For more on this game head over to Mountain West Connection.
(Sports Network) Colorado State began this season with its annual in-state battle against Colorado and this time the Rams were thumped in a 24-3 decision in Denver. The setback was the 10th in a row for the team after losing the final nine games of 2009. Coincidentally, the last victory for the Rams came against this same Nevada program early in the 2009 schedule.
As for the Wolf Pack, they kicked off the new season by dumping Eastern Washington at home on September 2nd by a sore of 49-24. A year ago, Nevada was ranked second in the Western Athletic Conference and sixth in the nation in scoring with an average of 38.2 ppg, so the program is well on its way to bettering that number in 2010.
The Rams have a huge advantage in the all-time series between the teams at 9-1, the squad taking a 35-20 victory last season in the middle of September before everything began to fall apart. The lone win for the Pack was a 28-10 final in 2006 in Reno, ending an eight-game slide to CSU in the process.
The offense failed to show up for the Rams in the opener, with kicker Ben Deline accounting for the only scoring with his 43-yard field goal with under 10 minutes remaining in regulation versus the Buffaloes. Quarterback Pete Thomas tried to get CSU moving in the right direction, but while he was able to convert 24-of-33 passes for 196 yards, the youngster was also sacked three times and served up three interceptions to Colorado. Because of the sacks, CSU was credited with a mere 49 yards rushing on 25 attempts, and 20 of those yards came on a single carry by running back Tony Drake who remains at the bottom of the depth chart at his position. It will be the job of Thomas to put the offense on his back until they get accustomed to handling the pressure themselves, but because he too is green there is going to be some major growing pains with an offense that ranked seventh in the Mountain West Conference and 97th in the nation last season in scoring with an average of 21.7 ppg.
It wasn't as though the Colorado State defense was all that poor in the meeting with the Buffaloes, but being picked on by opposing quarterback Tyler Hansen was a bit troubling. Hansen not only threw for a pair of touchdowns, he ran for another in the fourth quarter which means the Rams were having a hard time tracking him. CSU limited the Buffs to just 115 yards on the ground for an average of 3.3 yards per attempt and still head coach Steve Fairchild had his issues with how the team tackled. He commented after the game that he saw some of his players lacking in fundamentals, simply throwing their bodies around and hoping that would be enough to take down the enemy. Ricky Brewer had a solid effort with his team-best 10 stops and Mike Orakpo logged a sack for a loss of 13 yards for a team that averaged two sacks per game a year ago and was coming up with close to five tackles for loss each time out, yet the latter number still placed the group fourth in the conference and 94th in the nation.
As everyone is well aware, in Chris Ault's pistol offense the quarterback is the most valued player on the field and once more Colin Kaepernick demonstrated that fact as he did it all for the Pack in their recent win over Eastern Washington. Kaepernick, one of three players on the team to record at least 1,000 yards rushing last season, tallied a team-best 60 yards and scored twice on the ground, while also hitting 26-of-37 passes for 306 yards and two more touchdowns in the rout. Vai Taua tacked on two more rushing touchdowns as the unit spread out the 44 rushing attempts among several players in order to keep them fresh. Receiver Virgil Green was the recipient of seven receptions for 144 yards and two scores, all of which were game highs. The team's 214 yards rushing may have been a bit under whelming given that they led the nation last season with an average of 344.9 ypg, but getting so many involved in the action will only help matters down the line. For years the program has been trying to get Kaepernick to become even more of a throwing quarterback, seeing as how he has already proven he can move the ball on the ground, yet with just 34 yards rushing needed this weekend to become the eighth player in NCAA history with at least 3,000 yards both running and passing, expect the signal-caller to get that milestone out of the way early.
Last season the pass defense for the Wolf Pack was a mess, giving up 297.8 ypg through the air to rank last in the Western Athletic Conference and 119th in the country, but much of that had to do with the fact that opponents were trying to claw their way back from deep deficits and airing the ball out was the only option. In the opener this year Nevada permitted a total of 270 yards and a couple of aerial touchdowns, but at the same time the defense posted a pair of sacks and intercepted a pass to help level the playing field a bit. The last three offensive drives by the Eagles actually resulted in a fumble, turnover on downs and an interception, so Nevada was more than up to the task at those junctures. Brandon Marshall notched a sack and a fumble recovery as he picked up for Dontay Moch who had just two overall tackles after becoming one of the most feared defenders in the WAC last year. The run defense did allow Taiwan Jones to rumble for 145 yards and the Eagles as a whole 162 yards, so that might be something to keep an eye on given that the team didn't have to concern itself with stopping the run all that much last year after opponents were playing from behind.
After losing to the Rams last year, Nevada has that much more of a reason to take out some frustration on CSU this weekend. If the Colorado State defense was touched for 24 points by a team outside of the FBS, trying to keep down the Pack will be torture for the visitors.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 52, Colorado State 10
Saturday, September 11th, 10:30 p.m. (et).