Nevada Union defense dominates
Spencer Havner said it wasn’t Nevada Union’s 30-20 loss to Vintage last week that had him headed north Friday afternoon on I-5 from Los Angeles. The former Miner, and current All-Pac 10 candidate at middle linebacker for the UCLA Bruins, said he didn’t drive up to Grass Valley to deliver a pep talk, though he wouldn’t have passed up the opportunity.
“I was going to say something to the guys, but I didn’t get in town in time,” said Havner, whose Bruins have a bye today before hosting San Diego State next week. “But, they’re looking pretty good tonight.”
Havner’s words came with 8 minutes and 24 seconds left in the first half Friday, with the host Miners (2-1) leading Elk Grove 34-0. NU ended up routing one of their most fierce rivals over the years, 56-12.
What a difference a week can make. Just seven days earlier, NU’s defense surrendered more than 300 rushing yards to Vintage. This Friday night, though, the Miners silenced the Thundering Herd’s ground game early and often, allowing Elk Grove (0-3) to amass a mere 40 yards on the ground in the first half.
The Miner defense also created opportunities for NU’s offense, forcing four turnovers that put the Miners in prime position to pounce on the Herd early.
Elk Grove’s first five rushes of the night totaled three yards of offense, but Herd junior quarterback Andrew Gardner picked up a pair of first downs through the air with passes to senior Cody Allen. Though on third-and-8 at the NU 49-yard line, NU’s Thomas Brindley brought Gardner down with a sack to force a punt.
The Miners answered with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that took all of 3 minutes to complete. Senior halfback Chris Potter had two runs for a total of 27 yards, junior quarterback Ty Smith hooked up with junior wideout Josh Noxon for a 16-yard pickup and senior halfback Mike Strong added an 11-yard gain to set NU up at the Elk Grove 22. Five straight carries by senior fullback Ryan Herrera, the last of which went for a 1-yard score, put the Miners on the board with a 7-0 lead after Chris Ulinski’s point-after kick with 4:53 to go in the first quarter.
The Herd then hurt itself on the first play of the ensuing possession, as running back Joe Allen fumbled and NU linebacker Andrew Moon, a junior, recovered.
Two snaps later Strong scooted his way through the left side to the sideline for a 9-yard touchdown. Ulinski’s PAT made it 14-0, just 20 seconds after NU’s initial score.
Elk Grove turned the ball over again on its next possession, as Gardner was picked off by NU defensive back Garrett Lee, the first of his two interceptions of the night, giving the Miners the ball on Elk Grove’s 18-yard line.
“They threw the ball a lot more than they did last week and it gave us more tries at getting interceptions,” said Lee, a senior. “All week long, we basically focused on stopping the run because that was definitely our weak point last week. This time, we stuffed the run pretty good.”
The Miners ended up with 276 yards on the ground, including 51 yards and three touchdowns from Ryan Herrera. Rich Herrera led the Miners with 74 yards, and a touchdown, on 12 totes.
Things continued spirally downward for the Herd in the first quarter, with NU ahead 21-0 with 1:48 to go. After being forced into another three plays and punt, the Herd kicked to NU senior J.P. Biertuempfel who handed the ball off to James Brindley on a reverse. Brindley, a junior, broke to his left, shook a defender on the sideline and then reversed the field again, weaving his way through the Herd for a 65-yard touchdown.
NU later added one more score in the first half for a 34-0 count, as Rich Herrera scored from two yards out with 8:24 to go in the half. The touchdown was set up by a 40-yard connection between senior quarterback Nick Cartan and classmate Nathan Basso to the Elk Grove 4-yard line.
Elk Grove ended the game with 133 rushing yards, but 94 of that total came in the fourth quarter, with the game well in hand for NU. The dominance of the Miner defense in the first half set the stage for NU’s big night – and, Nevada Union head coach Dave Humphers said, hopefully even more.
“It was a young team just getting better and growing up,” said Humphers. “We started to show shades of what we think this team will be. It was just, overall, a more focused and concentrated effort.”
Elk Grove 26, Nevada Union 15
Nevada Union’s junior varsity picked up its first defeat of the season Friday, falling to visiting Elk Grove 26-15.
The Miners (2-1) moved the ball all night, including 192 rushing yards and two touchdowns by David Zealer and 114 rushing yards by Jesse Ettlin and 46 more from Delano Carter. But two fumbles and an interception helped the Herd keep NU out of the end zone on too many occasions.
“We’ll see how good these guys are at bouncing back,” said NU head coach Chris Buti. “Hopefully, they’ll pick it up. It’s a learning experience for them. That’s what it is all about for (the junior varsity) guys.”
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