Boise State has faced some tough opponents this year, especially on the road, but none as strong as Nevada. The Broncos and Wolf pack battle Saturday afternoon in Reno in a game nationally-televised by ESPN.Nevada is a team that gave #2 Texas Tech all they wanted, took on #13 Missouri, beat Fresno State handily and walloped UNLV of the Mountain West Conference 49-27. They're also much better than they were when they played Texas Tech.
The best rushing team in America (325 yards per game, 35 touchdowns) will provide a serious challenge to Boise State's proud defense. Vai Taua is sixth in the country in rushing, already over 1,284 yards and sporting a stratospheric 7.25 yards per carry average. Hit him and he doesn't go down. Don't wrap up and you'll eat his dust as he scampers for a 20-yard gain. Much has been made of Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State. Rodgers is behind Taua in rushing, who is also ahead of Penn State's Evan Royster, Alabama's Glen Coffee and Ohio State's Chris Wells.
To say that Nevada will keep the ball away from Boise State's offense is an understatement. They are fourth in the nation in time of possession with 32:53 minutes per game. Obviously the Broncos will have to make the most of each and every opportunity.
Taua is a dangerous runner but the Pack attack begins with sensational sophomore Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has an uncanny fake handoff and the long strides that shoot him far past the line of scrimmage before the opposition realizes he has kept the ball. Just ask Boise State--Kaepernick burned the Broncos time and time again in lighting up 67 points on the Bronco Stadium scoreboard last year.
Kaepernick himself is #23 in the country in rushing and is also over 1,000 yards rushing. He is averaging a lights-out 8.27 yards every time he carries the football and has scored 16 touchdowns (13th in the nation in scoring). To give you an idea how good the Nevada quarterback is, the much-hyped Pat White of West Virginia has just 586 yards and Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor has less than 500. Kaepernick is ninth in Points Responsible For, accounting for 18 points per game. He is ranked ahead of Missouri's heralded Chase Daniel in that department.
OK, so they run the football better than anyone in the country. What about passing? Well, Kaepernick is also 14th in total offense, averaging 285.8 yards per game. Ohio State's Pryor is nowhere near Kaepernick in any phase of the game. The fact that Nevada is fifth in the nation in total offense, averaging 524 yards per game, shows you that they pass the football well too. The Wolf pack also is 13th in scoring, ringing up 38.5 points per game.
Say Coach Chris Ault's team moves the ball all the way down the field and takes up big chunks of time but the drive stalls. They can't have a good field goal kicker too can they? Yes they can. Brett Jaekle is 12-15 on the year and has nailed all 49 of his extra point attempts. What if the Broncos get lucky and are able to stop Nevada from reaching the red zone? All that happens then is the #11 punter in the country, Brad Langley, steps onto the field with his 44.05 average and pins Boise State on the two-yard line.
Well, Boise State has a pretty good offense. They'll be chomping at the bit as they pace the sidelines while Nevada methodically moves the ball down the field. Finally they get a chance to show what they can do. Nevada isn't the only team that can run the ball. Not so fast, my friend. If the Broncos try to do that, they'll hit a stone wall that ranks second in the nation against the run, allowing a paltry 63.9 yards per game and just 2.32 yards per carry. That's not going to get too many first downs.
Alright fine. Let's drop Boise State's talented quarterback Kellen Moore back to pass then. Uh, bad move. He'll be dodging Dontay Moch all afternoon long, who just happens to rank 16th in the country with 8.5 sacks per game, as well as Kevin Basped, who is 18th in the country in tackles for loss with his 13.5 per game.
What if the Broncos buck the odds and are able to move the ball down the field? At that point Nevada gets very stingy, as they are 15th in the nation in red zone defense.
So Nevada runs better than anyone in the country, they pass, they punt, they kick field goals, they have one of the top defenses in the country against the run and they sack you if you try to pass. What can the Broncos do in Reno?
Well, they can always try their luck at the casinos.