No. 21 Nevada visits Fresno St in key WAC showdown
Before No. 21 Nevada or Fresno State can start thinking about
knocking off Boise State to win the WAC title, the two schools need
to worry about each other.
The Wolf Pack (8-1, 3-1 WAC) visit the Bulldogs (6-2, 4-1) on
Saturday night in a game that will decide which team could head
into its showdown with the fourth-ranked Broncos with a chance to
win the conference title.
Both teams have rebounded from losses to Hawaii, with Fresno
State winning three straight since falling at home and Nevada
winning its last two since losing on the road to the Warriors.
With the Bulldogs heading to Boise next week and Nevada hosting
the Broncos the following week, the conference title is still up in
”I think they understand where they need to be,” Bulldogs
coach Pat Hill said. ”The last three weeks we’ve played well
enough to win but we haven’t played at the level of execution in
all phases for four quarters that we need to. I think they
understand the picture that is ahead of them. It’s finally time to
The Wolf Pack have dominated the Bulldogs the past two seasons
with their vaunted pistol offense, rushing for 933 yards and
outscoring Fresno State 93-42 in those two games.
Those struggles led Hill to dedicate time almost every day to
defending option running teams. While the Bulldogs have improved in
that facet, Nevada offers a unique test.
”We haven’t played an offense anything like Nevada’s yet,”
Hill said. ”A lot of teams say they run the pistol but there’s
only one team that runs that offense. That’s the Wolf Pack. People
may line up in that formation, but there’s nobody who runs that
offense like Nevada does.”
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Vai Taua have been
the key to the attack. Kaepernick has rushed for 213 yards and four
touchdowns and thrown for another score in the two wins. Taua has
gone for 442 yards and three scores.
”I think mainly it’s just different schematic things we’ve done
against them,” Kaepernick said. ”Our offensive line has played
great against them the last few years, so that takes a lot of
pressure off of some of the skill positions. Overall, we’ve just
As well as the Wolf Pack played the past two seasons against
Fresno State, they were even better last week at Idaho.
Kaepernick threw a career-high five touchdown passes and Nevada
piled up a team-record 844 yards of offense as the Wolf Pack beat
”Right now our balance is very good,” coach Chris Ault said.
”We’re going to run first, there’s no question about it, but our
throwing game continues to get better. I think our passing
proficiency continues to get better, we’re inching up that ladder,
and that just helps our run game.”
The Bulldogs look like they finally have a pretty good running
game of their own. After struggling on the ground early this season
with Ryan Mathews off in the NFL, Fresno State is finally starting
Robbie Rouse had a breakthrough game last week at Louisiana
Tech, rushing for 286 yards – just 9 yards shy of tying Dwayne
Wright’s school record – in a 40-34 victory.
Ryan Colburn added three touchdown passes in the win as the
Bulldogs are showing the offensive balance that Hill strives for
The trip to the San Joaquin Valley is a highlight for many of
the Wolf Pack players who grew up near Fresno. Kaepernick went to
high school in nearby Turlock and tight end Virgil Green is from
”This is probably the most hyped I’m going to be until we face
Boise State,” Green said. ”I’m excited to go home and see
everybody, see my family, and just give them a show. I like beating
them. They didn’t think too highly of me coming out of there, so I
like to go down there and show them what they missed out on.”