After a tough loss to UNLV last week, a game in which they lost the Fremont Cannon, the Wolf Pack is looking to bounce back against the New Mexico Lobos. Nevada needs a win to have any hope of making a bowl game, so let's check out their keys to victory.
1. Stop the Run
New Mexico more or less runs a triple option out of the pistol formation. They are not a total run team, as starting QB Lamar Jordan has over 400 passing yards, but they like to use it to catch defenses off-guard to break big plays. Luckily for the Wolf Pack, they get run-stopping DT Rykeem Yates back from suspension this week. During both of Yates' suspensions this season (1st quarter vs UC Davis, Full game vs UNLV), the Wolf Pack defense has had major issues stopping the run. Against UNLV, Nevada gave up over 100 yards on the ground on just the first two drives alone. If Nevada stops the run, they win will the game.
2. Run the Offense Through Don Jackson and James Butler
The running back duo of Don Jackson and James Butler has been very good this year, with Jackson and Butler averaging 5.0 YPC and 6.5 YPC, respectively. However, the Wolf Pack offense has gone through cold streaks during the season, often because of the passing game. Nevada needs to rely on these two to carry the offense, so that the coaching staff can use the pass as a compliment to the run, instead of the other way around.
3. Get TE Jarred Gipson Involved
Nevada's passing attack has been bad this season, as junior QB Tyler Stewart has struggled with accuracy and decision making. It's not all on Stewart, though. The Nevada receivers have been virtually non-existent, with only 3 players over 10 catches on the year. One player who doesn't have 10 catches on the year is junior TE Jarred Gipson. Gipson is one of the best tight ends in the conference, but the Wolf Pack offense has not been targeting him this season. In his limited appearances this season, Gipson has made big plays by breaking tackles and getting YAC. The Wolf Pack offense could really open up the field for it's receivers by sending Gipson up the seam or having him cut underneath the linebackers, thus helping them move the ball better.
4. Don't Force Passes
Stewart's strong arm allows him to fit the ball into tight windows at times. At the same time, he tries to use his arm strength to force a pass when the receiver simply isn't open. A perfect example of this came last week against UNLV. On the last drive, as time was winding down, Stewart tried to go deep twice because the offense had stalled. Both times, the intended received was draped in coverage, and the throw landed nowhere near them. Stewart needs to stop forcing the ball, or the Wolf Pack may have a new quarterback in the near future.
5. Limit the Turnovers
This is really a key for any football team at any level that wants to win. If a team wins the turnover battle, more often than not, they win the game.
6. Get the Crowd Into It
Mackay Stadium was dead until the fourth quarter when the Wolf Pack started to mount a comeback. A place that used to be one of the best home-field advantages in the country with Chris Ault at the helm to a seemingly indifferent crowd. Nevada needs a big play early to get the fans into it.