Nevada Goes For Shutout Against Boise State

Nevada goes for its third consecutive shutout Saturday in a WAC tilt against Boise State. The Wolf Pack head into the afternoon contest with blankings of both Utah State and Louisiana Tech.

In two of the past three weeks the dominant Nevada defense has shut opponents Utah State and Louisiana Tech out by identical 42-0 scores.


The stingy Pack D is looking for a third straight shutout against Boise State this Saturday.  Can they do it?  Even if Nevada holds the Broncos to ten points or less, that should be good enough for a win, the Pack faithful believe.


Nevada held Utah State to 125 yards rushing and 82 passing and intercepted three passes in the rout over the Aggies, then forced four turnovers in the blanking of Louisiana Tech.


Linebacker Ezra Butler (6-2, 248, Jr.) leads the defense with 56 tackles, including 12.5 for loss and 4.5 sacks.  Inside backer Joshua Mauga (6-2, 245, So.) is second on the team with 45 tackles.  Senior Jason DeMars (6-2, 255) adds 41 tackles, two for loss, one sack and two.  Outside linebacker Jeremy Engstrom (6-1, 247, Jr.) has 31 tackles to his credit with an interception. 


Senior Defensive end J.J. Milan (6-5, 270) has accumulated 35 tackles, 12.5 for loss and a whopping 9.5 quarterback sacks on the year (13th in the nation).  The other bookend on the line is senior Charles Wilson (6-4, 275), who has 27 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and three sacks.  Tackle Matt Hines (6-1, 285, Jr.) has made 32 tackles with five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. 


Cornerback Joe Garcia (6-0, 180, Sr.) accounts for 42 stops—he'll blitz often also (3.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks).  Garcia leads the Wolf pack with six interceptions and five pass breakups.  De'Angelo Wilson (5-10, 185, So.) has 25 tackles, two for loss, and 1.5 sacks.  Paul Pratt (5-10, 185, Jr.) is a force at cornerback as well, with one interception and five pass breakups.  Senior Safety Nick Hawthrone (6-0, 200) has 41 tackles with three interceptions.  Jonathon Amaya (6-2, 190) has come in and played well as a freshman—he has 25 tackles and an interception. 


The Pack defense allows an average of 133 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 57th in Division I-A.  However, they allow 4.4 yards per attempt, and only 25 teams in the country are worse there.  There are several explanations for this.  The most likely is that the Pack have led several games where a big run is not going to hurt them.  However, it also shows that, while other teams have been able to gain yards against the Pack on the ground, they lack the consistency with which to do so throughout the game.  In two games against quality rushing teams, the Pack allowed 212 yards to Fresno State and 246 against Northwestern.  They did hold San Jose State (#14 in the country) to 162 yards.


 Out of their 11 opponents, only San Jose State (#14), Fresno State (#31), Arizona State (#36) and Northwestern (#56) rank in the upper half of Division I-A rushing teams.  Louisiana Tech is #74, Idaho #89, Utah State #90, Hawai'i #93, UNLV #111, Colorado State #112 and New Mexico State #116. 


Pass defense in the pass-happy Western Athletic Conference is where Nevada excels.  They are 36th nationally allowing less than 181 yards per game.  Considering they've faced Hawai'i's Colt Brennan and New Mexico State's Chase Holbrook already, that is an impressive statistic in the resume of the Pack secondary.  With Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky playing the best football of his career right now, the Pack will need to stop #5 if they are to emerge with a victory on Saturday afternoon.


Coach Chris Ault's team has registered 18 interceptions on the season, tied for 3rd in the country behind Ohio State and Western Michigan, each of whom has 21 picks.  All of this adds up to say the Pack secondary plays tight, does not get beat deep, and is always around the ball looking to make a play.  Oh, and that they are extremely good.


Nevada will feed off the crowd, which is expected to number near the Mackay Stadium capacity of 30,000.  Boise State's offensive linemen will need to push the Pack off the ball and hold their blocks, because there is a 100% chance that the Nevada defense will be fired up and aggressive, especially at the game's outset.  It will be important for the Broncos to stick with their game plan, to be crisp with snaps and handoffs and not commit turnovers that will make their task tougher.  The Boise State receivers will have to work extra hard to get open and the window of opportunity for Zabransky to fire a pass will close quickly.


This is a classic WAC battle of a talented offense against an aggressive defense.  The nation's fans should be in for quite a treat Saturday afternoon in Reno.  Kickoff is 2 p.m. Mountain time before a nationally-televised ESPN audience.




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