Nevada can’t overlook Spartans
Special to The R-C
The Nevada Wolf Pack football team used to see San Jose State on its schedule and smile. Those days, coach Brian Polian says, are long gone.
“I don’t think we’re good enough to take anything for granted,” Polian said as he prepared his struggling Wolf Pack (3-3, 1-1) to take on the Spartans (1-5 0-2) on Saturday night in San Jose.
The Spartans, though, usually find a way to brighten up even a dark and cloudy Wolf Pack football season. The Wolf Pack have won seven in a row against San Jose State and 12 of its last 13 since 2002.
But no opponent, even one which has had just three winning seasons since 1992 like the Spartans, is enough to make the Wolf Pack feel overly confident right now. Losses at Purdue and Hawaii, as well as less-than-impressive wins at home against Cal Poly and Fresno State, are enough to make the Pack wary of all opponents.
“We cannot stop improving,” Polian said. “There are a lot of things we can do better and we need to do better in all three phases. Our issues right now are about fundamentals and not so much the X’s and O’s.”
The Wolf Pack made just enough plays to hold off Fresno State 27-22 last Saturday night at home, keeping the Bulldogs out of the end zone on four consecutive plays from the 4-in the final minute.
“That was a struggle,” Polian said. “There are a lot of areas where we need to improve off that game.”
Although it wasn’t pretty, the victory did allow the Pack to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 2013.
San Jose State lost to Hawaii 34-17 last week at home and has a four-game losing streak. The Spartans have allowed 40 points a game while turning the ball over 14 times. Their only victory this year has come against Portland State (2-4) from the Big Sky Conference.
Coach Ron Caragher has a record of just 16-27 in four seasons at San Jose State. Caragher agreed that the struggling Spartans and Wolf Pack are in similar situations heading into Saturday.
“They (Nevada) are probably trying to find some traction as well,” Caragher said.
San Jose State is led by 6-foot-2 senior quarterback Kenny Potter, who has passed for 1,006 yards and nine touchdowns this year. A leg injury, which forced him to miss a 44-10 loss to Iowa State, though, has limited him to just 58 yards rushing on 50 carries this season. A year ago he became the first San Jose State quarterback in 30 years to rush for 100 yards in a game when he had 116 in a 37-34 overtime loss at Mackay Stadium against the Wolf Pack.
“He made a lot of plays against us last year,” said Polian of Potter. “He’s most effective when he’s out on the edges and being creative. He’s a heck of a player. He’s not running around like he did last year but you have to make sure you account for him not only as a thrower but as a runner as well.”
Caragher defended his quarterback this week. Potter was intercepted three times last week by Hawaii and has been picked off six times this year in his five games.
“Kenny was frustrated (last week),” said Caragher. “But it’s because of the competitor that he is. The guy is a champion. Yes, he made some costly throws last week that weren’t Kenny-like. But I know who Kenny is. I know what he’s about and the type of player he is. He’s our guy.”
The Spartans’ ground game is led by Deontae Cooper (327 yards) and Potter’s top targets are Tim Crawley (20 catches, 245 yards) and Justin Holmes (17-333).