Andy Buh knows there was a reason the Nevada defensive coordinator position was open.
For the past few seasons, the Nevada offense has excelled while the defense has ranked in or near the 100s nationally in several defensive categories. Those statistics often have led to shootouts and losses in big games.
But Buh, the Wolf Pack’s new defensive coordinator, isn’t quick to pass judgment on his new pupils. Instead, he wants to be a part of making Nevada, his alma mater, a better team all around.
“I think there’s a pressure to win football games all the way across the board,” Buh said. “I guess I’m not really big on segmenting the team. I think you win football games because you’ve got a good team not because you’ve got a good offense or you’ve got a good special teams or you’ve got a good defense. Obviously, I’m here because the defense is perceived to not have played very well and perceived to be the reason why the team has lost. But I’m not really big into kind of pinpointing one group or another.”
Nevada has been to five consecutive bowl games and won at least eight games in three of those seasons. But it has just one conference championship (it shared the honor with Boise State in 2005) and has not defeated the conference’s top team, Boise State, since the Broncos joined the WAC at the beginning of the decade.
In fact, the Wolf Pack haven’t defeated the Broncos since Buh was a grad assistant in 1998.
Since that time, Buh has worked at Cal, San Diego State, Fresno State and Stanford. He’s seen defensive transformations in each of those programs and he’s confident he can promote the same change at Nevada.
“I think the biggest challenge is just not beating themselves,” Buh said. “There is a lot of talent here, enough talent to win. After being here a couple months, I like what I see. I like the clay that we get to work with and the kids are awesome and they work hard. We’re going to see if we can point them in the right direction and see if our plan is going to work.”
Buh doesn’t plan to change the 4-3 base defense the Wolf Pack have been running. He’ll apply his own philosophy, but structurally the defense will look the same. Although the secondary has consistently been the weaker part of the defense -- the Wolf Pack allowed 297.77 yards per game through the air last season -- Buh said he has no plans to single those positions out. Instead, he’s going to put the onus on the entire defense to be better against the pass.
“I think when you start focusing on one group or giving accolades to one group, then I think the whole group suffers,” Buh said. “I think you’re only good on defense if all 11 is playing together and that’s what we’re emphasizing with the guys. All 11 pieces have to be moving in the same direction.”
For Buh, turning Nevada into a better defensive team is mostly about pride. As a former linebacker at Nevada, Buh has hated to watch his alma mater struggle defensively. So, when he was offered a chance to make things better, he jumped at the opportunity. Now he hopes to bring the same type of energy he brought as a player to the coaching realm.
“I think any time you bring enthusiasm and passion and hard work, I think it rubs off on the guys that are listening,” Buh said. “So, I’m hoping that that’s happening here. And then being an alumni, I have a lot more invested than just being a guy off the street running this defense. I care very dearly about this program and Coach [Chris] Ault and how it’s perceived out in the public. So, I think all those factors help with what I’m trying to get across to the guys.”