Nevada Wolf Pack
2010 Record: 13-1
2010 Bowl Result: Beat Boston College 20-13 in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
2010 Against the Spread: 7-7
2010 over/under: 6-8
Returning starters: 11 (4 offense, 7 defense)
Throughout August we are releasing pre-season previews for all the major college teams. Our College Football Handicappers are doing plenty of research to make sure we release winners every week during the upcoming season.
Last season, Nevada had one of the best seasons in school history with a 13-1 record. It included and upset win over then undefeated and #4 ranked Boise St. Only a 27-21 loss at Hawaii kept the Wolf Pack from an undefeated season. The season ended with a 20-13 victory over Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. This year coach Chris Ault and the Wolf Pack return only 11 starters. They must replace talented quarterback Colin Kaepernick who is now with the 49ers.
Here is a look at Nevada’s offense, defense, special teams, and schedule.
With Ault’s innovative pistol offense, only 2 other teams in the country rushed for more yards per game than Nevada did. Nevada rushed for 292.9 yards a game last year. The Wolf Pack only had to pass when necessary to keep the defense honest, averaging only 226.9 yards a game. Overall, Nevada was #4 in the country in total offense with 519.8 yards a game. Nevada scored 41 points a game, which was #8 in the country. The offense only returns 4 starters.
Kaepernick was a dual threat quarterback who combined for over 14,000 combined rushing and passing yards, along with 141 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. Senior Tyler Lantrip will take over as the quarterback. He isn’t the athlete that Kaepernick was, but he might be a better passer. Lantrip is 6-4, and 220 pounds but runs really well for his size. He threw 13 passes and 16 carries along with a couple of touchdowns in mop-up duty last year. Redshirt freshman Cody Fajardo and sophomore Mason Magleby will be the back-ups but both could see some action this fall.
The Wolf Pack must replace leading rusher Vai Taua. Taua had 284 carries, 1,610 yards, and 19 touchdowns last season. He also had 18 catches and 3 touchdowns. Junior Mike Ball will take over as the feature back. He missed some time last year due to a suspension for violating team rules. He had 38 carries, 259 yards, and 4 scores. He also had 11 catches and two touchdowns. Senior Lampford Mark also returns. He had 55 carries, 413 yards, and 3 touchdowns before tearing his ACL late last year. He could miss a couple of games at the beginning of the season as he recovers. True freshman Anthony Knight and sophomore Stefphon Jefferson will also get some carries along with Lantrip. Te offense will rely on the running backs until Lantrip gets used to running the show.
Nevada loses tight end Virgil Green but top receiver Rishard Matthews returns. Matthews had 56 catches, 879 yards, and 5 touchdown catches last year. He also had 5 carries, 76 yards, and 2 touchdowns last year. He had 7 catches, 172 yards, and a touchdown against Idaho, and 10 catches, 172 yards, a touchdown catch, and a 44 yard touchdown run in the upset over Boise St. Redshirt freshman Lemar Durant will back him up. Junior Brandon Wimberly was supposed to be the number 2 receiver before he was shot in the stomach in June. He will miss the entire season but at least he is alive. Seniors Shane Anderson & Trey Session along with sophomore L.J. Washington need to step up in Wimberley’s absence. Senior Zach Sudfield and sophomore Randy Horton will replace Greene at tight end.
The offensive line returns 3 starters from a unit that was 12th in sacks allowed and opened up holes for the nation’s third leading rushing attack. Junior Jeff Nady returns at the weak tackle spot. Junior Chris Barker returns at the weak guard spot, and senior Jeff Meads returns as the center. They should still be great, and will have to pass protect more with Lantrip behind center.
The defense was dominant against the rush giving up 120.7 yards a game and horrible against the pass giving up 243.3 yards a game. Overall, They gave up 364 yards a game, and allowed 21.4 points a game. Nevada returns 7 starters from that unit.
The defense will be led by senior DT Brett Roy, senior linebacker James-Michael Johnson, and cornerback Isaiah Frey. The pass rush could be an issue, and the Wolf Pack must improve the pass defense in general. This is a unit loaded with veterans and should be better.
Sophomore Anthony Martinez returns as the kicker. He was 11 for 15 on field goals but didn’t hit one over 36 yards. He doesn’t have a very strong leg.
Senior Jake Hurst and JUCO transfer Chase Tenpenny will compete for the punting job. Tenpenny really impressed the coaching staff and looks to be winning the competition
Rishard Matthews averaged 9.8 yards per punt return and returned a punt 72 yards for a score. He could return kicks as well, but Mike Ball will return most of the kicks. Ball averaged 24.5 yards a return last year. Cornerback Khalid Wooten could see some time at kick returner also.
Nevada opens up with 4 straight road games at Oregon, San Jose St, Texas Tech, and former & future conference foe Boise St. The Wolf Pack could easily be 1-3 after that stretch to start the season. Nevada then starts a 3 game home stand against in-state rival UNLV. They also host New Mexico and Fresno St. The Fresno game is a toss-up but Nevada should easily beat UNLV and New Mexico. Nevada travels to New Mexico St, before hosting Hawaii and Louisiana Tech. They close the season at Utah St and home against Idaho. If they can survive the brutal 4 game stretch to start the season, Hawaii and Fresno are the only two other tests on the season. They get both in Reno, so Nevada should be able to get to 8 or 9 wins and compete for the WAC title in their last year before moving to the Mountain West along with Hawaii and Fresno St. The trio will join Boise St who joined the MWC this year.
Nevada was 7-7 against the spread last year including 4-4 at home and 3-3 on the road. The over/under was 6-8 including 3-5 at home and 3-3 on the road.
Game to Play Nevada
October 8, Nevada hosts rival UNLV in the battle for the Fremont Cannon. Nevada has won 21 of the 36 meetings between the two schools, including 6 in a row. Nevada won last year in Las Vegas 44-26. UNLV is coming off a 2 win season and should get beaten again by their northern rivals.
Game to Play against Nevada
Nevada travels to Boise St October 1. Last season Nevada won a game in overtime when Boise’s normally reliable kicker Kyle Brotzman missed 2 short field goals. The loss kept Boise out of a lucrative BCS Bowl. This year Nevada travels to Boise for the rematch. Boise is a top 5 pre-season team and should win handily on the blue turf.
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