Kaepernick finds his voice


POSTED: Monday, December 21, 2009

Colin Kaepernick's arrival as a college quarterback wasn't heralded with a resounding pronouncement.

Actually, he was barely audible.

“;I remember the first game when (Nick) Graziano got hurt,”; Nevada running back Luke Lippincott recalled of Kaepernick's debut in 2007. “;He went in and he was so shocked, he was speaking so quietly we couldn't even hear him in the huddle. We were all, 'speak up, speak up.' “;

Kaepernick's production since then certainly speaks volumes.

He went on to earn Western Athletic Conference freshman of the year honors that season, was named the league's offensive player of the year last season and led the nation's most productive rushing attack this fall.

The long-striding junior enters Thursday's Sheraton Hawaii Bowl against SMU with 1,160 rushing yards, 1,875 through the air and 35 total touchdowns (16 rushing, 19 passing).

Nevada's pistol offense showcases Kaepernick's deft ball-handling skills in running the option as well as his ability to turn the slightest seam into a downfield sprint.

;[Preview]  June Jones leads SMU to first Hawaii Bowl

Jones earns Conference USA Coach of the Year honors by “;Sporting News.”;

Watch ]






        Who: Nevada (8-4) vs. SMU (7-5)

When: Thursday, 3 p.m.


Where: Aloha Stadium




Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM




“;I think this offense fits my skills perfectly,”; said Kaepernick, a second-team All-WAC pick this season. “;Being able to run around and make plays is great for me. At the same time we do throw the ball downfield when we need to.”;

Kaepernick's arm strength has never been in question, evidenced by his selection by the Chicago Cubs in the 43rd round of last summer's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He's worked on his accuracy over his career, raising his completion rate to 59.6 percent with five interceptions in 253 attempts this season.

In his first visit to Aloha Stadium last year, Kaepernick ran for 139 yards and threw for two touchdowns in the Pack's 38-31 loss to Hawaii. He ran for 114 yards and accounted for four scores in this year's meeting in Reno, Nev., as the Wolf Pack positioned themselves for a Hawaii Bowl berth with a 31-21 win over the Warriors.

He's hoping this trip yields his first postseason victory.




”;He knows their system very well. The more mature a quarterback becomes in their system, the more dangerous they become, and he's done a great job.”;
        June Jones / SMU coach, on Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who Jones coached against when he was in charge at Hawaii



“;This is going to be a huge game for us,”; Kaepernick said. “;This is our fifth straight bowl game, and the last three we've lost. So it's not good enough to be here.

“;As far as this game goes, it's leading us into next season and we want to start next season on a good foot.”;

One of the few times he's been contained came the last time he faced a June Jones-coached team. Hawaii held Kaepernick to 23 rushing yards and 9-for-20 passing as the Warriors' dramatic 28-26 victory became one of the signature wins of their Sugar Bowl run in 2007.

Two years later, Jones is again preparing to face Kaepernick, this time with SMU.

“;He knows their system very well,”; Jones said. “;The more mature a quarterback becomes in their system, the more dangerous they become, and he's done a great job. ... He makes plays with his legs, but he can throw the ball.”;

Kaepernick may have to carry even more of the load come Thursday with Nevada's top two running backs out of action. Lippincott tore ligaments in his toe against New Mexico State and had season-ending surgery. Vai Taua, the WAC's second-leading rusher, was ruled academically ineligible for the game.

But Kaepernick has grown comfortable as a focal point for both opposing defenses and within the Pack—even if it did take some time to find his voice.

“;He really stepped his game up in the summertime,”; Lippincott said. “;He was in the weight room all day, he was scheduling 7-on-7 practices with the whole team, making sure people didn't leave town. He really made it his team.”;


Emotional visit

After making his return to Aloha Stadium for SMU's practice yesterday, Jones was looking forward to taking the Mustangs across the street to Pearl Harbor.

A regular rite for many visiting teams, the excursion had added significance for the Mustangs following the death of special teams coach Frank Gansz in April due to complications during knee-replacement surgery.

“;Frank and I talked about it almost two weeks before he passed,”; said Jones, who set the Hawaii Bowl as the Mustangs' goal this season. “;We talked about loading up and going to Pearl Harbor just like we're going to do today.”;