Last year, the Wildcats trekked out to Reno, Nevada to face a team that seemed to be a little off kilter - the then 1-2 Nevada Wolf Pack.
It turned out they weren't - their defense forced 5 turnovers and blocked a field goal, as the Pack's fast defense humbled the Cats 31-21.
This year it seems like 2006 all over again. NU is on a roll after a sterling performance by the offense, and
Nevada opened their season with Nebraska - and were soundly beaten as the Huskers ground game seemed unstopable by the Pack's defense. Husker running back Marlon Lucky rolled up 233 yards and scored 4 times [3 rushing, one passing]. It was that kind of day.
And Nevada's Offensive Coordinator, Chris Klenakis, doesn't think that Nebraska was any better than any of the other teams the Pack will face this year.
- No way. We're going to face good teams every week, Yeah, Nebraska is a good team, but so is Northwestern, so is Fresno State, so is Boise State. Everybody we play is good.
Does all this talk of last week's blowout change NU Coach Pat Fitzgerald's attitude towards Nevada?
- I think we have great respect for Nevada. Listening to the guys talk after the game on Saturday and for the last couple of days, I think we understand that what happened for them out in Lincoln (Neb.) was much more of an anomaly than it was the norm.
The Wolf Pack won't get injured Center Dominic Green back - It gives them just 2 veterans on the front 5: Charles Manu and Greg Hall also played last year.
The Pack still has lots of offensive tools:
- Last year's #2 and #3 rushers are back. Luke Lippincott [4 rushes for -5 yds last week] and Brandon Fragger [7 for 16 yds].
- Two of last year's top receivers: Mike McCoy [2 catches-37 yds] and Marko Mitchell [2 catches-34 yds] will also be out there for first year [Soph] QB Nick Graziano [8-24-1], who still picked up 109 yards passing in last week's loss. Graziano also rushed for 20 yards.
And the running backs are putting a big effort in also:
- I feel we need to establish our running game as workhorses to give Coach (Chris) Ault confidence that he can run the ball three plays in a row
and get a first down with it,[Lippincott]
- In any game or any season, you've got to block to get the running game going. That's our job. We're going to do what we've always done, and that is come off the ball hard and try to get the running game going.
- But there's no Jeff Rowe [17 of 22, 197 yds 2 TDs] and Robert Hubbard [156 yds, 2 TDs] to run wild in the rarefied air of Reno. This time the Cats know what to expect from the "pistol," and you know the goal is to not let Nevada get close enough to win this year.
If you want to see a 3-4 in action, watch Nevada - They play with two inside LBs. Joshua Mauga  is a fixture at one MLB slot - Kevin Porter  is scheduled to be the other inside guy. They combined for 23 tackles last week, 1 1/2 for a loss. CB Jonathon Amaya also made a bunch of tackles, but you don't like a cornerback as one of your leading tacklers.
The names of the LB positions are "neat" - they have a Wolf, Mike and Bandit in addition to a Sam Linebacker.
This week marks the return of last year's tackle leader, Ezra Butler, who was suspended last week for a "violation of team rules." He adds depth, and another hard hitting guy in the middle - he's expected to start.
Experienced Tacklers LB Ezra Butler [#56], Jeremy Engstrom [#44 - 6 tackles last week] and Joshua Mauga [#30 - 13] all returned, plus Nose Tackle Matt Hines [#57] and DE Erics Clark [#48 1] up front.
Two of the 4 D-Backs are also back - Jonathon Amaya [#49 12] - who had a pick and an 80 runback TD last Saturday, and Paul Pratt [#3 - 7]
The Nevada coaches were especially pleased with the play of their Middle Linebackers - Jr. Joshua Mauga [13 tackles] was the team leader there. Kevin Porter and Jerome Johnson also combined for 17 tackles. Add Butler and there's a pretty decent crew inside. Yes, its good to have NU Center Trevor Rees back.
The Wolf Pack returns both their Kicker, Junior Brett Jaekle [last year's leading scorer] and Punter Senior Zacary Whited.
They have an experienced Long Snapper in Senior Adam Bishop,
Whited holds for the place kicking
DE Erics Butler is still not 100% with a knee injury
- RB Coach Jim Mastro: Our whole goal is to establish a running game. It's what our offense is based on. Last week, you fall behind and you're throwing it to catch up.
- Pat Fitzgerald: We are moving forward. We are in a place right now that we were probably in at the end of the year last year, and we are starting the season that way. We have some confidence, but we are hungry to improve and are looking forward to our second opportunity this Saturday
- Create Turnovers Now the second and third guy in need(s) to go for the football [Pat Fitzgerald]
- No Turnovers or Sacks by us - [Welcome Back Trevor]
- Run, Run, Run, Run - Da do Run Run - hey, it worked for Nebraska
- and Don't let them get their rushing game going.
- Direct TV Channel 219
- Also WNUR, pregame at 10 AM WT
Beat 'em All!
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