Wolf Pack seeking road win
Four road games and four losses.
Simply put, the Nevada Wolf Pack (5-4, 3-2) have been horrible away from the friendly confines of Mackay Stadium, losing the four contests by an average of 20 points a game.
That’s what faces head coach Chris Ault and his young team when it travels to Dallas to face SMU Saturday at 3 p.m. in an important Western Athletic Conference football game.
Despite the lack of success on the road, Ault said he plans no changes in terms of preparation.
“No, we’re a better team,” Ault said during the Western Athletic Conference’s weekly teleconference. “We just stunk (before). What we need to change is our M.O. (modus operandi) on the field.”
Nevada has played two of the conference’s best home teams, Louisiana Tech and Hawai’i, on the road thus far, with Fresno State coming up on Nov. 20. The veteran head coach wouldn’t use that as an excuse, and he said he won’t play up the fact that the team hasn’t won on the road yet.
“I don’t think we have to talk about it,” Ault said. “They ought to be motivated enough. They know they are 0-4. To be a contender, you have to win on the road.”
Indeed. Nevada is two wins away from being bowl eligible for the first time since 1996 and must win two of the next three to accomplish that feat. The best chances for wins in the last three weeks would be at SMU and Fresno State. The Wolf Pack conclude their regular season with a home game against conference-leading Boise State at 1 p.m.
• It’s breakfast at Spartan Stadium Saturday when conference-leading Boise State and San Jose State tee it up at 9 a.m. on ESPN2. ESPN officials approached WAC commissioner Karl Benson and the two schools recently about switching the game time (originally it was 2 p.m.), which all sides agreed upon. It forces both schools to adjust their schedules a bit.
“We have a four-hour pregame ritual that we implement every week,” San Jose State coach Fitz Hill said. “I remember I played this early in the Cotton Bowl one time.
“They’re (the kids) a little foggy when they get up, but once they get up they’re OK. On Thursday, we’ll re-adjust for the rest of the week. We’ll get them up at about 5:15 a.m. and eat about 6. They usually don’t eat much for a pre-game meal. We’ll get to the stadium about 7:15 a.m.
Boise State coach Dan Hawkins, who rises between 4:30 and 5 a.m. each day, doesn’t believe it will be a big deal.
“We’ll just have to roll out of the hay a little earlier,” Hawkins said. “We usually eat four hours before a game, so we’ll wake them up about 5.
“We played a bowl game one year at 10 a.m., so this is very much the same situation.”
• The big question of the week is what kind of crowd will be at Spartan Stadium this weekend. The Spartans have drawn poorly all season – worse than Nevada even.
If Boise State doesn’t bring any fans, you could see fewer people than what Carson High draws for a home game.
“We travel pretty well, and I imagine a lot of people will be there (Saturday),” Hawkins said. “We have a large contingent of California kids on our team.”
• If it’s November, it must be time for the Fresno State Bulldogs (5-3, 2-3) to start playing some of their best football of the season.
Historically, the Bulldogs have been fast starters and fast finishers. Their middle of the season performances haven’t always been very good, as evidenced by their losses to Louisiana Tech, UTEP and Boise State this year.
Counting last weekend’s 52-21 win over Rice, the Bulldogs are 21-6 in the month of November since 1997, Pat Hill’s first season as head coach.
“We’ve only had winning seasons two times in September,” Hill said. “When you start strong in September, expectations are high. A couple of times we’ve slipped up along the way.
“I believe we have a very good football team. They do have great belief in each other.”
The Bulldogs, who host Hawai’i Friday night on ESPN2, need one win in their remaining three games (Hawai’i, Nevada and San Jose State).
• Hawai’i quarterback Timmy Chang, Fresno State cornerback Richard Marshall and Tulsa kick returner Ashlan Davis were named the Western Athletic Conference offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week, respectively.
Chang, a sixth-year senior from Waipahu, Oahu, completed 26-of-42 passes for 285 yards and four touchdowns in Hawai’i’s 34-23 win over Louisiana Tech. Early in the first quarter, he completed a seven-yard touchdown pass to Jason Rivers to become the NCAA’s all-time leader in passing yards. He broke the record of 15,031 set by BYU’s Ty Detmer in 1991. Chang now has 15,303 yards in his career.
Marshall, a sophomore, made six tackles and intercepted a pass and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown in Fresno State’s 52-21 win at Rice. He also had one tackle for a loss of three yards in the game.
Davis, a junior from Mesquite, Texas (Tyler JC), returned five kickoffs for 199 yards including one for a 96-yard touchdown in the game at SMU. His touchdown return was his fourth of the season (all coming in consecutive games), breaking the NCAA record for most kickoff returns for a touchdown in a season.
Davis is currently ranked third in the nation in kickoff returns with a 31.5-yard average.
‘We try to put our better players on special teams,” Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe said. “That’s one of the things I learned when I was in the NFL. We’re playing the Patriots, and you see Ty Law and Teddy Bruschi, guys that are considered marquee players on the defensive side of the ball. Momentum plays are usually on special teams.
“Ashlan is an excellent kick returner. We knew coming in that he’d returned punts and kickoffs. You have to look at the rest of the unit also. Our assistant coaches have done a good job of scheming up returns and trying to be creative.”
Darrell Moody can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281