Yes, it’s that time again, when Vandal fans get to Better Know the team we’re playing on Saturday — the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Thanks to Dan Hinxman, Wolf Pack football beat writer for the Reno Gazette-Journal, for answering our questions this week.
The Wolf Pack had a pretty brutal start to the season, and it looked like things were going upside down… until that UNLV game. Since then, the Pistol has been on a roll. What’s changed?
Two things … one, they’re playing teams that they have a better chance of beating; and, two, they’re doing a better job of taking care of the ball and commiting fewer penalties. They were horrible in both areas the first two games.
The matchup clash is rather interesting – Nevada’s #1 rushing O against Idaho’s #1 rushing D, Idaho’s #2 passing O against Nevada’s #9 passing D. Who’s going to give?
Nevada gets the edge in rushing offense and Idaho gets the edge in passing offense. Nevada has shown it can run the ball against some very good teams; I don’t see that changing. They have struggled the last two years stopping the pass, even against fair passing teams. I see Idaho having success throwing the ball.
Idaho’s three-headed rushing monster (Woolridge/McCarty/Jackson) vs. Nevada’s three-headed rushing monster (Lippincott/Kaepernick/Ball) – which is the better package?
I give the edge to Nevada because Kaepernick gives them a more explosive element. Lippincott, Taua and Kaepernick average about 6.5 yards per carry. Idaho’s trio is in the 5.0 range. I know this, though. I wouldn’t want to have to tackle Woolridge.
Who are the Wolf Pack’s playmakers to watch for on offense and defense?
Receiver Brandon Wimberly is on his way to being an All-WAC player. He’s not the fastest guy on the field, but he does everything well. On defense, I think the match-up of the Nevada defensive ends, Dontay Moch and Kevin Basped, against the good and experienced offensive line will be a great battle.
Turnovers: Idaho +5, Nevada -12. How key will it be for the Pack to hang onto the football?
It is always very important to every team to hang on to the ball. When Nevada has had problems holding on to the ball, it’s been a serious problem, minus-3 and minus-5 in a couple games.
Your thoughts on what each team has to do to get the win.
Nevada has to do what it does well, run the ball, and, as you pointed out, hold on to it. Idaho will probably have to be more balanced and use the passing game to try to open up the running game.
What’s your predicted outcome?
The sports books here had Nevada as an 11-point favorite, and the betting has been mostly on Nevada, so the line has crept up to around 15. I don’t understand that. I think Nevada wins — they’ve been very good at home this year — but I think it’ll be close. I’m going with Nevada by 7.