Nevada's Taua ineligible for Hawaii Bowl


POSTED: Sunday, December 20, 2009

Nevada's triumvirate of 1,000-yard rushers is now down to one.

Wolf Pack running back Vai Taua—Nevada's leading rusher during the regular season—was ruled academically ineligible for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl and did not make the trip to Honolulu with the team on Thursday.

Taua, a junior, rushed for 1,359 yards during the regular season to lead the Wolf Pack and finish second in the Western Athletic Conference.

“;I'm upset and disappointed that Vai didn't fulfill his obligations as a student-athlete,”; Nevada head coach Chris Ault said in a release. “;He has let his team down and I will evaluate his future with the program after the bowl game. Our focus now is on the upcoming game and our program is moving forward in that direction.”;

The Wolf Pack (8-4) enters Thursday's Hawaii Bowl matchup with SMU (7-5) as the top rushing offense in the FBS and Nevada became the first team in NCAA history to have three 1,000-yard rushers in a single season.

But senior running back Luke Lippincott (1,034 yards) had season-ending toe surgery following Nevada's loss to Boise State in its regular-season finale. Now with Taua out, only quarterback Colin Kaepernick (1,160) remains.

“;They're both huge losses to this team,”; Kaepernick said before Nevada's practice at Aloha Stadium yesterday. “;Their leadership and the way they play, it's definitely going to be a big loss. But we talked at the beginning of the year that we have a stable of backs. Lampford Mark, Courtney Randall and Mike Ball all have to step up in this game now. They're all fully capable of doing that and we just have to put them in positions to make plays.”;

Ault said Mark, a sophomore with 44 carries this season, will get the start in the Wolf Pack's one-back pistol offense.

Mark ran for 286 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season, while Ball had 201 yards and five scores.

“;I have to put on some pretty big shoes with Luke and Vai gone, but I feel like my teammates have confidence in me to get the job done,”; Mark said.