From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Still playing in the shadow of third-ranked Boise State in the Western Athletic Conference, the 19th-ranked Nevada Wolf Pack aim to make some more noise this coming weekend as they take a trip to Honolulu to battle the Hawaii Warriors at Aloha Stadium.
Nevada, which rebounded from an awful start in 2009 to make it to the postseason, hasn't had any of that trouble this time around now that it is off to a perfect 6-0 start. On Saturday night the Pack motored to a 35-13 win over the San Jose State Spartans in Western Athletic Conference play to mark their sixth win in as many tries this year. It is the best start for the program since it moved to the Division I-A ranks back in 1992 and still Nevada is treated like a second-class citizen compared to Boise State.
Back in 1991 Nevada opened the season 12-0, but the competition was so much different then and the stakes not quite as high.
As for the Warriors, they have had their ups and downs thus far yet managed to beat up on Fresno State on the road, 49-27, this past weekend. The victory was significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that FSU crushed Hawaii out on the island last year, 42-17, and the Warriors were able to return the favor this time on the mainland. The victory was also the third straight and the fourth in the last five outings for a team that is a perfect 2-0 in WAC play. It is the first time since 2007 that Hawaii has started conference play with back-to-back victories.
Dating back to 1920, the series is knotted at seven games apiece, thanks to a 31-21 win for the Pack last year in Reno.
"The penalties were just overwhelming," Nevada head coach Chris Ault said after the win against San Jose State. "Some of them may be suspect and others uncalled for...The penalties I'm concerned about are the dumb ones...Our worst enemy was us."
It got so bad in the first half that a couple of lengthy touchdown plays were called back because of penalties during the same drive, the team suffering a total of eight penalties for a loss of 89 yards overall. But as painful as those miscues may have been, having someone like Colin Kaepernick to direct the pistol offense more than makes up for all of those mistakes.
Kaepernick, who finished second on the team with 91 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 17 attempts, completed 20-of-27 passes for another 273 yards, was sacked twice and intercepted once. As the unit generated a hefty 367 yards on 41 rushing attempts, it was again Vai Taua who shouldered most of the load as he carried the ball 16 times for 201 yards and three touchdowns on his way to being named the WAC Offensive Player of the Week.
From a defensive standpoint, the Spartans had no way to stop Dontay Moch as he made an amazing five of his team-best nine stops behind the line of scrimmage. Moch failed to record a sack, but what he did do was make sure that the SJSU offense was always trying to keep an eye on him every time they broke the huddle and snapped the ball. Duke Williams stepped up his efforts as well with eight tackles, one forced fumble and one interception which he returned 12 yards for the Pack.
With his effort against the Spartans, Moch is now all alone in first place in the Western Athletic Conference as far as career TFLs are concerned, showing a total of 51, which puts him ahead of former teammate Ezra Butler who was credited with 50.5 TFLs while with the Pack. However, as great as that feat may be, Nevada as a whole isn't exactly taking opposing offenses apart in the backfield and are currently just fourth in the conference and tied for 74th in the nation with an average of 5.67 TFLs per contest.
Clearly, the real story with the Wolf Pack continues to be the play of Kaepernick and Taua, as well as the entire rushing attack which led the nation last season and this time around is fifth in the country with an average of 314.3 ypg. Seen mostly as a quarterback who opts for the run a little too often, Kaepernick is now fourth in career passing yardage at Nevada and continues to build on the numbers that has made him one of four players in NCAA history to run for at least 3,500 yards and pass for better than 8,000.
While Nevada focuses much of its efforts on the ground attack, the Warriors take the exact opposite tact as they put the ball in the air early and often, just as they did in the win over Fresno State. In that meeting Bryant Moniz threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns, with Greg Salas coming up with all three trips to the end zone for the squad. Salas, who has scored multiple times in each of the last three games, has seven TDs during that stretch for an offense that is ranked first in the country with 421.7 ypg through the air.
Adding some punch to the offense was running back Alex Green who scored touchdowns on three of his 13 carries as he finished with 96 yards, yet the Warriors as a group are still last in the conference and 117th in the country in rushing this week with a mere 75 ypg.
"We just got outplayed," Fresno State head coach Pat Hill said after the setback versus the Warriors. "Hawaii is a very good offensive team, no doubt about it. They hit some big plays against us."
Also having an impact on the final score was Jeramy Bryant for the visitors as he intercepted a pass and returned it 48 yards for a TD late in the fourth quarter to help secure the double-digit victory. The pick for the Warriors was their eight of the season and that has helped place the program in a tie for 21st in the nation with a turnover margin of plus-0.67 per game at the moment.
Take away the 66-7 win over Charleston Southern a few weeks back in Honolulu and it would be easier to get a true sense of where this Hawaii team truly stands when compared to the rest of the conference and the rest of the nation. Nevertheless, the stats right now are not that far off the mark as Hawaii ranks 11th in scoring offense with 39.3 ppg and the scoring defense is permitting 27.2 ppg through six games. What really becomes important this weekend is the run defense for the Warriors which is currently fifth in the WAC and 85th nationally with 171.8 ypg allowed. One has to remember that opponents who have trailed against Hawaii have not had the luxury of taking their time and eating up yards bit by bit on the group, so expect the Wolf Pack to easily generate a stronger number in that department.