South Florida (1-0) at Nevada (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 8, 3:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mackay Stadium (29,993) -- Reno, Nevada. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: USF 1-0, Nevada 1-0. Away Record: USF 0-0, Nevada 0-0. Neutral Record: USF 0-0, Nevada 0-0. Conference Record: USF 0-0, Nevada 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Encountering a team from the Big East Conference for the first time on the football field, the Nevada Wolf Pack welcome the South Florida Bulls to Mackay Stadium in Reno this weekend.
Now a member of the Mountain West Conference after residing in the Western Athletic Conference for several years, the Wolf Pack kicked off the 2012 campaign last weekend in fine fashion as they tripped up California by a final of 31-24. The victory was the second in a row in regular-season play for a Nevada squad that was defeated in the postseason last year by Southern Miss, 24-17.
As for the Bulls, they are clashing with their first opponent from the Football Bowl Subdivision after opening the schedule with a home date against Chattanooga last Saturday. In that clash, USF took care of the visiting Mocs in a 34-13 final in order to move to 12-4 in season openers and 73-25 all-time at home dating back to 1997 when the school first fielded a football team.
USF quarterback B.J. Daniels had an up-and-down game for the Bulls in the opener, but the bottom line is that the team picked up the victory. Daniels, who ranked second in the Big East and 17th nationally last season in total offense with 291.4 ypg, completed 17-of-26 passes for 225 yards and three touchdowns, but he also tossed an interception and lost a fumble, miscues that eventually turned into 10 points for the visitors.
Daniels was sacked twice and lost a total of 27 yards, but he did manage to break free for a 20-yard TD run to cap the game's scoring. Daniels wasn't the only one finding it difficult to exploit holes in the Chattanooga offense though, as the Bulls gained just 85 net yards on the ground.
However, the defense for South Florida was more than up to the challenge when it came to stopping the run as the unit limited the Mocs to only 49 net yards, with only one player reaching double-digit yardage.
USF logged 12 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, three by Todd Chandler and another 2.5 by DeDe Lattimore who ended with a team-best 10 total stops. Stops in the backfield are nothing new for the Bulls as they placed second in the entire nation in 2011 with 8.25 TFL per outing. Ryne Giddins accounted for just four total tackles, but he led the team with 1.5 of their six sacks.
Taking down the opposing quarterback is also a specialty for the Bulls after they logged 3.25 sacks per game a year ago to rank fourth in the country, but just third in their own conference, trailing both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, oddly enough.
The defense for the Wolf Pack wasn't nearly as fearsome as USF's, but Nevada did do its share of damage at the line of scrimmage and further up the field as it held California to just 113 yards rushing. While it is still just one game, certainly holding the Golden Bears to 41 yards under their average from 2011 and putting forth a performance that is 34 yards fewer than the Pack allowed on the average last season has to be encouraging.
On the offensive side of the ball, the star for Nevada figured to be quarterback Cody Fajardo, but taking over the spotlight was running back Stefphon Jefferson who scored the first and last touchdowns of the day for the visitors and threw in another two-yard scoring run in the third period as well for good measure. Jefferson, who's two-yard TD with 36 seconds remaining in regulation proved to be the game-winner, finished with 141 yards rushing on a staggering 34 attempts.
Not only did Jefferson pile up the yards on his way to being named the MWC Offensive Player of the Week, he remained on the field for every single offensive snap for the Pack as he registered the most carries by a Nevada running back since Luke Lippincott carried it 36 times versus Utah State in 2007.
As a group, the Pack rolled to 221 rushing yards which for them is nothing unusual, seeing as how they became the first team in NCAA history to have three 1,000-yard rushers in the same season just a few years back. Last year, the team was eighth in the country with 247.5 ypg on the ground, a huge piece of the unit's 506.7 ypg of total offense which was good enough for first in the WAC and sixth in the nation.
As for Fajardo, he missed on just seven of his 32 pass attempts, leading to 230 yards through the air. The signal-caller didn't put one in the end zone, but he did cross the goal line on the ground for Nevada as he carried the ball 20 times for another 97 yards when giving Jefferson a break.
Getting the hometown crowd behind them and having an opponent have to travel a long distance just to make it to Reno should certainly work in favor of the Pack, but still the outcome will likely be close.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 27, South Florida 24
09/05 10:32:12 ET