Nevada, co-champions of the Western Athletic Conference last season, is vying for its first conference win in 2006 on Saturday as it plays host to San Jose State for Homecoming ... The game pits the top two winningest coaches in the WAC against each other in Nevada’s Chris Ault (180 career victories) and San Jose State’s Dick Tomey (165) ... Nevada has won six in a row at home dating back to last year’s season opener and 13 of 15 dating back to the 2003 season ... San Jose State is 4-1 this season with all four victories coming at home. The lone loss was at Washington ... San Jose State has two former Nevada assistant coaches on its team in offensive coordinator Steve Morton (at Nevada in 2001) and co-defensive coordinator Dave Fipp (at Nevada in 2004) ... Nevada has two assistants who spent time at San Jose State in co-defensive coordinator Barry Sacks (at SJSU from 1998-2000) and running backs coach Jim Mastro (at SJSU in 1995).
In the Series With San Jose State
Nevada has a four-game win streak against San Jose State heading into Saturday’s game. The Wolf Pack has won two in a row at home in the series and beat the Spartans last year in San Jose in a game televised regionally on ABC.
Since Nevada joined the WAC in 2000, these two teams have played six games that have featured some wild offensive numbers. Nevada ”held” the Spartans to 23 points in last year’s meeting, the fewest points either team has scored in the last six games. In those six meetings, Nevada has scored an average of 40.2 points to San Jose State’s 35.7.
Since Nevada moved to the Division I-A level in 1992, these two twams have met 10 times with Nevada winning seven of the game. Prior to 1992, the teams hadn’t met since 1948.
The Season So Far
Nevada is coming off a much-needed by week after playing four of its first six games this season on the road. Four of those six games also came against teams that qualified for bowl games in 2005.
In its last game, Nevada fell 41-34 at Hawaii despite a strong fourth-quarter comeback attempt. Nevada trailed by 20 points in the fourth quarter but got within a touchdown of the Warriors. The Wolf Pack was unable to get into the end zone on its last possession, however. The loss snapped the Wolf Pack’s three-game win streak, the last of which was a 31-3 routing of in-state rival UNLV that allowed Nevada to retain possession of the Fremont Cannon. It was Nevada’s first victory in Las Vegas since 1998.
After dropping its first two games against Fresno State and Arizona State - both on the road - to open the season, the Wolf Pack rebounded at home. Nevada made history at Mackay Stadium, beating Colorado State for the first time in school history before claiming its first-ever win over a Big Ten school with a 10-point victory over Northwestern. Those two victories gave Nevada momentum for its road victory at UNLV.
With 38 returning letterwinners and 14 returning starters, 22nd-year head coach Chris Ault and the Wolf Pack are coming off the team’s best season in nine years after turning in a 9-3 overall record and earning a share of the school’s first WAC title as well as an invitation to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl last season. Nevada was picked to finish third in the WAC in this year’s preseason polls.
Saturday’s game will be broadcast regionally on ABC, the second straight season that the network has shown this game.
It also marks Nevada’s sixth appearance on television this year as the team will make a total of eight TV appearances during the regular season. Four of Nevada’s games are national television appearances as ESPN broadcast the Fresno State game and ESPN2 carried the Northwestern game. One of the ESPN networks will broadcast the Boise State game and the Wolf Pack’s win over in-state rival UNLV was on the new MTN network.
In addition to the national games and Saturday’s regional broadcast, three Nevada games are being carried locally by KREN, Nevada’s flagship television station. KREN broadcast the Arizona State and Hawaii games and will also have the Idaho game in November. Dan Gustin, the “Voice of the Wolf Pack,” will call the games on KREN with Nevada Hall of Fame member and ex-quarterback Chris Vargas providing commentary.
Nevada’s flagship radio station, ESPN 630 AM, will broadcast all 12 regular-season games this year with Gustin (play-by-play) and Bill Daniel (analyst) calling the action. When Gustin is handling TV duties, Dan Marchand will handle the play-by-play on the radio.
Fans can watch live video streaming of non-televised WAC games on the internet on a pay-per-view basis this season by logging on to www.WAC.tv.
Senior quarterback Jeff Rowe, senior tight end Anthony Pudewell, junior defensive tackle Matt Hines and senior cornerback Joe Garcia will serve as Nevada’s team captains this season as voted on by their teammates.
