Football: Wolf Pack opens up air attack
Chris Ault made good on his promise last Thursday night.
“We’re definitely going to throw the ball more this year,” said the Nevada Wolf Pack head coach after the 49-24 season-opening victory over Eastern Washington, repeating a pledge he’s made all summer.
Wolf Pack quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Tyler Lantrip (1-of-1 for 33 yards) combined to complete 27-of-38 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns against Eastern Washington. It was the most passing yards for the Wolf Pack in a game since Kaepernick threw for 370 against Maryland on Dec. 30, 2008.
Ault, whose Wolf Pack led the nation in rushing last year, vowed to throw the ball more this year after putting the passing game in storage a year ago. After one game, at least, the Pack coach has kept his word.
Kaepernick’s 37 attempts against Eastern Washington were the same number of attempts he had in three games combined last November against San Jose State, Fresno State and New Mexico State.
“We lost our continuity last year,” Ault said. “You can practice it all you want but you have to do it in a game to keep sharp. We weren’t efficient in the passing game last year.”
The Wolf Pack unveiled its new emphasis on the passing game last week on its second possession of the game. The first four plays of the drive all were passes as Kaepernick went 4-for-4 for 33 yards. The senior completed seven of his first eight passes in the first quarter for 61 yards.
“Whatever the coaches want me to do, I’ll do it,” Kaepernick said. “All I want to do is win. But it did feel good to throw the ball.”
Kaepernick finished the game with a career high 26 completions.
“We definitely want to take some pressure off our run game this year,” Kaepernick said.
Tight end Virgil Green benefitted the most from Kaepernick’s active right arm, turning in career highs in catches (seven) yards (144) and touchdowns (two). The senior was named the John Mackey Award’s National Tight End of the Week this week.
“We knew we could throw the ball,” Green said.
Now all of the Pack’s opponents know it.
“It was good to show that we can throw the ball like that because it let’s you know you can do it in a game,” Kaepernick said. “It’s lets us know that if we need to throw the ball to win, we can.”
Green, who scored on two deep balls (48 and 40 yards), exploited Eastern Washington down the middle of the field.
“It was good to expose their defense like that and take advantage of what they were giving us,” Kaepernick said.
The Wolf Pack earned more first downs (14) passing than it did on the ground (10). That only happened once all last season.
“I went into that game wanting to throw,” Ault said. “We’re still going to be a running team. We were the best in the country last year. But, at the same time, I want us to be balanced.”
The Pack threw the ball 38 times last week and ran it 44 times (for 214 yards and five touchdowns). After one week, the Pack is the 33rd best rushing team in the nation and the 13th best passing offense. Offensively, overall, the Pack is eighth in the nation (553 yards).
“Everyone knows we can run the ball,” Kaepernick said. “Now they know we can throw it, too.”
Kaepernick was very impressive through the air on the Pack’s final drive of the first half with the clock winding down. He completed 4-of-5 (the only completion was a dropped pass by Brandon Wimberley) for 84 yards and a TD (48 yards to Green) for a 28-10 Pack lead.
“You never go in a game saying you’re going to throw it 40 times,” Ault said. “And it’s not about how many times we throw it. It’s about when we throw it, how we throw it and being more efficient. But we wanted to work on it. And it was good for us to see it.”