Category: College football


To say I was lucky during my years as a sports writer, Assistant Sports Editor and Sports Editor for the Nevada Sagebrush would be an understatement. I got to cover Nevada’s 13-1 season, see future NFL players Colin Kaepernick, Dontay Moch, Rishard Matthews and more play. And I got to see, talk to and cover Chris Ault. Ault stepped down from the head coach position today. The timing makes sense. He is getting up there in age. He helped lead Nevada into the Mountain West Conference. He’s pioneered an offense that is being used in both college and professional football. He’s already part of the college football hall of fame. What more does he have to do?

Ault’s impact to Wolf Pack sports speaks for itself. A career record of 233-109-1. Nevada roots from when he played quarterback in the 60s to serving as Athletics Director and football coach. He helped pioneer the college football overtime system. He has more wins than the entire history of UNLV football. the Wolf Pack’s had just one losing conference record since 1982. He helped bring Nevada from Division II to Division I and moving up conferences. He helped promote school spirit, helped to hype up the Nevada-UNLV football game and frankly represented the university well. Oh and his salary compared to the rest of college football is far below what other coaches of his caliber are getting paid.

But perhaps more than that he was a great human being. There were no huge scandals while he was head coach. No cover ups, no major discipline scandals, no big NCAA violations, none of that. But he also took time to get to know people. There have been lots and lots of sports writers for the Sagebrush through the years. And yet, he knew my name. Also greeted me warmly whether or not I had written something positive about him. One of my favorite memories from Ault came during a practice. Waiting for the team to arrive, Ault came up behind me put his arm around my neck and said “I hope you’re staying out of trouble”. Contrast that with Charlie Weiss and the way he treats student-journalists.

Now Ault was not a perfect coach. The clock-management was suspect at times. And in recent years, he struggled to find a defensive staff to help bring the Wolf Pack from the bottom of the barrel, especially when it came to pass defense. And yet, 2010 showed just what Ault’s done for this program. Taking down Boise State. No. 11 in the nation. Bringing awareness to the football program and the university.

The hole Ault left will never be truly filled. He was and always will be Nevada football. He could have left, but stayed loyal to the university, something you just don’t see these days. He was a class act. He was smart, innovative, fiery, kind, intense and everything a good football coach should be. Nevada will never have another coach like Ault. And like all legends, his name will fade into nothing more than stories we can tell our children. But I consider myself lucky to have been around Ault. To have covered him and to have been there for arguably his most memorable season. And for that, I say thank you.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

I remember being clearly excited for one game when I came to the University of Nevada in 2008. No, it wasn’t UNLV. It was Boise State. The Wolf Pack and Broncos face off (maybe for the last time) tomorrow and I couldn’t be more pumped. This is a real college football rivalry, one that I’ve had the pleasure to not only watch, but cover as well.

What makes this game special? Sure, beating UNLV is fun, but frankly, their fans don’t care. They accept their bad. Not BSU fans. They think their team is a cut above everyone else. And when they fall, oh man, it is fun to watch. Each year prior to last season’s meeting, the game almost had the same script. Broncos jump out early. Nevada rallies in the second half. It then became a thrilling question of whether the Broncos could hold on or if the Wolf Pack could mount the comeback. The game’s lost a little luster. Kellen Moore and Colin Kaepernick are gone. No highly ranked teams. But the game still has a lot of meaning. How sweet it would be to shut the Broncos fans up. Let’s face it, Broncos fans don’t like us. And we don’t like them. When we face each other, especially with how well Boise’s fans travel, it’s the quintessential college football atmosphere. This is why I was excited for college athletics. Games like these are the ones we can tell our children about.

When I covered the 2010 football season, this game was the only one I wished I could cheer. Inside, I was screaming. I wished I could yell in anger as BSU set up what appeared to be the game-winning field goal. Then sat in shock as Kyle Brotzman missed not one, but two field goals. Then of course, there’s the satisfaction in seeing all the BSU fans walking away in disappointment. All the while I wanted to jump, scream and shout. Instead, I sat as calmly and collected as I could be. That’s just it though. It was then I realized, if the Wolf Pack only wins one game a season, I want that win to be against Boise. Who cares about UNLV? Their fans don’t care as much about the game as we do. BSU fans care. And they care a lot. That’s why this game is special. That’s why this game was at the end of the season, not UNLV like most other in-state rivalries. That’s what we’ll miss the most if BSU doesn’t come back.

For the record, here’s my prediction.

Nevada: 37

Boise: 31

Go Pack.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Yep, it’s that weekend. Nevada takes on that school down south for the Fremont Cannon.

First, let me start with a few tidbits:

There’s going to be a lot of trash talk between THE University of Nevada and that school down south. Here’s some food for thought.

1. Chris Ault: 231 career wins
2. Total wins in UNLV PROGRAM history: 224

3. Nevada wins, it’s bowl eligible.
4. UNLV must win five of its last seven to get to six wins.

5. Nevada named a tier 1 university…again.
6. UNLV…not so much.

*By the way that’s academics, not athletics.