Nevada has never been shutout as a member of Division I-A and has not been shutout since Sept. 27, 1980, a streak of 310 games that is the longest in the nation. The last time Nevada was blanked was at Weber State, a 10-0 loss. That is the only shutout loss ever suffered by Hall of Fame coach Chris Ault. During the streak, Nevada has shutout six opponents, the last being a 63-0 win over Cal Poly in 1998 at Mackay Stadium. Nevada nearly shutout UNLV earlier this year but the Rebels kicked a field goal late in the game to avoid the blanking.
Mackay is Back
The Wolf Pack’s 31-21 victory over Northwestern on Sept. 22 marked Nevada’s seventh consecutive win at Mackay Stadium. The Wolf Pack turned in a 5-1 record at Mackay Stadium last year, winning its last five home games after opening the season with a loss to Washington State. Since then-quarterback Chris Ault led the the Pack to a 17-13 victory over UC Santa Barbara on Oct. 1, 1966 in Nevada’s first game in the facility, the Wolf Pack has turned in a 156-45-2 (.773) record at Mackay Stadium.
In his 21-plus years as Nevada’s head coach, Ault has led the team to a 123-25-1 record at Mackay Stadium (.829), including a 12-2 mark over the last two-plus years since returning to the helm for the third time in 2004. He has guided the Wolf Pack to 15 seasons with one loss or less at home, including four undefeated campaigns at Mackay Stadium (1976, 1985, 1990, 1994).
Silver and Blue Cannon
The Fremont Cannon will stay at "home" in Cashell Fieldhouse after Nevada's 31-3 thrashing of in-state rival UNLV. The cannon is billed as one of the largest and most expensive trophies in collegiate athletics. It is a replica of the howitzer that was abandoned in a Sierra snowdrift by Gen. John C. Fremont during his expedition of Nevada, Oregon and California in 1843-44.
Nevada reclaimed the cannon last year with a 22-14 victory in Reno and retained possession this year by routing the Rebels. It was Nevada's second straight victory in the series and it gives the Wolf Pack a 17-15 edge in the all-time series, which dates back to 1969. Nevada coach Chris Ault is now 9-7 all-time vs. UNLV.
Rowe Continues to Climb Career Passing Charts
Senior quarterback Jeff Rowe has been remarkably efficient in Nevada’s last four games, completing 64-of-74 for 769 yards with seven touchdowns and just two interceptions. He has gone 51 straight attempts without an interception, one of the longest active streaks in the country. His last interception came during the second quarter of the win over Northwestern and since that pick, the senior is 37-of-51 for 440 yards and four touchdowns.
Rowe left the Hawaii game early with a strained hamstring but is expected to make his 30th consecutive start this week
He helped Nevada get on the board quickly at UNLV, hitting Mike McCoy for a 79-yard scoring play on the Wolf Pack’s first drive of the game. Against Northwestern, Rowe had scoring strikes of 25 and 26 yards and misfired on just five attempts. Against Colorado State on Sept. 16, Rowe turned in one of the most efficient showings of his career, completing 19-of-22 pass attempts for 210 yards and two touchdowns. The effort marked the best single-game completion percentage of his career (86.4 percent). Rowe’s previous best was a 73.5 percent game (25-34 attempts for 252 yards and two TDs) Nov. 6, 2004 against San Jose State.
Rowe opened the season with 183 yards and two TDs on 18-of-34 passing Sept. 1 at Fresno State, while he completed 17-of-29 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown in the loss at No. 25 Arizona State.
Nationally, Rowe ranks 26th in passing efficiency with a rating of 148.1 and he is 43rd in total offense at 208.8 yards per game. In the WAC, Rowe is fourth in total offense, fifth in efficiency and sixth in passing yards per game. His total of 10 touchdown passes this season is the fourth-best total in the conference. Rowe has tossed at least one scoring strike in 26 of the last 30 games and all six games this season. He has a streak of 16 straight games with a touchdown pass, which is the fourth-longest active streak in the nation.
A 2005 second-team All-WAC selection, Rowe has thrown for over 2,500 yards in each of the last two seasons, including 2,925 yards last year. He ranked second in the league and 21st in the nation in total offense with 264.1 yards per game and was third in the WAC and 30th in the NCAA in passing efficiency at 137.8. Rowe tallied at least 200 passing yards in all but two games in 2005, including two 300-yard outings with a season-best 324 yards against Colorado State. Rowe also tossed at least one touchdown pass in all but one game last year, including three contests with three scoring strikes.
