Win over Cal keeps Wolfpack unbeaten, bolsters enthusiasm

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Chris Ault’s Nevada football team has played big games on national television before. But for the Wolfpack head coach, the team’s game Friday against California was a little different. There was, in Ault’s mind, just one word to describe it. ‘I think having a chance to play a Pac-10 team with the caliber of Cal and playing well against them and finding a way to win — it’s special,’ he said. ‘I think it sets your program up for great success in the areas that we recruit. And certainly it sends a message out that we’re not a bad ball club.’ And the rest of the country heard that message loud and clear as Nevada (3-0) ran away from Cal for a 52-31 triumph in front of its home crowd Friday. The win marked a 180-degree turnaround from last year’s 0-3 start and has the enthusiasm surrounding the program skyrocketing. And for senior quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for three more scores against the Golden Bears, the victory represents much more than the national spotlight it has attracted. It signifies a newfound cohesion within the team this year.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text ‘I think this is the first time since I’ve been here that this team is really a team,’ Kaepernick said. ‘We’ve really jelled. Our offense is supporting our defense. Our defense is supporting our offense. Our special teams fit in there perfectly. Just all around, we’ve really come together.’ Part of that coming together has been the improvement on defense. The unit was allowing more than 28 points per game and over 400 yards of total offense last season. Through those 13 games in 2009, Nevada forced just 18 turnovers. Ault did acknowledge the unit gave up a lot of yardage to Cal, but added they were overmatched on that side of the ball. What he was most pleased with was the Wolfpack’s ability to make plays in short yardage situations and three key interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. The unit is still giving up about the same amount of yardage as last year, but the scoring average is down to just over 20 points per game. In addition, the defense has already forced six turnovers through the first three games. And Ault gives much of that credit toward his players and first-year defensive coordinator Andy Buh. ‘We did some things that we hadn’t done before in terms of what we stunted with our front, how our secondary covered,’ Ault said. ‘Cal did move the ball on us — that’s an exceptional offense. But we weren’t on the sidelines wondering how to stop them, what we were going to do. We played our game.’ And as the defense has gotten better, the offense has also shown improvement. Last year, the Wolfpack became the first college football team to have three different players rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season, but still suffered to a 0-3 start. This season, the ground game is still there, but Ault has added a new dimension to the Nevada attack through Kaepernick’s arm. The Wolfpack is averaging nearly 100 more yards per game through the air this year than it was in 2009. ‘I’m really pleased with it,’ Ault said of Nevada’s aerial game. ‘We’re throwing the ball well. We were well prepared to throw it more against Cal. … I feel really good about our passing game and very comfortable with what Kap (Kaepernick) is doing and how he’s doing it.’ This week in a poll by The Associated Press, Nevada jumped up to the No. 27 spot. With the team’s first road game at Brigham Young coming this Saturday, the players are trying to focus on the road ahead and not get too caught up in the spotlight. But running back Vai Taua, one of those three 1,000-yard rushers from a year ago, said it is hard to ignore at times. ‘We try not to pay attention to that stuff, take it one week at a time,’ he said. ‘But it’s definitely something that’s boosting confidence.’ Kaepernick has seen the changes that have brought about this confidence. This is not the same Nevada team that started last season 0-3. This is not the Nevada that got smacked 45-10 by Southern Methodist in the Hawaii Bowl a year ago. This is a team coming off something special and building toward something more. ‘I think this team’s really come together and jelled,’ Kaepernick said. ‘Last year it was, ‘All right, you have your offense. You have your defense.’ This year everyone’s supporting everyone. Everyone’s playing together. And I think you notice the energy that this team has now compared when we played this time last year. ‘For most of us, we just want to keep it rolling, want to keep it going, and we want to keep this winning streak alive.’ Big man on campus Mark Ingram Junior Running Back Alabama Last week’s stats: 9 carries, 151 yards, 2 touchdowns Any doubts about Ingram’s health were subdued in the Crimson Tide’s 62-13 win over Duke last Saturday. The Heisman Trophy winner from a year ago scampered 48 yards the first time he touched the football en route to an impressive showing in his first action this year. It was Ingram’s first time in action this year after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, which caused him to miss the Tide’s first two games. But that knee looked fine Saturday, as the junior sliced through the Blue Devils defense. He averaged 16.8 yards per carry and became the first running back ever from a BCS school to surpass the 150-yard mark in a game on less than 10 carries. Team of the week No. 6 Nebraska Last week’s result: W, 56-21 @ Washington With other Big 12 schools struggling to overpower some of their early-season opponents, Nebraska may have established itself as the team to beat in the conference Saturday. Washington quarterback Jake Locker, projected by many as the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL draft, threw for only 71 yards on just 4-for-20 passing against the suffocating Cornhuskers defense. On the offensive end, Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez led the attack and may have put himself into the Heisman discussion. He threw for 150 yards and a score and ran for 137 yards and three more touchdowns to power the Cornhuskers to the blowout win. [email protected] Published on September 21, 2010 at 12:00 pmcenter_img Commentslast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *