Nevada Senior QB Tyler Lantrip has big shoes to fill
The BSU Broncos are off to a terrific start once again. This amazing program just keeps on winning and beating everyone they face. It doesn't matter who or what conference they play, they just win games. They beat up Georgia, Oregon, TCU and Oklahoma. They are BCS busters for sure.
The Broncos have 29 wins in their last 30 games. The only blemish on that remarkable record was their upset loss to Nevada last season. But then, Nevada has long been a thorn in Boise's side.
Between 2007-2010, when no one else seemed to be able to score against BSU, Nevada put up an astonishing 168 points. In fact, the Wolf Pack have absolutely dominated the Broncos in the second half over those four games outscoring them 164-111 (if you include Q2 in '09). The average point difference over these four games was 4.25. That's how much parity there is between the Broncos and the Wolf Pack. Four points per game separates them.
But that was then. This is now. Nevada's star QB, Colin Kaepernick, is a San Francisco 49er now. Six other seniors were either drafted or were free agents and the Wolf Pack seem to be a shell of what they were last season. Or are they?
After getting demolished in Oregon in Week 1, the team has made steady progress. Clearly, there is a steep learning curve for QB Tyler Lantrip who made his first start only two weeks ago. But they played much better in Week 2 and managed a win over San Jose State. That game was remarkable because the Wolf Pack seemed to dominate the game and still nearly gave it away. They were lucky to escape with 17-14 win.
By how much will BSU beat Nevada?
But something astonishing happened in Week 3. The Wolf Pack had Texas Tech on the ropes and at one point led 21-7. Once again, they let a lead slip away and this time lost 35-34. Still, it was a real confidence builder. The Pack now know they can play with a Top 25-caliber team. The defense was impressive for most of the game
The Wolf Pack travel to Boise this weekend to face the Broncos for the first time since the stinging defeat that ended BSU's quest for a BCS bowl last year. Suffice it to say, the Broncos will be up for this game, maybe too much. Most folks think Nevada doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of beating the Broncos. Of course, the experts didn't think Nevada could beat them last year either.
But I did. In fact, I predicted it here—35-27 was my prediction. They won 34-31. Now I doubt the coaching staff reads or could care less about what I say, but I wrote a piece for B/R on what Nevada needed to do to beat BSU last year and by gosh, they did exactly what I said. So, for what it's worth, I'll give it another try.
Can Nevada beat BSU this year, in Boise? Probably not. But, they may surprise folks and put up a good fight. The improvement they showed from Week 1 to Week 3 was absolutely astonishing. They did not look like the same team. They made significant strides. Lantrip looked much more comfortable.
The keys to this game are clear. The Wolf Pack will move the ball. They had almost 600 yards of total offense against Oregon. But they have to finish drives and score in the red zone.
The real key to the game will be the defense, especially the pass rush. Nevada has got to get pressure on Kellen Moore if they are to have any hope of staying in this game. If he has time, Moore is a deadly accurate passer. But under pressure he becomes very average. The Wolf Pack defense needs to step up big time early in this game and get to the QB. I would blitz early and often.
If the Wolf Pack can get enough pressure on Moore, run their offense, avoid stupid mistakes and keep BSU to under 35 points, they just might make a game of it.