Football: Wolf Pack notebook |

Football: Wolf Pack notebook

by Joe Santoro

Vai Taua’s eyes lit up and he smiled from ear to ear.

“I can’t wait to get on that new turf,” Taua said on Monday.

The Wolf Pack’s Mackay Stadium, one of the first facilities in the nation to use Field Turf in 2000, ripped out its old, worn playing surface this summer and installed a new Field Turf playing field.

Taua, who relies on a dependable surface to ply his trade as the Pack’s top running back, is excited to christen the new surface for the first time in a real game when the Pack opens its 2010 season Thursday (6:05 p.m. kickoff) against Eastern Washington.

“It’s exciting,” Taua said. “I would say it is faster than the old turf. But the main thing is it just looks great. It feels great just to be out there on that turf.”

The Wolf Pack didn’t do anything outrageous with its new surface, which was installed for just under $500,000. The field, though more vibrant than the Mackay Stadium surface Pack fans have grown accustomed to in recent years, will still be a traditional green.

The same, however, can’t be said for Eastern Washington.

The Eagles took a cue from Boise State and its famous Smurf Turf blue field and made national news this summer by installing a new red artificial (Sprinturf) surface in Cheney, Wash. The University of New Haven (Division II) also has a blue football field.

The Eagles will play their first game on their red field on Sept. 18 against Montana.

“They are like a bunch of kids on Christmas morning,” Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin is quoted on the school’s official web site (

The Eagles practiced for the first time on their new field last Friday.

“The initial excitement will wear off a little bit, but what won’t wear off is the fact it’s a great surface and the home field advantage it gives us,” Baldwin said. “They’re giggling and its fun today, but now it’s time where we get geared toward game week and what we have to do against Nevada.”

WAC WANTS $5 MILLION FROM PACK, FRESNO STATE: Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson announced Monday once again that Fresno State and Nevada must pay $5 million each for failing to remain members of the WAC through June 2016.

Fresno State and Nevada announced on August 18 that they would join the Mountain West Conference. Both schools, according to the WAC, were notified on August 27 with a “demand for payment” letter and have 60 days from that date to make payment.

The WAC also is reporting that the two schools are also required to compete in the WAC during the 2010-11 season and the 2011-12 season because neither school announced its decision to withdraw from the WAC prior to the June 30 deadline as required by WAC Bylaws.

“The WAC fully expects to receive the $5 million from both Fresno State and Nevada and will take legal recourse if necessary to obtain the money,” Benson is quoted in the conference’s statement. “As for the termination date, WAC Bylaws make it very clear that Fresno State and Nevada must remain in the WAC through the 2011-12 season unless the WAC authorizes an ‘early out.’ Fresno State and Nevada leaving the WAC following the 2010-11 season would cause irreparable financial harm to the remaining WAC members in terms of football scheduling and potential loss of revenue from television and bowl games. The damages that Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State and Utah State would incur could exceed as much as $2 million per school.”

Nevada president Milt Glick issued the following statement late Monday afternoon:

“We disagree with Commissioner Benson’s interpretation. We will be contacting the WAC directly to resolve these issues, and hope they can be resolved in an expeditious fashion.”

PACK HAPPY TO OPEN AT HOME: Wolf Pack head coach Chris Ault is thrilled to open the season at home. The Wolf Pack has opened a season at home just six times in the past 18 years since the school moved to Division I-A in 1992.

“First of all, you don’t have the strain of traveling 75 people,” Ault said. “That’s not an easy thing to do. On the day of the game you are just concentrating on football. That’s a big advantage.”

The Wolf Pack is 0-12 on the road when opening a season away from Mackay Stadium since 1992. During that same time they are 4-2 when opening the season at home.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” senior quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. “We get to open up at home in front of our fans in our stadium. It’s a great feeling.”

The Pack actually opens the season with three consecutive home games. They will also play Colorado State on Sept. 11 and California on Sept. 17 at Mackay. It is the first time they will open a season with three home games since 1991 when they opened with four.

“The schedule is more suited to having a lot of success early than in the past,” Kaepernick said.

FAMILIAR FACE ON EAGLES SIDELINE: Baldwin, the Eastern Washington head coach, has faced the Wolf Pack before.

Baldwin was the Eagles quarterback in 1991, the last time the two schools met.

The Pack, which has won seven of eight games in its all-time series with the Eagles, beat Baldwin and Eastern Washington in 1991 by a score of 51-14 in Cheney, Wash. Chris Singleton set a Wolf Pack record that afternoon with four touchdown catches.

MOST EXPLOSIVE OPENING DAY: In case you were wondering, the Wolf Pack record for points scored on opening day is 65 against Pocatello Marine Base in 1945.

The Pack record for points scored since moving to Division I-A in 1992 is 49 against Grambling in 2008.

ATTACKING THE RECORD BOOK: Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Vai Taua are set to reach milestones, maybe as early as Thursday night.

Kaepernick, who took over as the starting quarterback midway through his freshman year, needs just 180 passing yards to tie Mike Maxwell for sixth place at 7,256. He also needs just two touchdown passes to move into third place with 64 in his career, ahead of Maxwell (62) and Fred Gatlin (63).

Kaepernick also needs just 18 yards of total offense to become just the second Pack player in history with 10,000 yards. David Neill has the Pack record with 11,145 yards.

Taua, a senior like Kaepernick, needs just 22 yards rushing to reach 3,000 for his career