Offensive talent, depth give Wolf Pack big bark
Nevada coach Chris Ault insists there's no quarterback controversy, and that is certainly believable as long as Nick Graziano has to keep battling injuries. The latest affliction is a case of turf toe that has slowed the one-time heir apparent to running the pistol attack.
Editor's note: This is the seventh in a series highlighting the teams the University of Hawaii will face this season.
Colin Kaepernick blazed on the scene last fall, giving Boise State all it could handle with his arm and legs. The Broncos finally prevailed, 69-67, in four overtimes. But Kaepernick's youth showed at times last year in his decision making. He also was far from accurate in some games.
The Wolf Pack are also deep enough at running back to deal with injuries. Brandon Fragger has been hurt, but that just meant more totes for Luke Lippincott. All he did was lead the WAC with 1,420 rushing yards. He also scored 15 touchdowns. Center Dominic Green is a fourth-year starter and second-time nominee for the Remington Trophy.
Coach: Chris Ault (191-85-1)
2007 record: 6-7, 4-4 (tied for fourth in WAC)
Hawaii series: Tied, 6-6
The multitude of offensive weapons has some pundits picking Nevada to climb past Hawaii into the top three of the conference. But Nevada hasn't beaten UH since 2005, and that was in Reno (the teams meet at Aloha Stadium this year, on Oct. 25). There have been close calls the past two meetings, with Dan Kelly having to kick back-to-back field goals for the Warriors to pull it out last year, and UH making a goal-line stand to stave off Nevada's near-comeback in 2006.
Linebacker Joshua Mauga missed significant time with a knee injury last year. He's expected to be the focal point of the Nevada defense, along with tackle Mundrae Clifton.
"The key for us is we've got to make significant improvement on defense," said Ault, whose team allowed 36 or more points five times last season.
Nevada has an experienced and competent kicker in senior Brett Jaekle.
Before opening WAC play, Nevada has four nonconference games, including hosting Texas Tech and visiting Missouri. Ault is counting on the Wolf Pack being fired up eight months after a 23-0 loss to New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl.
"That's a real bitter pill," the Hall-of-Fame coach said. "If that isn't enough motivation for the guys coming back, they don't need to be coming back."
Tomorrow: Utah State