NCF Nation: James-Michael Johnson

Spring rewind: Nevada

April, 27, 2011
Here is a look at where Nevada stands headed into the offseason:

Questions answered: The biggest question was who will replace Colin Kaepernick behind center. Though coach Chris Ault has not officially named a starter, he did say Tyler Lantrip was the man to beat. Lantrip had a good spring, and went 8-of-18 for 108 yards with one touchdown passing and one rushing in the spring game. Quarterbacks Mason Magleby and Cody Fajardo also impressed Ault this spring. Receiver looks to be an area of strength with the continued improvement of Rishard Matthews, who had an excellent spring after coming on strong in the second half of 2010. This could bode well for the Wolf Pack because Lantrip is better as a passer than a runner. Running back also is an area of depth and strength with the emergence of two more players during the spring -- junior college transfer Nick Hale and Stefphon Jefferson did well as projected starter Mike Ball and Lampford Mark sat out most of the drills while they recovered from injuries. This obviously is an important position in the Pistol offense, one that loses 1,000-yard back Vai Taua.

Questions unanswered: The defense showed much improvement last season, but will have some big questions once fall practice rolls around. Starting defensive ends Ryan Coulson and Dontay Moch are gone, leaving bookend holes on the defensive line. Then there was more bad news during the spring. Kaelin Burnett, the heir apparent to Moch, will miss the season with a broken pelvis. Nevada signed five defensive ends, and some are expected to play, including former UCLA signee Rykeem Yates. The good news is defensive tackle Brett Roy had a good spring and linebackers James-Michael Johnson and Brandon Marshall return. What could be a problem on defense is depth, and that could be a big issue in the brutal opening stretch of the season.

Spring stars: Jefferson had 137 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries in the spring game. Safety Dean Faddis also had a good spring and a great spring game, with five tackles and a forced fumble.

Nevada Wolf Pack season recap

December, 7, 2010
One media voter out of 43 cast their ballot for Nevada in the WAC preseason media poll, drawing scorn and ridicule. Well, it turns out that voter was right. The Wolf Pack won a share of the WAC title with Boise State and Hawaii, capping the best season in school history with its first conference championship since 2005. The big highlight of course was the 34-31 overtime win over Boise State. But the signs were there early that this could be a special season. Go back to the 52-31 win over California in Week 3. The Wolf Pack had their way with the Bears, and won a game over a team from an automatic qualifying conference for the first time in seven tries. That set the stage for what was to come. Colin Kaepernick was better than advertised, and he and Vai Taua partnered to become the most prolific rushing duo in NCAA history. The vaunted Pistol offense began showing up in college football games throughout the country, and coach Chris Ault was named WAC coach of the Year. A defense that was in desperate need of improvement showed development under first-year coordinator Andy Buh. Dontay Moch was his usual disruptive self, and James-Michael Johnson was a revelation. The only setback came at Hawaii, a place where Nevada hasn’t won since 1948. Kaepernick had an uncharacteristic four turnovers, including a fumble as he was crossing the goal line that went out of the end zone. Who knows what might have been had he been able to score there. The reality is that Nevada is a champion.

Offensive MVP: QB Colin Kaepernick. You would run out of space on this page if you wanted to discuss all of his accolades this season. Kaepernick won WAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year honors this season for not only rushing but passing his way into the record books. He joined Cam Newton and Tim Tebow as the only players in NCAA history to run for 20 TDs and pass for 20 TDs in a season. That is just one highlight. The biggest area of improvement this season was his pass efficiency -- he completed a career-high 65.3 percent of his passes this season.

Defensive MVP: DE Dontay Moch. Though he didn’t win WAC Defensive Player of the Year honors, he still set the league record for tackles for loss. Moch ended up with 22 tackles for a loss on the year and 8.5 sacks.

Turning point: The win over Boise State was the first over a Top 5 team in program history, and set the stage for the team to share the WAC championship.

What’s next: Nevada plays Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, then faces big-time rebuilding, losing Kaepernick, Taua and Moch.

Midseason Report: Nevada

October, 12, 2010
Nevada Wolf Pack

Record: 6-0 (1-0, WAC)

With Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua returning to the offense, there was no question the Wolf Pack would be able to put up some serious yards in the Pistol offense. After all, they helped set an NCAA record last season, along with Luke Lippincott -- all three had 1,000 yards rushing. The big question was whether the defense would show improvement under new coordinator Andy Buh. The answer has been a resounding yes midway through the season. Kaepernick has been even better than last season, thanks to improved accuracy and efficiency, and the defense has stepped up. Nevada is off to its best start since joining FBS in 1992 and is ranked in both polls for the first time since 1948. The big win came over California (52-31), a game in which Kaepernick had 329 total yards and five touchdowns. The Wolf Pack have yet to trail in a game this season. Meanwhile, Dontay Moch and James-Michael Johnson have led an improved defense, and Nevada looks like a serious threat to Boise State midway through the season.

