Nevada will host Colorado State for the last time as non-conference foes. Last year Colorado State beat Nevada at home 35-20 in convincing fashion to put them at 3-0. The Rams received a couple votes in the polls that week. That was the last win for the Rams, 9/19/2009. Last year Nevada was 0-2 after the game with CSU and took another hard loss the following week at Missouri. Then the Wolfpack rattled off eight straight wins before they ran into Boise State. Their seasons couldn't have been more different last year after the two teams faced off.
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Nevada opened their season with a 49-24 win over Eastern Washington. They start their season with three straight home games and look to get off to a big start in their last year in the WAC. Colin Kaepernick started off his senior season as well as one could have with a 70.3% completion rating, 306 yards passing and two touchdowns. Kaepernick topped that off by being the Wolfpack's leading rusher with 60 yards on 11 carries and two more touchdowns.
Nevada lost 1000 yard rusher Luke Lippincott, but still have Vai Taua and Kaepernick to head their rushing attack. Eight Wolfpack players ran the ball last week but it was against an FCS school so expect that number to drop to around four with Mike Ball and Lampford Mark getting the other carries out of Chris Ault's famous pistol offense. The Rams held Nevada to 169 yards last year which was their third lowest output. I don't expect Nevada to turn the ball over five times this game however so the Rams will have to step up against the run and in general just make plays to slow down Kaepernick.
On offense the Rams still aren't sure what they have to work with. The running game was completely shut down last week as Raymond Carter averaged less then a yard per carry. Chris Nwoke didn't even get a carry but Steve Fairchild said that will change this weekend as Nwoke is their power back. From Fairchild's weekly presser comments he seemed more encouraged after watching the film of the CU game. Fairchild mentioned that the Rams running game isn't as pitiful as the 49 yards they gained last week and were close to breaking a few gains. One thing that wasn't up for judgment was the play of true freshman Pete Thomas. Three interceptions and no touchdowns isn't good but everything else was there. He didn't force any throws, very accurate at 72.7% completion rating, and his pocket presence was spectacular for a career opener. The 5.9 yards per attempt pops out as him just dumping it off but CU was giving up the underneath pass and there were very few yards after catch to help out that average.
On defense the Wolfpack should have a similar plan to stop the Rams. Protect deep and stop the run. The Rams got into way to many 3rd and long situations to succeed. I imagine that Fairchild will try and stretch the field a little bit more aggressively then he was last week. Nevada did lose their top three tacklers from last year and it showed some as Nevada gave up 24 points to an FCS team. Ault was quoted as saying he was disappointed in his defense and that they lacked fundamentals. It will be a good chance for the Nevada defense to step up or the Rams offense to show what they can do.
On defense the Rams will have to be weary of the pistol offense and any quirks that can be thrown into it to deceive the Rams. Assignment football will be the name of the game for the Rams if they want to stop Nevada. The linebackers didn't disappoint as they totaled for 28 tackles. Ricky Brewer lead the Rams in tackles with ten against CU. Speedy freshman linebacker Mike Orakpo added a sack. Alex Williams in the middle will be a big key to stopping the pistol.
I think the deciding factor will be Kaepernick and his ability to be a dual threat. If Nevada can control the clock a bit and not turnover the ball they should win at home. If the Nevada defense plays poorly again we could see the breakout party of Pete Thomas and the Rams offense. The Rams just look to be outmatched against one of the top offenses in the nation. If the Rams find their running game I wouldn't count them out though.