UB Gameday: Five Things to Watch vs. Nevada
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. at UB Stadium.
Radio 1520 AM. Online: ESPN3.
1. Wolf Pack pass rush. Can UB stay out of third and long? If it can, QB Joe Licata can do some damage. If it can’t, look out. Nevada’s edge rushers are good. They are DE Ian Seau (8) and Lenny Jones (94), and LB Matthew Lyons (9) can bring the heat, too. Licata took some big licks at Florida Atlantic last week. UB must keep him upright. I think UB will need to keep the running back in the backfield to help block on most plays.
2. The Pistol. This formation was popularized by former Nevada coach Chris Ault starting in 2005. It’s a hybrid of the shotgun in which the QB stands 4 yards behind the center (not 7 as in the gun) and the running back is 3 yards directly behind the QB. These days almost everybody runs it a little. The Wolf Pack’s previous two QBs – Colin Kaepernick and Cody Fajardo – are the only two QBs in NCAA history to surprass 9,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards. Nevada’s new QB, 6-4 junior Tyler Stewart, isn’t as sensational with the ball in his hands as those two. But he’s mobile. He’s averaging nine rushing attempts this year (counting scrambles).
Nevada’s two backs – Don Jackson (6) and James Butler (20) – both are averaging 5.1 yards a carry. And that’s with games against Arizona and Texas A&M. Yikes. (The defenses for those two Power Five foes are among the poorer defenses in their respective conferences. But still.) Look for Nevada to run 60 percent of the time. The Wolf Pack will run inside zone and outside zone plays. And Stewart will keep it off tackle on the read-option if UB isn’t disciplined.
3. UB WR Depth. On one hand, UB doesn’t want to play into the strength of the Nevada pass rush. On the other hand, Nevada’s defensive backfield is suspect. So there’s the razor’s edge UB play-caller Andy Kotelnicki must walk.
Nevada lost all four starters from last year. So if UB spreads the field, it might be able to get some favorable matchups for its deep corps of wide receivers. The UB pass game was bad last week. But give Florida Atlantic some credit. It had a good front four and two good starting cornerbacks. The starting CBs for Nevada have been Ahki Muhammad (3) and Elijah Mitchell (28). But defensive coordinator Scott Boone hinted at lineup changes this week. The next two are Elijah Moody (18) and Randy Uzoma (31). Check the numbers to see who’s starting.
4. Opportunism. Which team has the more opportunistic defense? The jury is out. UB’s defense created just 10 turnovers last season, which ranked 10th out of 13 in the MAC. However, the Bulls already have eight takeaways in three games. Can the Bulls keep that going?
Meanwhile, Nevada’s defense created just seven turnovers in MWC games last year, which ranked 12th out of 12. So far the Wolf Pack isn’t taking the ball away. It has three takeaways in three games.
5. Fast start. One of the objectives of the Lance Leipold regime should be building more of a home-field advantage. Can UB get the crowd into it? UB had a great student turnout at the home opener against Albany. It would be good for the Bulls to make some plays early, get the fans involved, and encourage the students to stick around past halftime.