Offensive MVP, QB Colin Kaepernick. What more can you say about the senior from Turlock, Calif.? Kaepernick ranks No. 6 in the country in total offense with 1,960 yards. He also has 19 touchdowns. But what has made the difference this year is the way he is throwing the ball. Kaepernick is completing a career-high 71 percent of his passes, and only has three interceptions on the season.

Defensive MVP, DE Dontay Moch, LB James-Michael Johnson. We are going to pick two here. Moch has come up huge, especially in the past two games. Last week he set the school and WAC record for tackles for loss (52) in a career. He has 11 so far on the season and three sacks. Johnson, meanwhile, has emerged, leading the team in tackles with 41. He also has 2.5 sacks.

Lunchtime Links

September, 29, 2010
Let's get over that hump with some tasty links.

Special teams not-so special for Boise State.

What does the future hold for The Mtn?

BYU quarterback Riley Nelson says he isn't transferring and plans to be healthy in time to compete for the starting quarterback job in the spring.

What's good for Nevada is good for the WAC and Mountain West these days.

Houston coach Kevin Sumlin says he will use the bye week to evaluate where his team stands at quarterback.

SMU wants more consistency from its passing game.

James-Michael Johnson is the key to Nevada's improved defense.

It's looking more likely that Kent State running back Eugene Jarvis will miss Saturday's game against Miami (Ohio).

Arkansas State DT Bryan Hall sees a great opportunity against Louisville.

Navy expects to get some of its injured players back against Air Force.

Other conference links:


Big 12

Big East

Big Ten


Non-AQ Players of the Week

September, 27, 2010
Time for the non-AQ conference players of the week:

Conference USA

Offense: UAB QB Bryan Ellis. Threw for 373 yards in his first career start, a 32-29 double overtime loss to Tennessee. Ellis has passed for 733 yards and four touchdowns in the past two games and is the first UAB quarterback to throw for more than 350 yards in back-to-back outings.

Defense: Houston DB Loyce Means. Had interceptions on consecutive defensive drives in a 42-23 win against Tulane. He returned the second 42 yards for a touchdown.

Special teams: UTEP PK Dakota Warren. Kicked three field goals, including the game-winning 18-yarder as time expired in a 16-13 win against Memphis. Warren also connected made field goals from 57 and 50 yards, becoming the second UTEP player since 1950 to hit two 50-yard field goals in a game.


East Division

Offense: Ohio WR Terrence McCrae. Had four catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-23 loss at Marshall.

Defense: Temple DB Jaiquawn Jarrett. Led Temple with 11 tackles in a 22-13 loss at No. 23 Penn State. After four games, Jarrett leads the Owls with 28 tackles, including 16 solos.

Special teams: Ohio P Paul Hershey. Averaged 38.7 yards per kick, and ran for a 6-yard TD on a fake field goal.

West Division

Offense: Northern Illinois RB Chad Spann. Ran for 223 yards on 17 carries in a 34-23 win at Minnesota. He had the first 200-plus yard game at Northern Illinois since Garrett Wolfe had 203 vs. Central Michigan in 2006.

Defense: Toledo LB Archie Donald. Had a season-high 16 tackles and added a game-clinching interception in a 31-20 win at Purdue.

Special teams: Northern Illinois DB Jimmie Ward. Had a punt block at the end of the first half that led to a touchdown.

Mountain West

Offense: Colorado State QB Pete Thomas. Led the Rams to their first win of the season, going 29-of-37 pass attempts for 386 yards and three touchdowns. Both are career highs.

Defense: Air Force S Jon Davis. Had a team-high six tackles, one tackle for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery in Air Force’s 20-14 win at Wyoming. The fumble recovery with 3:41 remaining in the fourth quarter sealed the win.

Special teams: TCU PR/KR Jeremy Kerley. Returned five kickoffs for 172 yards, including a career-long 83-yard scamper, to help TCU beat SMU 41-24 victory. In all, he had a career-high 234 all-purpose yards in the game.

Sun Belt

Offense: Troy WR Jerrel Jernigan. Had 10 receptions for a career-high 209 yards and one touchdown in a win against Arkansas State. With his performance, Jernigan is 28 yards shy of the Sun Belt record for receiving yards.

Defense: Middle Tennessee LB Jamari Lattimore. Set a school record and tied the Sun Belt mark with four sacks against in a win against Louisiana. He had eight tackles and forced a fumble.

Special teams: Middle Tennessee K Alan Gendreau. Made the second-longest field goal in Sun Belt and school history with a career-long 55-yarder.


Offense: Boise State QB Kellen Moore. Completed 19-of-27 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-24 win against No. 24 Oregon State. His passing efficiency rating for the game was 196.6.

Defense: Nevada LB James-Michael Johnson. Had a career-high 10 tackles, including seven solo, in a 27-13 win at Brigham Young.

Special teams: Louisiana Tech LB Rufus Porter. Blocked a punt in the fourth quarter forcing a safety in the game against Southern Miss. It was Louisiana Tech's first safety in a decade.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

September, 13, 2010
Here are your non-AQ players of the week:

Conference USA

Offense: Bryce Beall, RB, Houston. Ran for a career-high 195 yards and tied a career-high with three touchdown runs in a 54-24 win over UTEP.