7. The last time the cannon wasn’t blue: George Bush and John Kerry were running for President. I was a freshman in high school.

8. Chris Ault took Nevada from Div. II to FCS.

9. Bobby Hauck is winless against Div. II teams since becoming coach at UNLV.

10. UNLV hasn’t had a coach with a winning overall or conference record since Harvey Hyde, who coached from 1982-85.

Now, on to the actual game. Bobby Hauck has UNLV playing better in recent years. That’s not surprising since the Rebels have been one of the worst teams in college football, no matter how you look at it. Statistically, records, margin of losses, you name it, UNLV was at or near the bottom. This year they’ve been competitive, though when they faced some tougher opponents in Louisiana Tech and Utah State, they couldn’t keep up. QB Nick Sherry must eliminate the mistakes. That’s for sure. UNLV’s defense has played pretty well, but La. Tech and USU showed good offense can wear them down and with the Wolf Pack’s attack, led by Cody Fajardo, Stefphon Jefferson and Brandon Wimberly, this should be no different. After the Wyoming scare, Chris Ault will have this team ready. Defensively, expect Nevada to key in on Tim Cornett. Sherry has a completion percentage of 55.4 percent and 10 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. I’d take my chances with Sherry trying to beat the Pack.

Prediction: It might be close early, but like previous years, Nevada pulls away. Wolf Pack wins 40-17.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

The Wolf Pack looks to keep rolling against Wyoming. Is this a trap game?

Wyoming must be glad its conference season for them. After a disastrous 1-3 start, the Cowboys will look to upset Nevada. To do that, QB Brett Smith must play well. He’s thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. But, his four interceptions (or one per game) are worrisome. He can’t turn the ball over against the Pack. Wyoming just doesn’t have the offense to get into a shootout. Receiver Chris McNeill, who had six catches for 219 yards against Idaho, is the target the Pack must key in on in the secondary.

The good news for Nevada is QB Cody Fajardo and running back Stefphon Jefferson should have an absolute field day. Wyoming’s rush defense isn’t just bad. It’s down right pathetic. The Cowboys are giving up a whopping 253 rush yards per game. Not only should the Wolf Pack dominate time of possession, Fajardo should rarely need to pass in critical situations.

Prediction: This one will be a blowout. Nevada wins 48-20.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

After an impressive offensive performance against Hawaii, the Wolf Pack faces Texas State. Will there be a letdown?

One thing is for sure. There’s going to be a lot of Pistol offense run Saturday. Of course, head coach Chris Ault invented the offense, but Texas State has also implemented the Pistol. But, they also like to run it with multiple backs. Texas State is going to go as far as quarterback Shaun Rutherford can take the team. Although the offense does switch up QBs, Rutherford is a solid passer, (4 TDs, one interception) and leads the team in rushing. He might not be as big of a dual threat as Cody Fajardo, but he’s still dangerous. Texas State does have a win against Houston, but that is not nearly as impressive as it first seemed, since Houston is winless on the season.

Perhaps more telling is Texas State’s 58-10 loss to Texas Tech. They will have trouble stopping Nevada’s run game after “The Union” showed it can still push defensive lines around. For the Wolf Pack’s defense, they’ll have a trio of running backs to deal with themselves in Marcus Curry, Tim Gay and Terrence Franks. While no one back has established themselves yet, the trio have combined for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns.

Prediction: It might be easy to say Nevada will have a letdown, but I just don’t see it. The Wolf Pack will roll 42-20.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

 

The last time the Wolf Pack travelled to Hawaii, it cost head coach Chris Ault, former quarterback Colin Kaepernick and company an undefeated season. Can this year’s team break the “Island Curse”?

One thing is for sure. Nevada’s defense, which gave up 34 points to Northwestern State, will have its hands full with the Warriors’ pro style offense. Head coach Norm Chow looks for junior QB Sean Schroeder and running back Joey Isofe to make this offense go. This isn’t the pass happy offense opponents are used to seeing, but against a Wolf Pack defense that has struggled to stop opponents over the last two games, will be just as dangerous.

Nevada’s offensive line may have its toughest test of the season so far facing Hawaii’s Art Laurel and Beau Yap. Both have shown a knack for disrupting backfields. Hawaii has actually done OK at stopping the run game, but will face a tough challenge with Cody Fajardo and Stefphon Jefferson.

The “X” factor of the game could be all mental for Nevada. The travel, the time change, the distractions, facing a difficult opponent, everything combines to make a trip to Hawaii very dangerous. And, one that I’m not sure the Wolf Pack can overcome, especially with another lackluster performance from the defense. The defense ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in many categories, especially concerning defending the pass game (Here we go again). That has to change.

