Nevada football hopes third time is the charm against Arizona
The Nevada Wolf Pack football team wants you to believe that a game against the Arizona Wildcats of the Pac-12 Conference is really not all that different from a game against the UC Davis Aggies of the Big Sky Conference.
“It feels just like another game,” junior quarterback Tyler Stewart said of the much anticipated match up against Arizona on Saturday, Sept. 12 at Mackay Stadium. “We’re just going to go out and play some football, whether it’s Arizona or UC Davis.”
The Wolf Pack beat Davis, 31-17, last Thursday night, Sept. 3, at home to open the season. Arizona also won last Thursday, beating Texas-San Antonio in their season opener, 42-32.
“This game means everything to me but every game means everything to me,” Wolf Pack junior guard Jeremy Macauley said. “I’m just going to look at (Arizona) as just another nameless, faceless opponent.”
Don’t let the Pack fool you. They certainly know the names and faces of the Wildcats, a team that beat the Pack in 2012 (49-48 in the New Mexico Bowl) and last year (35-28 in Tucson).
The Wolf Pack has won four games against Pac-12 teams since 2003. The Pack, though, is just 4-15 against Pac-12 teams since 1996 with two of the losses coming against the Wildcats.
“If we beat a ranked opponent (Arizona is ranked No. 22) from the Pac-12, no doubt it will be a confidence booster,” Polian said. “But in the end, it will just make us 2-0 on the season.”
The last time the Pack beat a ranked team from the Pac-12 was 2010 against Cal. The Golden Bears were 24th in the coaches poll entering the game.
The Wolf Pack, Polian said, will wear all-white uniforms on Saturday and are urging fans to also wear white.
“I expect it to be loud and I expect it to be wild and crazy,” Jackson said. “Last year the ‘White Out’ game was Washington State and I remember it gave us a lot of juice.”
The last time the Wildcats came to Reno they went back home to Tucson with a 23-14 loss to the Wolf Pack on Nov. 1, 1924. Arizona, though, leads the series 3-1-1 and hasn’t lost to the Pack ever since the helmets featured facemasks and were no longer made of leather.
“It’s going to be a battle, for sure,” said Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, who is 10-0 in regular season non-conference games since taking over the program in 2012. “It’s going to be very intense.”
Stewart, who is 2-0 in his career as a starting quarterback, was an efficient 13-of-20 for 163 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 43 yards and a touchdown against Davis. Jackson rushed for 124 yards and two scores against the Aggies on just 13 carries. He‘ll likely see much more of the workload against Arizona.
The Wildcats defense will be without standout linebacker Scooby Wright. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year winner of last year injured his knee against UTSA and will miss a month. The 6-foot-1, 246-pound junior had 14 tackles last year against the Pack, helping keep Jackson and friends to just 108 yards rushing on 40 carries.
“Scooby is a huge loss for them,” Polian said. “I’m not happy he’s hurt. I have a great admiration for him. There’s a drop-off (from Wright to his replacements) but it’s not as big as people think.”
The Wildcats are led by sophomore quarterback Anu Solomon. Solomon, who won four state titles and compiled a 57-3 record as Bishop Gorman High’s quarterback from 2009-12, threw for 3,793 yards and 28 touchdowns last year as a freshman. He was 22-of-26 for 278 yards and three touchdowns against the Pack.
“He makes the whole thing go,” Polian said.
Solomon, who lived in Hawaii until his family moved to Las Vegas when he was 10-years-old, has never lost to a Nevada team as a starting quarterback. He was 40-0 against teams from Nevada while at Bishop Gorman and is 2-0 at Arizona after beating the Wolf Pack and UNLV last year.