The CSU Rams defense will do its best to run with the Wolf Pack on Saturday night at MacKay Stadium.
The task is a large one, as Nevada comes into the game boasting the No. 1 ranked rushing offense from a season ago. The Wolf Pack rushed for nearly 5,000 yards as a team last year, including three separate 1,000-yard rushers.
Of the three Wolf Pack players to eclipse the century mark, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Vai Taua return for the 2010 season.
The tandem of Kaepernick and Taua is one of the nation’s deadliest.
Kaepernick enters this season as the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) active leader in career rushing touchdowns, while ranking second nationally in career yards per carry and total offense.
The Rams coaching staff is well aware of the challenge Kaepernick presents.
“(Kaepernick) is very challenging,” said CSU defensive coordinator Larry Kerr. “You need to take away what he does best, and that’s run the football. We need to make sure he is not comfortable in the football game, whether he’s running or passing.”
Meanwhile, Taua will be used to complement the dually-dangerous Kaepernick. The Wolf Pack’s senior running back rushed for two scores in the team’s opening-week victory over Eastern Washington.
Taua is a stout 225 pounds and stands 5-foot-10. He rushed for more than 1,300 yards in each of his last two seasons at Nevada.
The Rams fared decently against CU-Boulder’s ground game last week, holding the Buffaloes to a reasonable 3.3 yards per carry. Still, they will be facing a different animal on Saturday in Reno, Nev.
“For our defense it’s a little bit different because it’s a unique brand of offense,” head coach Steve Fairchild said. “A little shorter preparation period, a little more complicated offense we are facing.”
Fairchild says he thinks the speed of his outside linebackers, along with the fleet youngsters along the defensive line will allow the Rams to meet the challenges posed by the Wolf Pack.
“You are playing much more of the game in space,” Fairchild said. “You’re having to go sideline to sideline (to defend Nevada), so speed is a good thing.”
The Rams’ last win came 51 weeks ago against this Wolf Pack team, a 35-20 victory that pushed CSU’s record to 3-0 and left Nevada at 0-2.
Since then, the Rams have lost 10 times in a row, while the Wolf Pack have won nine of their past 12.
If the Rams hope to defeat Nevada for a second straight season, they will have to find a way to improve on their 71st ranked run defense from a season ago.
“We need to be aggressive and be physical up front,” Kerr said. “Last year we were able to create turnovers; that will be a critical aspect this year.”
Assistant Sports Editor Joel Hafnor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.