FishWrap Friday Game 2 Preview: Oregon vs. Nevada

Josh Schlichter FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

Mike Ball looks to start the season off the right way against the Ducks

After last week’s offensive nightmare, the Ducks will come home to a friendly crowd in Autzen Stadium as the Ducks try to restart, and get ready for the quest for the PAC 12 Championship. Their first challenge will be the Nevada Wolfpack, who have been preparing all spring and summer for their shot at the Ducks (Nevada had no game in Week 1). LSU pounded away at the Oregon interior, and the Wolfpack’s dynamic pistol attack will look to do much of the same. Expect a lot of points to go on the board this week.

Breaking Down the Pistol:

Check out my video that breaks down the pistol here:


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If you’ve never heard about the pistol before, here are the main points of the pistol:

1) The Quarterback lines up 3 yards behind the center

2) The Running-Back lines up 3-4 yards behind the Quarterback

 Why run the pistol?

The pistol offense allows teams to incorporate spread option concepts and formations into their offense while still retaining the traditional downhill running concepts.


Let’s start with Nevada’s defense:

Up front, the Wolf Pack will lose their two best defensive linemen in Dontay Moch and Ryan Coulson. Moch contributed 8.5 sacks and 64 tackles (22 TFL), while Coulson started in 14 games and contributed 3.5 sacks and 8.5 TFL. Who will return, though, is Brett Roy, who was phenomenal last season, putting up 50 tackles, 8 sacks, and 14.5 tackles for loss gaining him notoriety as one of the best in the WAC. Along side him are Jack Reynoso, a 275 pound sophomore,  and veteran senior Zack Madonick who is known as a plugger. He wasn’t too impressive on the stat sheet with 28 stops and 1.5 sacks last season, but he is more of a gap guy, who can redirect running backs into other defenders. 300 pound JUCO transfer Willie Faataualofa will return as well and add some size to the interior.

Junior Albert Rosette was given the daunting task of replacing Moch. Rosette is a 245 pound converted Linebacker, who will add a little athleticism to the outside. He’ll rotate with true freshman Rykeem Yates, a converted D-Tackle.  On the other side is Brock Hekking, a redshirt freshman with a little bit of speed at 6’4″ 245. He’s no all star, but an athlete none-the-less. 6’3″, 250 pound Jacob Peppard is another JUCO transfer. With his great speed, he may be used as a 3rd down specialist.

It’s tough to replace your two best linemen on either side of the ball. Moch was not only the Pack’s best defensive player last year, he was the conference’s best defensive player. Roy will hold his own, but as we know, you need to be able to defend the entire field to stop Oregon’s dynamic offense. Nevada’s relatively green linemen need to step up quickly to have a shot against the Ducks.

At the Linebacker spots, Nevada will boast the best linebackers in the conference. James-Michael Johnson, a hard hitting veteran, who had 88 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season, will be the best linebacker the Pack will have. Also returning on the outside is Brandon Marshall who finished with 63 tackles and 2 interceptions. Second leading tackler Kevin Grimes is gone, but taking over for him is a solid reserve in DeAndrew Boughton, who will look to use his great speed and aggressiveness to fill the void.

Nevada has a great group of athletes at the Linebacker position, they’re fast, and they’re aggressive against the run. As has always been the case with Nevada defenses, their pass defense will struggle against the speedy and athletic Ducks receivers. Establishing a good run game against the Wolfpack will only open the door to Darron Thomas and the Ducks’ passing attack.

Isaiah Frey is Nevada's best defensive back

Since Nevada’s offense put up a lot of points, and their run defense was stout, teams were forced to the air against the Pack. While their defense was solid up front, the secondary wasn’t as strong and they gave up a lot of yards. Their best player is Senior cornerback Isaiah Frey. Frey has good size and has good skills around the ball, but, quite frankly he isn’t Claiborne or Mathieu by any means. Junior Khalid Wooten will take the spot across from him, who has been around as a special teams player and a rotating corner. Backup corners Malik James and Thaddeus Brown are decent athletes and are easily game ready.

