Warriors expect loud greeting
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
RENO, Nev. "The Biggest Little City in the World" is abuzz, and not just because of this weekend's convention of Harley-Davidson riders.
In the week after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C., Reno became a ghost town. Last week's air show, which was to feature appearances by several astronauts, was canceled, and last Saturday's college football game between Hawai'i and Nevada was postponed.
Now, Reno is ready to rock. The Harley convention, combined with the Tattoo Expos, has brought renewed enthusiam to the area.
A flag-waving crowd of more than 25,000 is expected for today's rescheduled UH-Nevada game at Mackay Stadium.
"It could get loud," UH assistant coach Ron Lee said.
Here's a closer look:
When Nevada has the ball: Quarterback David Neill is back, after missing the past game because of a suspension for breaking an unspecified team rule, but his status is murky. While Neill will start, Zack Threadgill will play in the second quarter and, after that, "we'll see how it goes," Nevada coach Chris Tormey said.
In the past, Nevada spread its offense with three or four receivers, although 6-2 Nate Burleson (13 catches in two games) was always the primary target.
But there also is the power package, in which two tight ends are used and Cody Johnson, the Wolf Pack's best blocker, becomes a pulling center. Redshirt freshman Chance Kretschmer, a 6-2, 220-pound running back, does not need much space. He will either follow Johnson and a guard, or run into the A gap (the area between the center and guard).
With defensive tackle Mike Iousa unavailable because of a hyper-extended right knee, the Warriors will counter with their speed defense. Houston Ala moves from defensive end to left tackle, a switch that might be beneficial to the Warriors.
Ala is an elusive defender who is difficult to block. With Nevada's guards and center always on the move, Ala might have easier access to Kretschmer, who is banged up and was listed as "probable" for his first career starter.
Because Ala also plays nose tackle in the Okie scheme, a pass defense that aligns with three linebackers and five defensive backs, the Warriors will not be caught off guard. In the season opener, Montana used a no-huddle offense, making it difficult for UH to substitute and change defensive schemes.
When Hawai'i has the ball: In last season's meeting, the Wolf Pack opened with a 3-3 defensive front, then blitzed all six.
But the improved play of wideouts Ashley Lelie and Justin Colbert each can run 40 yards in under 4.4 seconds will make it too much of a gamble for Nevada to defend UH's four receivers and running back Mike Bass one on one.
Instead, look for Nevada to line up with four defensive linemen, then attack with "Bullets B," in which either the defensive ends or one of the inside linebackers will storm through the B gap (the area between the guard and tackle). The safeties will play zone defense.
UH quarterback Tim Chang usually gets up to 3.5 seconds, from snap to pass release, but Lelie and Colbert do not need that much time to break open. Slotback Craig Stutzmann also is quicker this season, and he will go long on UH's zone-busting, three-deep offense.