RENO - Ever since his first-game meltdown at Georgia where he turned the ball over six times, Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky is starting to get his game back, and that's bad news for the rest of the Western Athletic Conference.
"He's getting better," said Boise State coach Dan Hawkins, whose team hosts Nevada in a battle of WAC unbeatens Saturday (12:07 p.m. PDT) at Bronco Stadium. "He's much more efficient on offense. He's not taking sacks or turning the ball over."
Zabransky has completed 128 of 204 passes for 1,545 yards and 12 scores, and he's rushed 66 times for 233 yards and six scores.
No question he will be the focus of Nevada's pressure defense.
"He's an excellent quarterback," Nevada coach Chris Ault said. "He's the hub of their offensive wheel. There are a combination of things (defensively) we'll do to try and slow him down."
That was something Nevada was unable to do last year. Zabransky guided the Broncos to 30 second-half points in a 58-21 Bronco victory. He finished 17 for 25 for 244 yards and three scores in that game.
"He's playing with a lot of confidence, I'll tell you that," Nevada co-defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said. "He's winning games with his legs as well as his arms. He's finding ways to make plays."
Zabransky will scramble effectively and he's a load to bring down in the open field. He can also run the option.
"He really hurt San Jose with it (the option)," DeRuyter said. "They like to run it near the goalline.
"They are difficult to defend because of their scheme. They make defensive kids think, and when you think, you can't play fast."
WHO'S AT FREE SAFETY
The Wolf Pack will have a new free safety for the rest of the season after Nick Hawthrone went down with a season-ending knee injury against Louisiana Tech.
The team is currently using sophomore Sergio Villasenor and true freshman Michael Samples at the spot. DeRuyter said no decision has been made as to who the starter will be.
Samples had two tackles in his two-quarter stint. Villasenor has played in three games, but has yet to record a tackle.
FACTS & FIGURES
Redshirt freshman Luke Rippee had foot surgery on Monday. Knowing Rippee, he will be chomping at the bit to get back on the field in the spring. ... Andy McIntosh, Rippee's fellow teammate from Douglas High School, was the owner of a black jersey for his special teams play against Louisiana Tech. McIntosh, one of the Pack's strongest receivers, has found a niche as a specialist. ... The Pack had a new tight end at practice, as 6-foot-4 240-pound quarterback Ben Galbraith worked out there. It's not known whether the move is temporary or permanent. In some ways it makes sense because Nevada returns all of its quarterbacks next season and true freshman Nick Graziano was ahead of Galbraith on the depth chart. ... Center Jimmy Wadhams, who injured his knee in the San Jose State game, was walking around minus a brace. There is a possibility he could return to light workouts within 10 days. ... Boise State has three Nevadans on its roster - twin brothers Pete and Jeff Cavender from Elko and Sean Bingham from Reno High.
n Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or 881-1281