Marlon Johnson tried his hat at free safety last year, and had reasonably good results with 58 tackles and two INTs. Athletic and physical, he’ll be the leader of the unit. Sophomore Duke Williams will return from a great 2010 campaign with 74 tackles and 2 picks. He’s fast and a great playmaker, one of the best of Nevada’s defense.

While Nevada’s secondary has improved and returns a lot of talent, they will have their hands full against the Ducks in Week 2.

The story of the offense is about “reloading the pistol” (Went too long without a pistol pun). Colin Kaepernick, one of the best quarterbacks in Nevada Football history, is gone. His complement, bowling ball Vai Taua is gone. All WAC Guard John Bender, gone, and go to guy Virgil Green, gone.

So out goes over 4,000 yards of offense and 40 touchdowns. That hurts, a lot. It is impossible for the Pack to replace Kaepernick, so they will ultimately have to downgrade to senior QB Tyler Lantrip, who is a good playmaker, with a lot of experience in the system, and a decent amount of running ability. Behind him, who may even get some playing time this week is redshirt Freshman Cody Fajardo, a great athlete who ran the pistol a bit at Servite High School in Southern California. He’s not the passer Lantrip is, but still has a shot at the starting job.

Lantrip is good, heck, he’s got the potential to be really good, but a lack of game experience will almost certainly cripple the Wolfpack if things don’t go their way early in Autzen Stadium.

At running back, Nevada will need to replace Vai Taua, a prototypical pistol running back bruiser, and they have the legs to do just that. Junior Mike Ball is big and quick, and will be the most talented back to return to the pistol this season. Lampford Mark is returning off of injury, but he also has tremendous speed and size. Freshman Anthony Knight and Sophomore Stefphon Jefferson will also add to the rotation as power and speed backs respectively.

While the Pistol is a run first offense, Nevada will need to go to the air to score enough to beat Oregon this week. Rishard Matthews, a 6’2″, 215 pound JUCO transfer was the number one target last year and will be the biggest playmaker in the group this season. Matthews has great hands and can bust a long one if teams aren’t careful.

Trey Session, a veteran senior, and brother of former Duck Samie Parker, caught 30 passes last year and has great speed.

Stepping up for Virgil Green at the tight end spot is Zach Sudfield, a hard-working player who can become a scrappy pass catching tight end.

The missing piece of the receiving corps is Brandon Wimberly. Without Wimberly, who suffered a gunshot wound this offseason, this unit is thin, but has great upside. They’ll need consistent contribution from Matthews and good performances by Session and Sudfield to ease pressure off of the running game.

The offensive line returns three starters, Chris Barker (All-WAC), Jeff Meads, and Jeff Nady. Replacing All-WAC guard John Bender is Scott Frisbie, who is a quick, and athletic guard. And taking over the tackle spot is Senior Steve Haley who is recovering from an arm injury suffered early last season.

The offensive line is strong, and will be a huge plus for the Pack, but replacing Bender will be the biggest challenge for the unit to truly “gel.”

Fearless Predictions:

While the Wolfpack are on Offense: Contrary to popular belief, I think Nevada will have a relatively large amount of success against the Ducks’ defense. Coach Ault and company will have a good gameplan, and the Pack will score enough to keep them closer than Duck fans would like. Autzen Stadium will hurt part of the pistol scheme that involves checking plays at the line of scrimmage, but Lantrip, Ball, and a veteran offensive line will find ways to control the ball early against the Ducks. That being said, Nevada will have to score more than 45 points to pull off the upset.

While the Ducks are on offense: Oregon will go to work right away, going back to the Inside Zone, and start picking up the all-important-momentum-grabbing pace. As the Nevada defense begins to key in on the run, DAT, Barner, Tuinei, Vaughn, Hoffman and Huff will get plenty of open space on the perimeter for Kelly to open up the playbook. This is not, by any means, a “SEC Caliber” defense; Oregon’s offense will get a good look, but they’ll be able to go back to their old ways of scoring 50+ week in-week out.

Oregon- 56

Nevada- 24

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