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PROVO -- BYU has had no shortage of competition in their first three weeks of the season. This week's opponent is another challenging team which will surely test the skill and discipline of the Cougars.
Nevada is sitting high at 3-0, its best start ever as an FBS team, and with its latest win against the PAC-10's Cal Bears 52-31, the Wolfpack has the momentum heading into Provo.
The Nevada Wolfpack is led by senior quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a dual threat quarterback who is making a name for himself as a top-caliber QB across the NCAA. The Nevada offense is ranked third in the nation, has scored on the opening drive in every game and has been up at least 10 points at half time in each of its first three games. Not only that, but the Wolfpack has scored a touchdown in every quarter of every game so far this season.
"I'm seeing him in my sleep," BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall said in reference to Kaepernick. "This quarterback is very good. What's interesting is you'll see a (Nevada) offense that is very similar to Air Force but with a downfield throwing game and a drop back passing game that is exceptional.
"There are a lot of moving parts to it, but the quarterback at any point can rush for 100 yards and make it look effortless. He's fast, he's big and he throws it well."
Nevada has an explosive offensive attack that is quick to score and is currently off to their best start in school history while being a member of the FBS. The last time these two schools met was in 2002, when Nevada earned a 31-28 victory over BYU.
Saturday's contest will be a test for a BYU defense that is looking a bit worn out, bruised and damaged. The pressure is on defensive leaders linebackers Shane Hunter and Jordan Pendleton, and safety Andrew Rich to continue to play at a high level and be the foundation of the defense. Pendleton is coming off of a strong game against Florida State with a personal record of 12 tackles, nine of them solo.
"I really like how (the defense) played against Washington and three of the four quarters against Florida State," said Mendenhall. "They're playing hard and showing a lot of toughness. I think they'll look forward to the challenge."
Defensive end Vic So'oto said he felt the defense played a lot better than the final score against Florida State indicated and that he and his teammates are giving it their all.
"The score at FSU doesn't really reflect the way the defense played," So'oto said. "When you lose, no matter by two or by 50 points it's tough. Some things didn't go our way, but we left it all out on the field."
Currently Nevada is averaging just over 50 points a game to BYU's 15. In fact BYU has only scored 47 total points on the season. Also Nevada averages 560 total offensive yards per game to BYU's 302.
"This particular team against this part of the schedule is forcing us to really grow as fast as we can possibly handle--sometimes, faster than the players and sometimes faster than the coaches are capable of keeping up with," Mendenhall commented.
On the flip side Nevada's offense has been so explosive it has hidden the defensive deficiencies of the Wolfpack. Nevada is allowing 402 total yards of offense a game and despite beating Cal by 21 points, the defense still allowed 31 points and 502 total yards.
And all of Nevada's offensive success has come at home. Its trip to Provo is its first trip outside of Reno this season. It is still to be determined how successful this WAC team will be on the road in an opponent's stadium as intimidating as LaVell Edwards Stadium.
If BYU's defense can make a few stops and the offense can avoid turnovers and sustain a few scoring drives and cap them off with touchdowns, not field goals, the Cougars will get back in the win column, even their record at 2-2 and gain some much needed confidence and momentum before heading to Logan.