COLUMBIA — There were high expectations for the Nevada football team before the season. The 2008 team finished 5-3 in the Western Athletic Conference. The league’s coaches predicted the team would build on that record and finish second in the league behind Boise State, which is ranked No. 8 in the country in this week’s Associated Press poll.
Although the team has yet to play a conference game, at 0-2 Nevada’s season is not going according to plan. It opened the season with a 35-0 loss at Notre Dame and followed with a 35-20 loss at Colorado State. The Wolf Pack had five turnovers in the Colorado State loss.
“All five of them, well with the exception of one, were due to our poor ability to hold onto the ball or throw it correctly,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said in his Monday teleconference.
Nevada plays Missouri at 8 p.m. Friday in the home opener for the Wolf Pack. It will be televised on ESPN.
“Here it is, it’s another undefeated team like Colorado State was,” Ault said. “They’re playing very well at this time. Certainly some tremendous talent. So, again, we’re glad it’s at home.”
Much of the preseason expectations for Nevada hinged on the performance of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Last season’s WAC offensive player of the year, Kaepernick became the fifth quarterback in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in the same season.
This season, Kaepernick has thrown four interceptions and only one touchdown and has 63 yards rushing. He was involved in three of the team’s turnovers against Colorado State.
“We’re running an outside option play, it’s wide open,” Ault said. “He gets the pitch out there, it’s the first time in three years that the pitch hits the ground. We’ve got probably a chance to get 15 yards on this play and that was the first turnover, and I believe it was on about our 18-yard line. And that’s just not, Kaep has not done that. His two interceptions, they were both, and he knew as soon as he did it, they were both poor, poor reads with him thinking he could force it in there.”
Missouri and Nevada met for the first time last season at Memorial Stadium. The Tigers won 69-17. Despite the fact that some key Missouri players from that game have graduated or moved on, Ault said the game still presents a challenge for his team.
“I think they’ve done a nice job of taking what they want to do offensively and matching it to the personnel,” Ault said. “They’re running some option stuff, some outside zone stuff, which they ran last year but not as much, not as prevalent. And I think they’re doing a nice job with that. It’s still a very interesting offense that can do a lot of different things and exploit a lot of different areas in your defense.”
In order to keep up with Missouri, Ault said his team will need to cut down on its turnovers and limit other mistakes.
“We’re moving the ball,” Ault said. “Again, it’s a matter of us shooting ourselves in the foot at critical times.”