The Arizona Wildcats are going on the road for the first time this season in a game against Nevada. In preparation for the game, Wildcat Authority caught up with Frank Meese, Publisher of SilverandBlueSports.com. Here's what he had to say:
Frank Meese: Last week Nevada played UC Davis and ran a pretty vanilla scheme against them. Stewart isn't the running threat that Fajardo or Kaepernick were, so after 8 years of them that's probably the biggest difference. Fajardo could get you 10 yards on a read option, but Stewart might only get you 7 yards. It's enough to keep a defense honest but don't expect the big plays on the ground from him you would get with Fajardo. Stewart is a better passer than both Kaepernick and Fajardo and Nevada has a pretty good WR corp with Hasaan Henderson and Jerico Richardson. Also, the Wolfpack has a really good 1-2 punch at RB with Don Jackson (Sr.) & James Butler (So.). Jackson is more of a power back and doesn't have breakaway speed. Butler played as a true freshman last year, but didn't really have a breakout game until BYU. Expect them to split the carries about 50/50 during the game. The biggest concern is the OL, which has been a theme of the Polian era. They're young, 3 sophomores, and don't have a lot of experience.
WA: The Nevada front seven is among the best in the Mountain West, but what is the key weakness for the defense and how does it try to stop Arizona from exposing it?
FM: The back four is the weakness on defense. If Arizona's offensive line can hold off the pass rush then it could be a long night for the secondary because they don't have the speed to keep up with Arizona's wide receivers all night. I would expect a lot of blitzing on passing downs to try and disrupt Solomon's passing, but heading into this game the secondary is the biggest weakness.
WA: Arizona won a close game in Tucson last season and both teams have experienced some turnover on the roster since then. What is the biggest difference between 2014 Nevada and 2015 Nevada?
FM: The biggest difference is the loss of Fajardo, who was a true dual threat QB which, as discussed above, Stewart is not. Beyond that Nevada also lost Brock Hekking to graduation (you may remember him because of his mullet). Other than those two the Wolfpack returned the majority of their play makers from last year. Last year Nevada was a young team, so those guys are now a year older with that much more experience. The defensive line is probably the deepest in the Mountain West Conference. Nevada has Ian Seau and Lenny Jones on the end. Both are play makers and have a quick first step and their backups, Malik Reed and Patrick Choudja (pronounced Chowda) will be the starters next year and will rotate into the game. Nevada's DT/NT are Salesa Faraimo and Rykeem Yates, who are both 6'2'' and 280/290lbs. UCLA transfer Kevin McReynolds is also on the roster, but I wouldn't expect to see him much as he will be used more when Nevada plays teams that are more of a power running team, like San Diego State.
FM: Time for me to sound like a broken record. With the secondary being the biggest concern this year the only way to prevent a similar performance is to disrupt the timing of Arizona's offense. If they can do that, I wouldn't expect to see a repeat performance. If not, well it could be a long night for the secondary.
WA: What are three keys to the game? What is one thing that Nevada has to do in order to pull off the upset on Saturday?
FA: Nevada's 3 keys to the game:
- Control the clock. The Wolfpack has to keep Arizona's high powered, fast paced offense off the field as much as possible. I would like to see long 7-8 minute 80 yard drives, which will limit Arizona's possessions and keep the defense fresh.
- Win the turnover battle. Against UC Davis, Nevada didn't force any turnovers, which was mildly disappointing, but it didn't turn the ball over as well. UNR need to be +1 in the turnover margin to have a chance to win.
- Pressure Solomon. Broken record here, again. Nevada needs to pressure Solomon and get him out of his comfort zone. If it does that, Nevada can force turnovers and give the ball back to the offense.
If The Wolfpack wants to pull the upset, in addition to the 3 keys above, it has to jump out to an early lead. It will be better for Nevada if Arizona is having to catch it all night instead of UNR catching them. If the Wolfpack can jump out to an early 10 point lead it may be able to match Arizona score for score for the rest of the game.
WA: What is your prediction for the game?
FA: The last two PAC-12 teams to come to Mackay haven't fared too well, Cal & Washington State, but Arizona has more talent and is better coached than both those two teams were. I expect a shootout Saturday and I think the depth and experience of Nevada's front seven will make the difference in the game. I'm going to put on my homer glasses, drink a little Silver & Blue Koolaid, and say Nevada 35, Arizona 31.