Rowe is one of 34 candidates on the preseason watch list for the 2006 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, the Davey O’Brien Foundation announced on Aug. 28. The 2006 watch list for the award, which is presented annually to the nation's best college quarterback, is made up of 34 candidates, including 19 seniors, 12 juniors and three sophomores representing 11 conferences.
Rowe is quickly moving up Nevada’s career charts:
Up until Nevada’s loss at Hawaii, the Pack’s successes this year had been led by inspired play from the defense, which gave up an average of just 257.3 yards and 11.3 points during the Wolf Pack’s three-game win streak (Colorado State, Northwestern, UNLV). Nevada has forced 11 turnovers in those three games, with senior cornerback Joe Garcia on the receiving end of five of those turnovers (three interceptions and two fumble recoveries).
On the year, Nevada is allowing 362.2 yards per game, which is fourth in the WAC. Last year, Nevada was fifth in the WAC in total defense as it allowed 410.6 yards per game.
Brandon Blasts Off
With senior Robert Hubbard out with a sore knee, true freshman Brandon Fragger made his first career start at UNLV. And what a start it was. Fragger became the first Nevada freshman since Matt Milton in 2002 to rush for 100 yards in a game as he tallied 146 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Fragger got his first career rushing score with a 5-yard run in the first half. In the second half, he reeled off a 66-yard TD scamper - the longest run by a Nevada back since Milton had a 71-yard against San Jose State in 2002. Entering the UNLV game, Fragger had gained just 23 yards on 12 carries.
Fragger started again at Hawaii two weeks ago and gained 54 yards with a touchdown before leaving with a slight shoulder injury. He is listed as the starter on this week’s depth chart oper senior Robert Hubbard, who has battled a knee injury this season.
Block That Kick
Nevada has blocked a kick in each of the last five games, though only four of those blocks are reflected in the official statistics. The latest block came from cornerback Joe Garcia, who came off the edge against Hawaii to block a field-goal attempt.
Junior nose guard Matt Hines and senior defensive end Charles Wilson have also officially been credited with blocked kicks. Senior defensive end J.J. Milan got a piece of a field goal attempt by Colorado State and Nevada also blocked a field goal at UNLV, which was credited as a team block.
Spencer Moving Up on Nevada's Charts
Senior wide receiver Caleb Spencer is in just his third season at Nevada, but he is certainly making his mark at the university. The Hawaii native is 10th in career receptions and 11th in career receiving yards, having played just 29 games for the Wolf Pack.
He is one of 51 players who have been named to the preseason watch list for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, which is annually presented to the top wide receiver in the country by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation.
A first-team All-WAC and Academic All-WAC honoree last season, Spencer led the team in receptions (67), yard (889) and touchdown catches (seven) in 2005. He also ranked among the WAC and national leaders in receptions and receiving yards per game.
The Biletnikoff Award watch list will be narrowed down later this fall with the award to be announced at the ESPN’s Home Depot College Football Awards Show in December. The winner will also be honored at a banquet in Tallahassee in February.
Spencer was among the nation’s leaders in consecutive games with a reception, but that streak ended at 27 games earlier this year. Entering Nevada’s game at UNLV, Spencer had caught a pass in every game he played at Nevada but he went without a reception against the Rebels, ending the streak. Spencer is tied for seventh in receptions per game (5.0) and the senior is making his way up the career receiving charts at Nevada:
Jump for Joey
Senior cornerback Joe Garcia has been instrumental in Nevada's success this season. The first-team All-WAC selection from 2005 has been on the receiving end of five turnovers, all during the Wolf Pack’s three-game win streak - an interception against Colorado State, two picks against Northwestern and two fumble recoveries against UNLV.
Garcia, who has seven career picks, is on the watch lists for two of the most prestigious honors in college football: the Bronko Nagurski Award and the Lott Trophy.
Garcia, who hails from Westminster, Calif., had 72 tackles and four interceptions last year en route to earning first-team All-WAC honors. In just four games, Garcia has already picked off three passes, including two interceptions in the Northwestern game. He is tied for fourth in the WAC and 23rd in the NCAA with 0.50 interceptions per game this year.