Prediction: I think Nevada wins, but it’s going to be a barn burner. Wolf Pack wins 40-34.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

 

Chris Ault, Cody Fajardo and company try to avoid a second-straight loss when Nevada faces Northwestern State. Do Pack fans have anything to worry about?

The Demons are coming off a 31-24 victory against Arkansas-Monticello. But, against Texas Tech, Northwestern State lost 44-6.

Look for Stefphon Jefferson to have a big game as NWS is giving up 160 rush yards a game, but Fajardo and receiver Brandon Wimberly should have a big game as well. In total, opponents average 395.5 yards of total offense against the Demons. And, against an offense they’ll be unfamiliar with, that will be a disaster.

That being said, UAM does have four interceptions on the season, including two by Cotez Paige, so Fajardo can’t be careless.

The Wolf Pack defense should have a strong outing, much like most of its game against South Florida. Quarterback Brad Henderson has yet to throw for a touchdown, meaning Nevada’s secondary should be able to shut down the pass game.

All in all, this should be an easy win before a showdown with Hawaii.

Prediction: Nevada wins 45-13.

After taking  down Cal in its season opener the Wolf Pack welcomes its first Big East opponent to Mackay Stadium. Will South Florida leave with a win? Or is this the start of a potentially special season for Nevada?

The Bulls dominated Chattanooga 34-13 in its opener, but take a little closer look and there may be some faults to exploit. QB B.J. Daniels had three touchdown passes, but also was sacked twice, threw an interception and lost a fumble. South Florida also only gained 85 net yards on the ground. Defensively, it will struggle against the Pistol. South Florida rarely gets to see it, and it’s very different watching it on film and actually having to defend it. Nevada QB Cody Fajardo passed my expectations in terms of where he’d be in his development. And, with running back Stefphon Jefferson looking like he’s ready to pick up the mantle as starting running back, the Wolf Pack’s offense will roll. The question will be can Daniels return to form for South Florida? Yes, but I think a mix of a tougher opponent and having to travel through multiple time zones and play in higher elevation is going to all lead to a Wolf Pack victory. Look for the run game to run wild and Fajardo to hit Brandon Wimberly for a touchdown strike as Nevada takes down the Bulls 30-20.

X-factor: B.J. Daniels. He was 17th in the nation last year in total offense. If he eliminates the mistakes and South Florida can protect him, look out.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Apparently reports are that Al Pacino is attached to play Joe Paterno in a biopic based off of the best selling biography “Paterno”. According to Deadline, “The narrative arc of the movie that will be shopped is obvious. A man becomes the winning-est coach in college football history and builds a powerhouse football program that turns him into a campus deity. When his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is revealed to be a pedophile whom a graduate assistant witnessed raping a boy in the locker room showers and it comes out that Paterno was told and help hide the scandal and never called the police, Paterno was summarily fired. He died shortly after.”

I’ve got very mixed feelings about this. It would be a fascinating tale of one man getting way to much power at Penn State. And yet, it makes me sick to the stomach that he might be portrayed in too much of a positive light. I know he did good things, but what he failed to do and the monster he protected, I don’t have a single shred of respect for his legacy.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

We’re one day away from the start of the Wolf Pack’s season. Head coach Chris Ault will lead Nevada against Cal in its season opener, a game that should reveal real quick just where the Wolf Pack’s at. But, the team is a huge underdog. Cal is reopening its stadium, so it will want a good game for fans. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is much more knowledgeable about the Pistol Offense. And with a young, but very talented defense, especially in the front seven, quarterback Cody Fajardo will be tested  early and often. Receiver Brandon Wimberly will be expected to make a big splash in his return to give Fajardo some help, as will Stefphon Jefferson, who is taking over the starting running back role.

The wild card will be Bears’ QB Zach Maynard. He’s been all over the place last season. If he can rein that in, Cal’s offense is very dangerous. Keenan Allen caught 98 passes last season and will be Maynard’s top target this year. By all reports, Allen has great speed and great hands, something Nevada’s secondary, led by Duke Williams and Khalid Wooten. The Wolf Pack’s secondary has five players returning. They’ll need all of that experience to slow this offense down. The front seven is where Nevada’s problems could show. If Cal’s offensive line plays well, the Wolf Pack will be in trouble. The front seven is a big question mark and someone will need to step up.

Mainly, this comes down to a series of unknowns for Nevada. Several players are stepping into big roles and we just don’t know how they’re going to react. Cal will be ready and is a very dangerous opponent.

Nevada wins: If the Wolf Pack plays a near perfect game. Fajardo comes out accurate, the front seven on defense plays better than expected and gets to the QB. This needs to be a complete game, if one side of the ball isn’t up to par, Nevada will struggle.

Cal wins: If the Bears disrupt Nevada’s offense. Cal’s going to score its points, no question about it. The difference will be whether Nevada has the firepower to get into a shootout.

Prediction: If Nevada’s going to win this game, it will be in a close one, 41-38. But, my real prediction is Cal wins 34-24.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.