Spartans tackle powerful Pack

RENO — This is how tough San Jose State’s task is headed to No. 21 UNR tonight.

If the underdog Spartans score first, it will be the first time the Wolf Pack have trailed all season.

More reasons for San Jose State to be nervous: Unbeaten UNR is favored by more than five touchdowns, is riding its first national ranking since 1948 and has a chance to go 6-0 for the first time since coach Chris Ault’s 1991 team finished 12-1 and won the Big Sky Conference championship.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a 6-foot-6-inch senior whose stock with NFL scouts keeps going up, is averaging 210 yards passing and 110 yards running per game. Senior running back Vai Taua’s 128-yard average ranks eighth in the NCAA and the offense fifth overall with 536 yards per game.

All in all, a less-than-ideal matchup for a Spartans team that fell to UNR 62-7 last year, has lost 10 straight on the road and has seen nine starters go down to injury since the start of the season.

“Nevada is an excellent football team. They are dominating people each week,” first-year Spartans coach Mike MacIntyre said.

“For the past two years no one has been able to contain Kaepernick. With the possible exception of Michigan, there’s no one else who has a quarterback who can run like that,” he added. “He makes people miss. He runs by people. … He’s another running back nobody can tackle. It is going to be a great challenge for us.”

Still, Ault said his team won’t take San Jose State lightly, even though the Spartans have lost to three ranked teams on the road this season — Alabama (48-3), Wisconsin (27-14) and Utah (56-3).

“They’ve played one heck of a schedule, my God,” Ault said. “And they’ve played well. At Wisconsin, they played really, really well.

“We aren’t good enough to overlook anybody. We’ve got to practice hard and prepare ourselves for a four-quarter game.”

Kaepernick this season became the ninth player in the NCAA to rush for 3,000 yards and throw for 3,000 yards in his career. His 3,454 yards rushing are seventh all time for a quarterback.

Taua has rushed for at least 100 yards in his last four games.

San Jose State’s defense is led by linebacker Vince Buhagiar, a freshman averaging 7.8 tackles per game — one of only eight freshmen in the Football Bowl Subdivision averaging at least 6½.

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