If Arizona scores 34 points against the Wolf Pack, it would be above the season average for the Nevada defense. However, Nevada has given up 34 or more points in five games this season, including 48 to Air Force.
The Wolf Pack defense is giving up nearly forty points (39.6) in games that it lost. On the flip side, the defense is only allowing less than four touchdowns (27.4 points) in wins this season. Throw in that the Wildcats have only scored less than 34 points on two occasions throughout the season and you could see a successful day for Arizona's offense.
The Nevada defense doesn't have a solid weakness, but is instead equally susceptible to attack. Teams have beaten it through the air and on the ground this season and it is likely that Arizona will try to keep a balanced attack to keep the Wolf Pack guessing.
Nevada is giving up 213.2 rushing yards per game and it all starts with having a relatively inexperienced defensive front. The Wolf Pack is starting two sophomores and a redshirt freshman on the four-man front. However, one of the sophomores, Brock Hekking, has had a phenomenal year, racking up eight sacks to go along with seventy tackles and two forced fumbles.
Part of the rushing attack falls on the shoulders of the linebackers. This is where Nevada excels, starting three seniors with experience. Albert Rosette takes the Mike role in between Jeremiah Green and Deandre Boughton. Rosette is certainly the best to the three, but is also the only one of the three who started his college career at Nevada; the other two were junior college transfers.
Together, the three seniors have combined for 257 tackles, three sacks and four forced fumbles.
Opposing passing attacks have put up 218 yards on average against Nevada. In addition, the Wolf Pack has only picked off four passes on the entire season. This seems bizarre, as the secondary is filled with seniors.
The passing numbers against the Wolf Pack are somewhat low, but can be explained by teams finding success with the run.
A senior trio of Duke Williams, Khalid Wooten, and Marlon Johnson will be patrolling the secondary for Nevada. Each player brings a special skill to the field. Williams is a fast play maker, who seems like he is always wherever the ball is. Johnson is a strong defender who is physical and hasn't been tested very often this season. The best of the group may be Wooten, who leads the team with two interceptions on the season, returning one for a touchdown.
With Arizona's firepower, the game shouldn't be a low scoring affair. Nevada has given up too many points to lesser offenses this season and the numbers show that it doesn't help the Wolf Pack to give up more than average.
The Wildcats should attack with the run first, forcing Nevada to bring more defenders into the box, before starting to air it out and letting senior quarterback Matt Scott sling it on his graduation day. The Wolf Pack may not have enough experience to stop Arizona's attack.
Players to watch:
#51 LB, Albert Rosette – The senior leader of the defense, Rosette is the motor that pushes the Wolf Pack. He is one of the best defenders for Nevada and it wouldn't be surprising to see Rosette shadowing Ka'Deem Carey at all times on Saturday.
#2 CB, Khalid Wooten – While the Nevada defense has had lapses at times this season, the Wildcats can't sleep on Wooten. He is one poor pass away from taking one the other way, which could turn the tide of a close game.
#53 DT, Brock Hekking – Just a sophomore, Hekking leads the team in tackles, and has already made a few key tackles in his early career. He will have a tough challenge going up against the Arizona offensive line and the mobile Matt Scott, but Hekking could still cause some damage.
Keys to the game:
1. Balance the offense: As stated above, the Wildcats would benefit from establishing the run early, but also taking some shots down field to keep the Wolf Pack guessing. The more balance in the offense, the better it serves Arizona if the game is close in the fourth quarter.
2. Make smart plays: It hasn't been mentioned yet, but Nevada's offense can also score some points in a hurry and keeping mistakes to a minimum would keep it off the field. Turnovers are never good things, but turnovers in close games are detrimental.
3. Control emotions: It is the final college game for some of the Wildcats and the last chance for some seniors to win a bowl game. Arizona will need to make sure that everyone is playing within their capabilities and not pressing and trying to do too much.