Texas Tech returns home on Sept. 24 to take on Nevada for the first meeting between the two teams since 2008 and only the second meeting overall. But it will be two teams that are a lot different than the last time. Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree, and Colin Kaepernick are all gone. The one consistent piece that remains with Nevada is its ever-evolving Pistol offense designed by head coach Chris Ault, who enters his 27th season with the Wolfpack and recently received a two-year contract extension that will carry him through 2013. All he has to do is find a proper replacement for Kaepernick, who amassed more than 14,000 yards of total offense in his four years with the Wolfpack. Here is a look at Week 4 of the 2011 Red Raider schedule:
TEAM BREAKDOWN — NEVADA WOLFPACK
Head Coach: Chris Ault (27th Season, 219-97-1 at Nevada and overall)
2010 Record: 13-1 (7-1 in Western Athletic Conference, Conference Champions)
Bowl Game: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, defeated Boston College, 20-13
Returning Starters: 13 (6-offense, 7-defense)
Offensive Style: Pistol
Defensive Style: 4-3
It's never an easy task to replace arguably the best player in the program's history, coming off one of the most successful seasons in the program's history. Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick leaves the Wolfpack after his best season in his storied career, throwing for 3,022 yards while completing 64.9 percent of his passes for 21 touchdowns. He also ran for another1,206 yards and 20 touchdowns. Now it will be up to junior Tyler Lantrip to take over the reigns of the Pistol offense. Lantrip has only attempted 23 passes in games the last three years, completing 12 for 192 yards and one TD. But he also has to rely on a new supporting cast in the offense with leading rusher Vai Taua and receivers Chris Wellington and Malcolm Shepherd gone. Senior Lampford Mark and junior Mike Ball look to take over in the backfield for Taua, who rushed for 1,534 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Mark and Ball did see significant time last season, rushing for 413 and 259 yards, respectively, and combining for seven touchdowns. A big plus for Lantrip is keeping leading receiver Rishard Matthews, who had 879 receiving yards and five touchdowns a year ago.
Nevada returns seven starters on defense but loses key linebacker Kevin Grimes, who helped lead the Wolfpack with 51 tackles total tackles and averaged six per game last season. However, middle linebacker James-Michael Johnson returns for his senior season after a similar 2010 campaign - 51 total tackles - along with strong safety Duke Williams (51 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles). But the biggest hole to fill is finding two new defensive ends to replace Dontay Moch and Ryan Coulson to play outside defensive tackle Brett Roy. Roy and Moch led the team with eight sacks apiece and Moch added another 22 tackles for loss while Coulson totaled three sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss.
EARLY BOLD PREDICTION
Texas Tech 31, Nevada 20