Pregame Intel: Nevada Wolf Pack

Here we go - Northwestern's Wildcats take on the Nevada Wolf Pack on the road, under the lights on a national, cable TV audience. There's a home winning streak on the line for them, and prep for the Big 10 conference season for NU...

This would have been a true shootout last year...
Imagine NU and last year's starter Brett Basanez against the Chris Ault [right] Wolf Pack that features a potent passing attack run by 3rd year starter Jeff Rowe.

Would we have had a hundred point game?

Well, it looked like the Nevada season might be going south, with losses in their first two games. The Wolf Pack were looking like whipped puppies and they had to learn to turn things around.

Last week they learned they can answer almost any break for their opponents when a 14-0 lead turned into 14-10 on a couple of plays. A quick 39 yard TD strike by Rowe at the end of the first half, put the game away for Nevada and then
"The defense stood up and did not back down and then the offense regrouped and got their composure and they moved the ball. That's what I was most proud of." - Ault to the Nevada Quarterback Club
Most NU fans had seen Nevada's opening game against Fresno State on TV and were excited over the possibilities. The 2nd game loss to Arizona State raised hopes that the "Pack" just might not be made up of "big dogs" with a QB with only 3 TDs and 2 Interceptions in 2 games. The 6 game home winning streak looked like it was in trouble.

Chris Ault looked the senior QB in the eye, and told him that he had leadership responsibilities to the team and 56% completion wasn't a good way to demonstrate that.
"It's going to be certainly a real test for us. They've got an offense that is dangerous to say the least. They spread the ball out all over the place and they do some things we have not seen this year," he said.
Offense
Man can they pass the ball...Third year starter, Quarterback Jeff Rowe had a passer rating of 188 [19 of 22 for 210 yds and 2 TDs] against Colorado State, both scores were on relatively long plays, 39 and 11 yards. The last was with several defenders closing in - last week he started to play like a 3 year starter.

They run out of what they call the "Pistol" offense, not quite as big a drop for the QB as the Shotgun [one of NU's spread standards] and their RBs are only 2 or 3 yards behind the QB. Fitz has pointed out how quick it can be - how fast they attack out of the pistol - its helped give Rowe an edge at the line of scrimmage

And he also runs, although Robert Hubbard [left] is the team's leading rusher with a 5.1 ypc average [51 for 262], with Rowe second in total yardage with 107 yds for 31 carries.

His favorite targets appear to be Caleb Spencer [17 catches for 169 yds-9.9 ypc], Marko Mitchell [11/124-11.3 ypc] and Adam Bishop [7/95 - 13.5 ypc]. But Mike McCoy [right] is the scoring favorite - his 3 TDs have come on just 5 catches - he averages 19 ypc for the Pack.

Then there's the "Union" - the name the Offensive line has chosen.

Like the Wildcats, they've had a bit of a shuffle up front since last year. Center Jimmy Wadhams one of the players who didn't change positions had this observation on the state of the "Union..."
"Last year we didn't start to jell until the fourth game of the season. The Colorado State game was the best game we've had as a group. We still have a lot of work to do, though."[Nevada Appeal]
The Wolf Pack isn't happy with their front 5's play, but they see improvement. With a wide open offense, they see the need to keep defenders out of their backfield.
Defense
First off, you have to like a defense who's co-Defensive Coordinator is named Sacks - Barry Sacks. He's been there 5 years, and works with the outside linebackers.

Nevada, runing out of a 3-4, does show a lot of different Linebacker "looks" depending on down and distance. Starter Jason DeMars, along with MLBs Josh Mauga, Kevin Porter and Scott Garrison all see playing time inside for the Wolfpack.
"There are six guys that I would have no trouble putting in there," Wilson said [Nevada Appeal}. "Kevin Porter had knee surgery last year, and he's played well. Scott is a little fireball."
Then there's Joshua Mauga, who is called "the Natural" in the middle by one writer. Ault says he's got natural instincts and compares him to former Nevada great DeShone Myles. At 6-2 245, he's a prototypical MLB - the Cats offense will see a lot of him today.

Up front is DE J.J. Milan - with 2 sacks in the first half, he'll be playing in front of the home crowd again. He didn't play last year due to a broken foot  but seems to have picked up where he left off.

How good is the Pack D?

Last Saturday they only allowed 3 points [the TD came on a blocked punt] and held Colorado State to 4 of 14 third down conversions.

Special Teams
Quote:
Nevada ranks dead last in net punting in the Western Athletic Conference stats, averaging a little more than 25 yards a kick, [Nevada Appeal}
They started the season with Tom Barcia - then brought in Zach Whited for Colorado State. State promptly blocked his first attempt for their only TD of the game. Whited is still the punter but the coach feels he needs to get his kicks off faster - and NU does like to block punts.

The Pack's coaches feel their punter has to average 38 yards per kick - they're nowhere close.
"That's got to be cleaned up," Nevada coach Chris Ault said [in the Appeal].

Injuries:
DE Erics Clark was out for the last game with a shoulder injury but is expected to return. Charles Wilson might retain the starting slot however.

Overall:
From the Wildcat's Coach, Pat Fitzgerald
"You get the eyes of the nation on you," Fitzgerald said. [Mercury News] "It's an opportunity for us to go out and showcase Northwestern football on a national stage."

"We know the challenge we're going into this week. It's going to be a huge game for our program. Our whole mind-set right now is to find a way to win each game.
"
Meanwhile it appears that Ault is more impressed with Nevada's improvement over the first 3 games...
"The defense stood up and did not back down and then the offense regrouped and got their composure and they moved the ball. That's what I was most proud of." - Ault [RGJ.com}

What the Cats Have to Do:
  • Play Pass Defense - and put on a pass rush again this week. A couple of sacks and a few more picks would help.
  • The O-Line needs to give Kafka time
  • The Wideouts need to run their patterns and push the Wolf Pack secondary.
  • Slade Larsheid & Co. has to out punt Nevada's shaky punting unit.

  • TV - ESPN2 -
  • Radio - It will be on WGN, WNUR, and XM Satellite
Dave Eanet and Ted Albrecht are the WGN radio guys.
We'll be chatting at the same spot

You can send your comments or "back door" information
to Coach Roy
Go Cats
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