by Neil Patrick Healy
All right, Wolf Pack Nation, pick yourselves up and listen. Yes, the last game was rough. The Arizona Wildcats moved the ball at will against the Nevada defense last Saturday and racked up 570 yards of total offense. Yes, Nevada’s secondary struggled immensely against the pass and quarterback Anu Solomon went 22-for-33 for 264 yards and two touchdowns. And yes, Nevada head coach Brian Polian practically blew a fuse while arguing with the referees over the course of the game, thus costing Nevada two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. It sounds bad, but all the Pack needs to do is collect themselves and move on to the next game. Who do they play anyway? Oh, they play the 16th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies at College Station? Uh oh.
Texas A&M is 2-0 with wins over a ranked Arizona State and an outmatched Ball State team. The Aggies have earned 928 yards in total offense and have the ability to break a game open. No opponent (including Arizona) can exploit Nevada’s weaknesses like the Aggies can. The question I raise is this: Nevada, can you be perfect? If the Pack wants to pull the upset they will have to be just that.
LEADING THE PACK
While Nevada’s front seven didn’t live up to the hype this week, the one bright spot was senior defensive end Lenny Jones. Jones had four tackles, a sack and a huge fumble recovery late in the second quarter, resulting in a late field goal that cut Arizona’s lead to eight points going into halftime. Facing Texas A&M, a program that is known for producing NFL offensive linemen, will be a huge challenge for Nevada, but Jones has the ability to put pressure on the quarterback. The Aggies are still in the middle of a quarterback competition between sophomore Kyle Allen and freshman Kyler Murry, so Jones and the rest of the Nevada front seven can bring pressure and force the young quarterbacks into making mistakes.
THE BIGGEST QUESTION
Can Nevada’s offense consistently put together drives and get the ball in the end zone? The Aggies are going to put up points in bunches against the Pack’s young secondary, so the task of staying in the game falls to the offense. A&M rolled over Ball State last Saturday 56-23 but gave up 240 rushing yards in the process. If Nevada can exploit this possible chink in A&M’s armor, then the Pack can maybe make this a game.
Nevada’s offense establishes the run early with senior running back Don Jackson and the Pack putting together scoring drives early in the game to pick up some momentum. On defense, the front seven can put on enough pressure to force the Aggies’ young signal callers into making mistakes, giving the offense more opportunities to score.
The Nevada defense just gets worked against a superior SEC opponent and the issues in the secondary become much more glaring. On offense, Nevada can’t establish good run blocking along the offensive line and junior quarterback Tyler Stewart is forced to make plays in the passing game. The pressure on Stewart will cause him to commit turnovers and the Aggies run away with the game early.
If the Arizona game was any indication of how Nevada plays against a ranked opponent, then it’s going to be a long day in Texas. Nevada’s offense won’t be able to score consistently and Nevada’s defense won’t be able to contain the Aggie passing game. Not only do I expect Nevada to lose, I expect them to lose big and fall to 1-2 on the season. Bring some chill pills this time, Polian, because Saturday is going to be rough.
Neil Patrick Healy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NeilTheJuiceMan.