He is one of 56 players on the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Award, which is presented each year by the Charlotte Touchdown Club to the best defensive player in college football as voted on by the Football Writers Association of America. This year’s award will be pre
sented on Dec. 4 at the Westin Hotel-Charlotte.
Garcia was also one of the 42 players named to the 2006 Lott Trophy Watch List. Named after Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, the Lott Trophy is awarded to college football's Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. Now in its third year, the Lott Trophy is the first college football award to equally recognize athletic performance and the personal character attributes of the player and is sponsored by The Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation. The winner will be announced at a gala black-tie banquet at The Pacific Club Dec. 10.
Quick Out of the Gate
First-quarter scoring has been pivotal to Nevada's success this season. In Nevada's three victories, the Wolf Pack has outscored its opponents by a combined 31-7 in the first quarter. In the three losses, Nevada was outscored 24-7 in the first quarter.
All He Does is Score Touchdowns
Mike McCoy has been a touchdown scoring machine so far this year. The sophomore has 12 catches on the season and he has found the end zone with six of them. The latest touchdown came against Hawaii - a 3-yard pass from Rowe just before halftime. The longest was a 79-yard catch-and-run for Nevada's first touchdown in a 31-3 rout of arch-rival UNLV. That play marks Nevada's longest catch and longest play from scrimmage since a 95-yard pass play between quarterback Zack Threadgill and receiver Nate Burleson on Sept. 14, 2002
Defense Getting Turnovers, Creating Points
Nevada is tops in the WAC and sixth in the nation in turnover margin as the Wolf Pack is plus-7 on the year and plis-1.17 per game this year. The differential between Nevada and its opponents - the Wolf Pack has 16takeaways and just nine giveaways - has been a big part of the team’s success so far. Nevada has scored 48 points off the turnovers it has created and twice the defense has scored on its own as Ezra Butler and Joe Garcia both have interception returns for touchdowns this season. Against UNLV, Nevada scored 10 of its points off UNLV turnovers. Against Northwestern, 24 of Nevada’s 31 points came off turnovers.
Milan Finding His Groove
Senior defensive end J.J. Milan missed all of last season with a foot injury that required three surgeries to repair, but the Reno native is making up for lost time this season. Milan leads the team and Western Athletic Conference with five sacks. His average of nearly a sack per game ranks 18th nationally.
The Reno native had three tackles and a sack in Nevada’s rivalry win over UNLV. Against Northwestern, Milan recorded two tackles, one of which was a sack, and he broke up a pass and recovered a fumble in Nevada’s 31-21 victory over the Wildcats. On the year, Milan’s five sacks have totaled 32 yards in losses for Nevada’s opponents and he is tied for second in the WAC in tackles for loss.
Rowe, Among Nation’s leaders in Consecutive Starts
Senior quarterback Jeff Rowe is ranked among the nation’s leaders in consecutive games started. Rowe has started 29 straight games dating back to the start of the 2004 season, which puts him tied for sixth nationally.
2006 Division I-A Quarterback Consecutive Starts
Kevin Kolb, Sr., Houston 43
Chris Leak, Sr., Florida 40
Brady Quinn, Sr., Notre Dame 39
Jared Zabransky, Sr., Boise State 32
John Stocco, Sr., Wisconsin 32
James Pinkney, Sr., East Carolina 31
Chad Henne, Jr., Michigan 31
Bret Meyer, Jr., Iowa State 31
Jeff Rowe, Sr., Nevada 30
Jordan Palmer, Sr., UTEP 30
Tyler Palko, Sr., Pittsburgh 30
Clint Marks, Sr., Middle Tennessee 27
Ault Moving Up Career Victories Lists
After leading his team to a 9-3 record last season, College Football Hall of Fame inductee Chris Ault has moved into 15th among active Division I-A coaches in winning percentage (.705). Among active coaches with five years of Division I-A experience, he also ranks fifth in career victories with 180. In his third stint as the head coach of the Wolf Pack, Ault now holds a 180-75-1 record in 21-plus years as a head coach, all at Nevada.
The winningest coach in school history, Ault was named the WAC Coach of the Year in 2005 for his efforts in leading the Wolf Pack to a share of the league title and the school’s first bowl appearance in nine years. During his tenure, Ault has won eight conference championships and taken Nevada to postseason play nine times (three bowl games).
