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September 9, 2005
CougZone Keys to the Game - Nevada
The Cougs take their show on the road for the second game of the season, traveling down to Reno for a match against the Nevada Wolf Pack. Nevada is trying to return to time when the program was strong in it's conference. Unsatisfied with the efforts of head coach Chris Tormey, Nevada's former coach and athletic director Chris Ault canned Tormey at the end of the 2003 season and installed himself in the spot. The results were mixed as Nevada - 6-6 in Tormey's last season - fell to 5-6 last year.
This will be the season opener for a Nevada team that has high expectations and high hopes for the season. With the Cougars coming to their house, the Wolf Pack will believe they can win this game. It's a big opener for Nevada. A Pac-10 opponent coming to meet them on their own turf and televised to boot. Nevada has some play makers, they will be up for the game, and ready to give WSU their best shot. Tune your television to ESPN at 7:00 pm PST if you can't be in Reno, and here's our CougZone Keys to the Game:
1) Run blocking - The Cougars did a pretty good job pass blocking in the opener against Idaho. The new look 2005 offensive line kept Alex Brink upright and unsacked and overall did a nice job of pass protection. The running game was another story. Jerome Harrison's 165 yards in rushing look good on paper, but anybody who saw the game noticed the Cougars did not exactly blow Idaho's defense off the ball. The Cougar line needs to establish control over the line of scrimmage and get a good push against the Nevada defensive front.
2) Inside pressure - The loss of Ropati Pitoitua clearly hurt the performance of the Cougar defensive tackle unit against the Vandals. Whether it be from youth, inexperience, or both, Fevaea'i Ahmu and Bryan Olson struggled in passing situations and the Cougars had to resort to blitzing linebackers and defensive backs to get pressure on the quarterback. WSU needs more production against the pass from the interior D-linemen, and needs to find a way to get it now as Nevada has weapons in their passing attack.
3) Settle in, settle down - WSU jumped on top fast and hard against Idaho then struggled for half the game before taking control in the second half. A lot of that was opening day jitters. The Cougs appeared to simply be trying too hard at times. Jason Hill dropped passes, Brink forced throws, bad penalties were taken. Basically, the team played tight. Nevada should be a tougher opponent than the Vandals, although to Idaho's credit the Vandals definitely looked much improved from seasons past. Nevada wants a winning season and a bowl game this year, and they have some talent. Playing tight against a hungry Wolf Pack in their own house would go a long way towards giving Nevada an upset win.