHEPHERD IMPRESSES AULT

Wide receiver Malcolm Shepherd had a breakout game against Fresno, catching a career-high seven passes for 68 yards. Four of Shepherd’s seven catches went for first downs.

Shepherd now has 20 catches this year for 262 yards and a touchdown. Over the last three games, since senior wide receiver Chris Wellington suffered a season-ending knee injury, Shepherd has 15 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s making a difference,” Ault said. “He is really stepping up and getting more confident every week.”

Shepherd, a senior, is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds.

“That’s a nice target for Kap,” Ault said.

The 23-year old Shepherd did not have a reception in his first season with the Pack a year ago. He played two seasons at Pima College in Tucson, Ariz., then red-shirted at Nevada in 2008.

“He’s earned this opportunity,” Ault said. “He’s paid his dues with the company.”

FRIENDLY FACES IN FRESNO

Kaepernick estimated that he likely had about 200 friends and family in the stands last Saturday night in Fresno.

“Walking around the stadium walking on the field, everywhere I went I heard people yelling at me and most of the people I knew,” smiled Kaepernick.

The Wolf Pack, which always recruits a lot of players out of central and northern California, always has a big following in Fresno.

“The guys handled it well,” Ault said. “They didn’t let it become a distraction. Once the game starts all that stuff goes out the window.”

TAUA WAS WORKHORSE AT FRESNO

Pack running back Vai Taua has been in and out of the lineup in recent weeks. And even when he was on the field, he has had to give up some carries to backups Lampford Mark, Courtney Randall and Mike Ball.

Against Fresno, though, Taua had all but one of the carries given to the running backs, rushing for 89 yards on 21 attempts.

“It felt good just to be back at 100 percent healthy,” said Taua, who missed the Utah State game on Oct. 30 with an ankle injury suffered at Hawaii on Oct. 16. “I didn’t want to miss a play.”

Taua has 179 carries for 1,139 yards this season as the Pack’s unquestioned No. 1 running back. But Mark, Ball and Randall had been taking carries away from the senior lately. The trio of backups had received 113 carries combined over the Pack’s first nine games.

Against Fresno, though, they got just one (by Ball).

“This game was different,” Ault said, explaining why Randall, Ball and Mark spent most of the evening watching Taua run. “First of all, we didn’t have the ball as much. And, also, our continuity on offense was never where I liked it to be. I didn’t want to keep shuffling guys in and out. I wanted to establish some continuity on offense. That’s why I kept Vai in there.”

Taua eventually won the game with a 24-yard run in the fourth quarter after struggling to find much running room all game long.

“He was like an old school running back,” Ault said. “Fresno was keying on him all game long. They wanted to take him out of the game. So he had to fight through that. He did a nice job. And he had to carry the load by himself. He played like a real running back.”