Pack backer Johnson is honored for stellar defensive play vs. BYU |

Pack backer Johnson is honored for stellar defensive play vs. BYU

Joe Santoro, Tribune News Service

James-Michael Johnson doesn’t look at the Western Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Week award as an individual honor.

“It’s a nice honor but it just means that our defense is playing well,” said Johnson, who was given the WAC’s weekly defensive award on Monday. “It means that our defense is getting some recognition as a unit and that’s a good thing.”

The Wolf Pack middle linebacker had 10 tackles (seven solo) in the Pack’s 27-13 victory at Brigham Young on Saturday. The Wolf Pack held BYU to one touchdown and two field goals.

“He’s getting better every game,” Pack head coach Chris Ault said. “He’s really adjusting well to (inside linebacker after playing outside his first two years).”

It is the second WAC Defensive Player of the Week honor for Johnson this season.

Wolf Pack running back Vai Taua was nominated for the WAC’s Offensive Player of the Week award after rushing for 133 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 29 carries against BYU. Pack punter Brad Langley was nominated for the Special Teams Player of the Week award after averaging 52 yards on two punts.

Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore won the Offensive Player of the Week award after passing for 288 yards and three touchdowns against Oregon State. Louisiana Tech’s Rufus Porter won the Special Teams award after blocking a punt against Southern Mississippi.

BALL TO MISS UNLV GAME: Mike Ball isn’t going to hurt the UNLV Rebels again this year.

The Nevada Wolf Pack sophomore running back was suspended for two games last week and will not play Saturday night when the Pack (4-0) meets the Rebels (1-3) at Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium. Ball was suspended for violating a team rule last week and did not accompany the team to Provo, Utah for the victory over Brigham Young on Saturday.

The 20-year-old Ball, who graduated from Las Vegas’ Desert Pines High School, burned the Rebels last year at Mackay Stadium. Playing for an injured Vai Taua, Ball ran for 184 yards and five touchdowns in the Wolf Pack’s 63-28 victory over UNLV last Oct. 3.

The Wolf Pack did not disclose the specific team rule that Ball violated last week.

“I just told him, ‘You are digging a hole for yourself that is getting too deep,” Pack head coach Chris Ault said. “It’s time to dig out.”

Ault knows how difficult it will be for Ball to miss the UNLV game in his hometown.

“Hopefully, this will sink in and he will correct what he’s been doing,” Ault said. “And if it doesn’t, well, like I told him, then he doesn’t need to keep playing.”

Ball, who sat out the 2008 season as a red-shirt freshman at Nevada, finished last year with 220 yards and five touchdowns. He was also the team’s primary kickoff returner (24.8 average on 31 returns.).

Ball has 50 rushing yards this season on just eight carries. He also has returned six kickoffs for a 25.5 average. Rishard Matthews replaced Ball as the kickoff returner against BYU and returned two kicks for an average of 16.0 yards.

OCHO CINCO INVADES WOLF PACK: Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been wearing a knit cap this season during his pre-game warmups with the words “Uno Cero” stitched across the front.

Uno Cero is Spanish for one zero. Kaepernick wears number 10. So, is he turning into another Ochocinco, the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver who legally changed his name from Chad Johnson to Ochocinco (eight five)?

“That’s where it started but that’s not what it’s about,” Kaepernick said, smiling.

Don’t worry, Pack fans. Kaepernick isn’t going to change his name to Uno Cero. It’s about bonding and connecting with his teammates.

“It’s about the ‘Goont’ Movement,” he smiled. “That’s what we call it. The Goont Movement. About 10 of us have the hats (with their own uniform number on the front) and we all do it. It just helps us keep our focus from game to game and reminds us all to play hard and give our best every day.”

PACK ENJOYING LIFE IN TOP 25: The Wolf Pack found itself in the Top 25 in both the Associated Press and USA Today polls for the first time this week.

“That’s good stuff,” Ault said. “I’m proud of this football team. But that’s behind us now. That’s something we can’t control. All we can do is just keep winning.”

The Wolf Pack was last ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 in 1948. This is the first time the Pack is in the USA Today coach’s poll Top 25.

“That’s definitely something special to us,” Kaepernick said. “But right now all we’re focused on is UNLV.”

“We’ve come a long way in a short time,” Johnson said. “To think last year we started out 0-3 and now this year we’re 4-0 and ranked in the Top 25. That’s special.”

SAN JOSE STATE GAME ON TV: The WAC announced Monday that the Oct. 9 Wolf Pack-San Jose State game will be televised by ESPNU.

The time of the game at Mackay Stadium has also been changed from 1:05 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. That game will also be the Pack’s Homecoming this year.

ESPN, because of its contract with the WAC, can also change the times of the Pack home games against Utah State (Oct. 30) and New Mexico State (Nov. 20). Those games are currently scheduled to start at 1:05 p.m. and will not be televised by the ESPN network.

ESPN, though, can decide to televise the games (and change the kickoff time) as long as they notify the WAC at least 12 days before kickoff.

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