UB at NEVADA
9 p.m. at Mackay Stadium
Radio: 1520 AM. TV: Mountain West Network.
Last time out: UB is coming off an embarrassing loss to Albany, 22-16. Nevada is a bit of a mystery. The Wolf Pack eked out a 30-27 overtime win over lower-division Cal Poly, then got whipped by Notre Dame, 39-10. Nevada isn’t quite as good as last year, when it won at UB, 24-21.
Trending: Nevada gave UB’s offense huge problems in the trenches last year. But the Wolf Pack graduated six of seven front-seven starters. So maybe UB can mount a decent rushing game. That will be critical because the Bulls won’t want to put too much of the load on young quarterback Tyree Jackson. Jordan Johnson averaged 6.7 yards a carry on Nevada last year. The edge rusher for UB to worry about is Malik Reed (No. 90), who brings the speed to give the Bulls fits.
Stat check: Nevada is where the Pistol offense originated, under former coach Chris Ault, and the Wolf Pack’s tradition of strong running has continued under Brian Polian. The St. Francis High product is in his fourth year as Nevada head coach. Nevada rushed 61 percent of the time last year and 58 percent against Cal Poly.
Star gazing: The big worry for UB is RB James Butler (No. 20), who gashed the Bulls for 177 yards last season. That included a 91-yard run. Butler has ripped off five TD runs of 50-plus yards since then. He gained 1,342 yards and had 10 TDs last season. Nevada senior QB Tyler Stewart (15) is a 6-4 athlete but he’s not a polished pocket passer. However, he has a couple of big wideouts in 6-4 Wyatt Demps (19) and 6-5 Hasaan Henderson (12), who are matchup problems for UB. It appears Nevada will be without No. 2 RB Akeel Lynch, the St. Francis High great who transferred from Penn State for his final college season. Lynch suffered a concussion last week and officially is questionable for the game.
At stake: After losing to Albany, UB needs to get it’s mojo back. The Bulls are 11.5-point underdogs. But this doesn’t look like a horrible matchup. Nevada’s strength (offense) meets UB’s strength (defense). UB needs to look competitive, at the least.
Prediction: If Jackson can avoid turnovers, it should be reasonably close. Nevada 27, UB 19.