The Nevada coaching staff thought enough of David Graves‘ potential running the pistol offense to offer him a scholarship two years ago. So he was the natural choice to help the Hawaii defense prepare for the option attack this week.
Graves played the part of prolific Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick while running the scout team offense in practice as the Warriors worked to devise a scheme to contain the nation’s second-ranked offense.
"This is a big week, so I’m trying to help the defense any way I can, and at the same time I’m having a lot of fun," said Graves, a redshirt freshman.
Graves ran a zone-read option similar to Nevada’s as a senior at Folsom (Calif.) High School, about a 2-hour drive from Reno. He attended Nevada’s summer camp prior to his senior year, winning MVP honors, and was offered a scholarship early that fall.
He ultimately signed with Hawaii to take a shot at operating the run-and-shoot rather than the pistol. But at least for this week, he’s returned to his option roots in simulating the 6-foot-6 Kaepernick, whose long strides cover an average of nearly 107 yards per game.
But the role play has given Graves a chance to sling the ball as well, as Kaepernick is completing 70.7 percent of his throws.
"I’ve been going to all the defensive meetings and watching a lot of film," said Graves, who followed Kaepernick’s career over the years.
"You have to give it to him, he’s worked a lot on (his accuracy). This year it’s going to be tough to stop that pass game. … (The UH defense) made it tough on me, so hopefully that translates to the game."
But Graves’ contributions won’t be limited to practice. He’s one of the deep backs on the kickoff return team and helped spring Dustin Blount for returns of 35 and 38 yards in last week’s win at Fresno State.
"That was great, I was fired up," said Graves, who said he’ll be ready if opponents start kicking away from Blount and give him a chance to put his running abilities to use on game days.
Down under the radar
Alex Dunnachie enjoyed one of the most productive games of his UH career, yet still couldn’t break into the national and conference rankings.
Not that he minds at all.
Dunnachie’s average of 3.1 kicks per game remains below the minimum of 3.6 to qualify for the rankings. His yardage average of 43.8 would place him second among WAC punters behind Nevada’s Brad Langley (46.9), who also doesn’t qualify with only 10 punts all season.
"The last three or four weeks I’ve hit a groove where I want to be," Dunnachie said. "Get that 45-, 50-yard punt with a good hang time. It’s coming together pretty well at the right time of the season."
Still, if Dunnachie continues to see limited action, "I’m not going to be devastated."
When the Warriors offense gets rolling, Dunnachie doesn’t see much field time. But when needed, the sophomore from Australia has delivered with greater consistency this season. He averaged 50.8 yards in his five kicks against Fresno State, four coming in the first half before the Warriors pulled away.
"It was nice to get in the game," Dunnachie said. "But then again it was nice to get a win and watch the second half from the sideline."
At least one streak is sure to end early in tomorrow’s game.
In each of the last five games, the Hawaii defense has forced a punt on the opponent’s opening possession. Of those drives, only Colorado avoided a three and out to start the game.
Nevada’s offense has scored on all six of its opening drives, including five touchdowns, and the Pack have yet to trail this season.
Last week’s game marked the first time UH kicked off to open the game, deferring after winning the coin toss, and the defense’s stand generated some early momentum.
"The rest of the games we were on the sideline waiting. That way we just get on the field and get to work," linebacker George Daily-Lyles said. "I hope Coach puts us out there again, but it’s up to him."