Top Five Winningest Active Division I-A Coaches
1. Bobby Bowden, Florida State 363-108-4 (.768)
2. Joe Paterno, Penn State 358-120-3 (.747)
3. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech 192-104-4 (.647)
4. Jim Tressel, Ohio State 192-70-2 (.731)
5. Chris Ault, Nevada 180-76-1 (.704)
Jaekle's Got a Leg
Sophomore kicker Brett Jaekle made a slight adjustment in his approach on kickoffs earlier this season, and the move is certainly paying off. Since changing to a nine-step approach prior to the Arizona State game, Jaekle has recorded 14 touchbacks in his last 27 kickoffs. He did not have a touchback in the season opener at Fresno State.
Nevada Picked Third in the WAC Preseason Polls
Nevada has been picked to finish third in the WAC this year by both the league’s media and coaches in the preseason polls. The Wolf Pack received 349 points and four first-place votes from the media voters, while the team received 48 points in the coaches’ poll. In 2005, Nevada was picked to finish fourth and fifth in the preseason polls but exceeded all outside expectations by finishing in a tie for first. That marked Nevada’s first WAC title in football and the 13th conference championship in school history (eighth for Chris Ault).
WAC Players of the Week
Senior cornerback Joe Garcia received the WAC Defensive Player of the Week award on September 25th for his play in Nevada’s victory over Northwestern.
Garcia picked off two passes in the game, returning the second one 24 yards for a touchdown to clinch the 31-21 victory. Garcia was the first Nevada player to win one of the weekly awards and the 27th Wolf Pack honoree overall since Nevada joined the WAC prior to the 2000 season.
1,000-Yard Rushers & Receivers
Nevada has produced a 1,000-yard rusher or receiver in each of the last five years, including WAC Offensive Player of the Year B.J. Mitchell who rushed for 1,399 yards last season. Here is a list of the Wolf Pack’s 1,000-yard efforts over the last five years:
2005 B.J. Mitchell 1,399 rushing yards
2004 Nichiren Flowers 1,126 receiving yards
2003 Chance Kretchmer 1,162 rushing yards
2002 Matt Milton 1,108 rushing yards
Nate Burleson 1,629 receiving yards
2001 Chance Kretchmer 1,732 rushing yards
Nevada returned 38 letterwinners from last year’s 9-3 WAC co-championship squad, including its leading passer (Jeff Rowe) and receiver (Caleb Spencer) and its second-leading rusher (Robert Hubbard) and tackler (Ezra Butler) from one year ago. The team welcomes back 14 starters and one specialist from 2005. The seven returning starters on offense are QB Jeff Rowe, TE Anthony Pudewell, WR Caleb Spencer, WR Mike McCoy, OL Barrett Reznick, OL Dominic Green and OL Charles Manu. On defense, returning starters include DE Charles Wilson, DT Matt Hines, LB Joshua Mauga, LB Jason DeMars, LB Ezra Butler, CB Joe Garcia and S Sergio Villasenor. Sophomore Brett Jaekle also returns after handling the kicking duties last year.
Eleven members of the Wolf Pack squad were recognized in preseason college football annuals. For a complete breakdown of honors, contact the Media Services department. Here are the players who were honored: LB Ezra Butler; DB Joe Garcia; DT Matt Hines; RB Robert Hubbard; OL Charles Manu; DE J.J. Milan; TE Anthony Pudewell; OL Barrett Reznick; QB Jeff Rowe; WR Caleb Spencer; DE Charles Wilson.
Nevada had 10 players named to the WAC All-Conference team and claimed two of the four individual honors in 2005. Nevada placed five student-athletes on the first team (second only to Fresno State's eight), including RB B.J. Mitchell (Offensive Player of the Year), OT Tony Moll, P Justin Bergendahl, WR Caleb Spencer and CB Joe Garcia. Second-team honorees included DE Craig Bailey, LB Roosevelt Cooks, QB Jeff Rowe, TE Anthony Pudewell and OG Barrett Reznick.
Nevada will remain home at Mackay Stadium next week as it will play host to New Mexico State on Oct. 28.
The Aggies entered this week with a 2-4 overall mark and an 0-2 record in WAC play. New Mexico State is playing host to Hawaii this week in Las Cruces, N.M.