by Jack Rieger
On Saturday, April 9, Nevada football held its annual spring game at Bishop Manogue High School. The game was hosted off campus because of the renovations taking place at Mackay Stadium. Nevada’s first team offense, wearing white, faced off against the first team defense, wearing blue.
Because it was just a spring game, the scrimmage wasn’t nearly as physical or intense as it will be in five months. The white team ended up winning 53-49 in a shootout, although the final score wasn’t really of much importance. However, there were a few interesting developments that may have some bearing on the games that do matter come September.
Tyler Stewart is the spring starter
To no one’s surprise, Tyler Stewart led the first team offense on Saturday afternoon. Stewart, who will be a senior in the upcoming season, started every game for the Wolf Pack last year in his first season as the starting quarterback. Stewart averaged 164.5 yards, one touchdown and completed 57 percent of his passes last year, and the junior led Nevada to an Arizona Bowl victory over Colorado State.
Stewart was crisp on Saturday, completing 5-of-7 passes for 79 yards in a brand new Nevada offense. He looked especially good on throws down the field, which is something he struggled with last year. Stewart did throw an interception on a screen pass, but during the scrimmage he was accurate and his timing with receivers was synchronized.
“I thought he controlled the offense very well,” coach Brian Polian said about Stewart. “I’m not too worried about the pick on the screen. We had not repped that play a ton, that’s a timing play. His decisions to pull the ball down and run were good. Overall, I was pleased with the job he did today.”
The quarterback was also pleased with himself and the new offense the team has learned under new offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey.
“Today I thought went pretty well,” Stewart said. “I think that’s probably the most points we’ve scored in a spring game since I’ve been here. A lot of explosive plays. It was nice to learn something new; it gave us a new energy. These practices are going to win or lose games for us.”
Young defense forcing turnovers and getting to the quarterback
Last season, Nevada’s front seven was the team’s greatest strength. This season, it’s the team’s biggest question mark, as the Wolf Pack lost all four starting linebackers including Ian Seau, Bryan Lane, Jordan Dobrich and Matthew Lyons.
On Saturday, the new front had four sacks and 13 tackles for loss. The secondary, which was the team’s youngest unit last year, is hoping to become a strength for the team this season. Redshirt freshman E.J. Muhammad returned an interception for a touchdown on an errant screen pass, and Dameon Baber, who had a team-high six interceptions last season, had a pick of his own.
When asked what he was most pleased with defensively, Polian was quick to answer.
“The pass rush. I could’ve blown the whistle half a dozen other times,” Polian said. “I thought Patrick Choudja had his best day of spring ball; maybe he just needs a crowd. Malik Reed has been great all camp. Overall, I was pleased.”
Polian stands by his comments against the NCAA
On Friday, April 8, the NCAA passed a number of rules about recruiting. Most notably, the NCAA has banned satellite camps, which allow colleges to host camps off campus. The reason schools like to do this is so they can host a camp closer to recruits they are targeting. Shortly after the rule was passed, Polian gave his opinion on Twitter, a social media site he has been known to use in the past.
Polian tweeted, “I completely disagree with the decisions made by the NCAA today – not finding a happy medium for these camps only hurts the prospects!”
Polian was asked about his tweets after the spring game and reiterated his stance.
“I think it’s shortsighted; it’s an overreaction to what was really a turf war between Big 10 coaches and SEC coaches. The people it hurts the most are the prospects. Really now for a young man to get the kind of exposure that they got in camps like USCs and Northwesterns and Ohio States means they’re going to have to spend more money, travel more. I don’t agree with it, but apparently my voice is in the minority.”
Jack Rieger can be reached at Jrieger@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @JackRieger.