Coach Ault: Rebuilding
The University of Nevada Wolf Pack notched a win yesterday over San Jose State in Spartan Stadium, but it sure wasn't easy. The experts had favored the Spartans.
After getting blown out last week against Oregon, Nevada (1-1) was hoping for a much better showing against conference rival San Jose. The Spartans had lost their first two games to Stanford 57-3 and UCLA 27-17 coming into Saturday's game with the Wolf Pack.
Nevada started out strong, but was lucky to escape with a narrow three point victory. Senior QB Tyler Lantrip showed some improvement over last week by completing 11 of his 21 passes for 112 yards. He did not throw a single TD and was picked off twice.
Nevada had 23 first downs to San Jose's 15 and was 7 for 16 on 3rd down conversions to San Jose's 4 for 14.
The Wolf Pack ground game was dominant racking up 261 yards against the Spartans 138. Junior RB Mike Ball had 124 yards and two TDs.
Nevada managed 373 total offensive yards to San Jose's 290. The only metric where the Spartans bested the Wolf Pack was on passing—152 to 112 yards.
The game was not as close as the score. For most of it, Nevada seemed in control and dominated the clock 35:51 to 24:09, but managed to squander one scoring opportunity after another. Similar to last week's performance against Oregon, Nevada permitted a litany of errors and turnovers that nearly gave the game away.
The Wolf Pack lost two fumbles, but fortunately recovered three. Lantrip was intercepted twice and Rishard Matthews muffed two consecutive punts.
The defense seemed improved over last week, at least until late in the game when the Spartans began moving the ball much more effectively. The game was saved for the Wolf Pack by an interception in the end zone with minutes left.
The Wolf Pack needed this victory to build some confidence, but they clearly have a long way to go. Nevada faces Texas Tech on the road next week. The Red Raiders (2-0) have beaten Texas State 59-10 and New Mexico 59-13, so Nevada will have their work cut out for them.
Nevada then faces Boise State the following week in Idaho. The Broncos are off to a strong start dominating Georgia and Toledo in easy wins.
Realistically, the best Nevada can expect is to be 1-3 when they return home to face UNLV on October 8. The Rebels upset Hawaii last night 40-20.
On the bright side, the Wolf Pack is now 1-0 in conference play and Hawaii showed some significant weaknesses last night in Las Vegas. The Wolf Pack now have three non-conference games to work on things before resuming conference play on October 15.
By then they will have faced two Top Ten teams as well as San Jose State, Texas Tech and UNLV and hopefully will have improved enough to win the rest of their conference games.
As shaky as things looks for the Pack now, given their schedule, a 9-3 season and an outright WAC Championship is still a possibility.