Football: Grading the Wolf Pack |

Football: Grading the Wolf Pack

by Joe Santoro

Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack football team after a 27-13 victory Saturday night over the Brigham Young Cougars . . .



Colin Kaepernick can certainly play better. The senior had a nice game (82 rushing yards, 196 passing) but he wasn’t asked to win this game by himself. He fumbled twice (recovering both) and was intercepted for the first time this season. He also had just 16 yards rushing on eight carries in the second half and his head coach pointed out on national TV after the game that he missed a few audubles. Kaepernick also failed to get the Pack in the end zone in the second half when another touchdown would have sealed the victory. It was a solid game for most quarterbacks in the country but not the type that has made Kaepernick a legitimate sleeper pick for the Heisman.


Vai Taua ran for 133 clock-eating yards on a career-high 29 carries. The 5-foot-10 senior did cough up the ball in the first quarter on a fumble (the replay showed that he might have already been down) but that was his only mistake. He also at least got back to the line of scrimmage on each of his 29 carries. Taua carried the ball eight times on the Pack’s 21-play drive in the second half. Taua’s performance was one of the greatest efforts by a Pack back in quite some time. Courtney Randall also had a solid game, catching a 6-yard touchdown pass and picking up 10 tough yards on four carries. His 4-yard run picked up a first down on the 21-play drive as did his 2-yard run in the second quarter on the Pack’s third scoring drive. He also had a 13-yard run called back because of a holding penalty.


This group just continues to roll along. Jeff Nady stepped in at tackle for an injured steve Haley and the Pack didn’t miss a beat. Oh, they’ve had better games. Veteran guard John Bender had a holding penalty and a personal foul. And Kaepernick didn’t run around as freely as he normally does as the Pack had problems at times blocking theedges. But the Pack still ran for 239 yards (mostly with Taua up the middle) and Kaepernick was sacked just once on 25 attempts. Jose Acuna had a nice block on Kaepernick’s 26-yard run in the second quarter to set up a score. The offensive line is the reason why the Pack controlled the ball for over 36 minutes. The 21-play, nine-minute drive at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty for this offensive line.


Nobody caught more than three passes or gained as much as 59 yards as Kaepernick distributed the ball well, completing passes to nine different receivers. The only touchdown pass went to a running back (Randall).


Dontay Moch drilled BYU’s Bryan Kariya for a 3-yard loss in the second quatter and Brett Roy had the defensive play of the game, sacking BYU quarterback Jake Heaps with just under four minutes to play. Moch led the D-line with five tackles and Ryan Coulson and Zack Madonick had a couple tackles each. Coulson pressured Heaps into an incompletion early in the second quarter on a big 3rd-and-8 play from the Pack 45. 


James-Michael Johnson continues to turn in solid efforts week after week. Johnson had a team-high 10 tackles and was a big reason why BYU rushed for just 91 yards (3.6 per rush). Kevin Grimes had a solid game with six tackles and Brandon Marshall had a huge tackle for a loss (he drilled Heaps on a 1st-and-goal run from the Pack 9-yard line) and broke up a pass.


Doyle Miller is making a serious bid to become an All-Western Athletic Conference cornerback this season. The 5-foot-11 senior broke up four passes on Saturday and also had three tackles. Isaiah Frey nearly had an interceptionon on BYU’s first drive of the game that could have turned into seven points for the Pack. Frey had a solid game with three tackles. Marlon Johnson had nine tackles and has clearly stepped up his game this year. Heaps did complete 24 passes but half of those were to running backs.


Ricky Drake 38 yards) and Anthony Martinez (29 yards) each made their only field goal attempt and Brad Langley averaged 56.0 yards on each of his two punts (both were exactly 56 yards and one landed inside the 20). The Pack coverage teams had a so-so game as BYU returned three kickoffs for an average of 34.3 yards a return and one punt for eight yards. Rishard Matthews returned one punt for no yards and two kickoffs for a 16.0 average.


Chris Ault set the tone of this game right away, going for a 4th-and-1 situation on the Pack’s first drive of the game from their own 38-yard line. They made the first down and later scored on the drive for a 7-0 lead. It was an incredibly brave and gutsy call by Ault and might have been the call of the game. It showed that the Pack was going to play with extreme confidence and they weren’t going to be intimidated by a road game in front of 61,471 fans. The Pack was 3-of-4 on fourth downs in the game. You also have to love the way Ault and the offense put the ball in the hands of the running backs and offensive line and physically manhandled the bigger Cougars. It was obvious the Pack played with a sense of confidence all afternoon that was instilled in them by the coaching staff. The Pack defensive coaches also had a solid plan, bringing pressure on the young BYU quarterback when it was needed and not giving up the cheap big play. This Pack secondary is keeping everything in front of them lately and it is paying off.