Football: Ault relying on Nevada defense to set the tone |

Football: Ault relying on Nevada defense to set the tone

by Joe Santoro

The way Chris Ault looks at it, a defensive unit is a living, breathing, walking, talking, powerful two-ounce bottle of 5-hour Energy for his entire Nevada Wolf Pack football team.

“The defense sets the tone for the entire football team,” Ault has said many times in recent years, hoping to one day get his point across.

Well, consider Ault’s point finally across. Yes, the Pack defense has finally gotten the message.

“You could just feel it on the sideline,” Ault said after last Saturday’s 51-6 victory over Colorado State. “The defense set the table.”

The Pack’s 5-hour Energy bottle doesn’t come in berry, orange, citrus or grape. And it doesn’t come packaged in neat, little brightly-colored 2-ounce bottles positioned near the checkout lane at your favorite grocery store. It comes in 250-pound silver and blue packages named Moch, Johnson, Williams, Coulson, Faddis and Roy.

“Our effort wasn’t there last week (against Eastern Washington in the season opener,” middle linebacker James-Michael Johnson said. “But that wasn’t going to be an issue this week. The effort was going to be there on every play.”

Johnson, now in his third year as a starter, said those words late Saturday night with a conviction that, well, let’s just say that those who opposed those words would have to answer to him.

Nobody opposed him.

Dontay Moch had five tackles, a sack and forced a fumble. Ryan Coulson had four tackles, a sack and forced a fumble. Duke Williams had five tackles, including one for a loss. Dean Faddis had five tackles. Marlon Johnson had seven tackles. Brett Roy knocked down a pass and had a tackle for a loss.

“We weren’t going to let what happened last week happen again,” said Johnson, who was named the Western Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Week on Monday after getting nine tackles and 1.5 sacks against the battered Rams.

Never let it be said that Ault cannot motivate a football team anymore. The old ball coach questioned his defense’s character after the 49-24 victory over Eastern Washington, pointing out deficiencies in such elementary football tenets as effort and tackling. By doing so he also questioned his assistant coach’s ability to motivate.

“I was very pleased with our defense,” Ault said. “Our coaches did an outstanding job this week of getting them ready. What a difference between last week and this week.”

What a difference an angry Hall of Fame coach makes.

“We’re a better defense than what we showed (in the season opener),” Ault said. “The players played with emotion and passion and that carried over to the entire football team.”

Forget those little 2-ounce bottles of 5-hour Energy. Ault’s methods of supplying energy to his football team have worked for decades.

“The defense had a lot of energy out there, they flew around the ball,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. “We all saw it.”

“When our defense plays like that, it gives our offense something to shoot for,” running back Vai Taua said. “It makes us want to go out there and play that much harder.”

Yes, Colorado State is never going to be confused with the great offenses in the history of college football. There are high school offenses with more imagination and talent. The Rams, which haven’t won a game in a year and have scored just nine points combined in two games, just might be the worst offense the Pack will see all year.

But you still have to admire what this Pack defense did last week. And let’s not forget how many bad offenses the Wolf Pack defense has breathed life into in recent years.

The Pack held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time since Nov. 18, 2006 in a 42-0 shutout of Louisiana Tech. They held the Rams to 272 total yards. In short, they did exactly what they are supposed to do against a team with no real playmakers and a freshman quarterback with one game of experience at the Division I-A level.

“We got what we deserved,” Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild said on Monday. “Nevada totally out-classed us.”

Make no mistake, there will be more strenuous tests in the coming weeks for this Pack defense. Eastern Washington and Colorado State were nothing more than glorified scrimmages serving as a tune-up for what’s ahead.

The first huge test will be this Friday night against the California Golden Bears of the Pac-10 Conference. Cal quarterback Kevin Riley has thrown for seven touchdowns and 455 yards in two games. Cal running back Shane Vereen has run for 126 yards and three scores. Last week the Bears scored 51 points on Colorado, the same team that held Colorado State to just a field goal two weeks ago.

“They have a lot of great athletes,” Wolf Pack free safety Duke Williams said.