Defense: Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall. Had 11 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles in a loss to West Virginia on Friday night.

Special Teams: Kevin Fitzpatrick, K, Tulsa. Tied a career-best when he made four-of-four field goals, including two in each half.

East Division

Offense: Thomas Merriweather, RB, Miami. Ran for 100 yards for the second time in his career, getting 105 yards on 15 carries and tied his career high with three touchdowns in a win over Eastern Michigan.

Defense: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple. Had six tackles, a career-high two sacks, a career-high three tackles for loss and one forced fumble in a 13-10 overtime win over Central Michigan last Thursday.

Special Teams: Freddy Cortez, K, Kent State. Made field goals from 45 and 41 yards in a 26-13 loss at Boston College. It was the first time in his career Cortez has made two field goals of 40-plus yards.

West Division

Offense: Alex Carder, QB, Western Michigan. Completed a career-high 24-of-33 passing for 298 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-14 win over Nicholls State. Carder became the sixth Bronco quarterback with five passing touchdowns in a game and the first since Oct. 8, 2005.

Defense: Dan Molls, LB, Toledo. Had a career-high 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack and two interceptions in a 20-13 win at Ohio.

Special Teams: Jay Karutz, P, Eastern Michigan. Set a school record with a 49.5 punt average against Miami with three of the four inside the 20-yard line, including two that were downed inside the 1. His fourth punt was a 56 yarder that went out of bounds.

Mountain West

Offense: Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State. Rushed for 150 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-21 victory over New Mexico State. The four rushing touchdowns set a conference freshman single-game high and are the most by a San Diego State player since Larry Ned had four touchdowns against Wyoming in 2001.

Defense: Alex Ibiloye, S, TCU. Forced three fumbles and added a team-high tying nine tackles in a 62-7 win over Tennessee Tech. Ibiloye became the first Horned Frog to force more than one fumble in a game since Jerry Hughes forced two against BYU in 2008.

Special teams: Shaky Smithson, WR/PR, Utah. Returned five punts for 128 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown, to help Utah beat UNLV 38-10. He is the first Utah player to return a punt for a touchdown since 2007.

Sun Belt

Offense: Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State. Threw for a single-game school record 438 yards in a loss to Louisiana. That is the highest total for an FBS player this season. He currently has the second-most passing yards in the country with 716.

Co-Defense: Maurice Rolle, DB, Louisiana; Jonathan Massaquoi, DE, Troy. Rolle had a key interception of Aplin with 1:59 remaining to secure the win. Massaquoi had eight total tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in a loss to Oklahoma State.

Special Teams: Jerrel Jernigan, KR, Troy. Became the fourth player in league history to return a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in a loss to Oklahoma State. Jernigan finished the game with 277 all-purpose yards and moved past former Middle Tennessee star Desmond Gee into fifth place on the SBC career list with 4,362 career all-purpose yards.


Offense: Bryant Moniz, QB, Hawaii. Completed 25 of 36 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-28 win at Army. Moniz led the Warriors to touchdowns in three of their first four possessions.

Defense: James-Michael Johnson, LB, Nevada. Had a team and career-high nine tackles, including 1.5 sacks in a 51-6 win at Colorado State. Nevada notched its first shutout since 2006.

Special teams: Anthony Martinez, K, Nevada. Made all three of his field goal attempts and six extra point in the win over Colorado State. The field goal attempts were the first of his college career, while the 15 points he scored in the game are tied for the third most of any kicker in the nation in a game this year.

Nevada spring wrap

May, 6, 2010
2009 overall record: 8-5

2009 conference record: 7-1

Returning starters
9, defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners
QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Vai Taua, WR Brandon Wimberly, TE Virgil Green, OL John Bender, DE Dontay Moch, LB James-Michael Johnson

Key losses
OL Alonzo Durham, LB Mike Bethea, S Jonathon Amaya

2009 statistical leaders (* denotes returners)

Rushing: Vai Taua*, 1,345 yards
Passing: Colin Kaepernick*, 2,052 yards
Receiving: Brandon Wimberly*, 733 yards
Tackles: Jonathon Amaya 89
Sacks: Kevin Basped 9.5
Interceptions: Khalid Wooten* 2

Spring answers

1. Defense, defense, defense: Most of the Wolf Pack’s struggles in recent years have come on the defensive side of the ball, but newly named defensive coordinator Andy Buh and safeties coach Mike Bradeson were hired to fix that. Their influence was shown during the spring game when the defense kept the first-team offense out of the end zone.

2. Diversifying the offense: Nevada led the nation in rushing last year and returns a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, but coach Chris Ault spent the spring trying to get more balance from his offense. The receiving corps has all three starters back and junior college transfer Rishard Matthews and grayshirt Aaron Bradley impressed this spring. But quarterback Colin Kaepernick has to finally show the control he’s worked on for the past three seasons.

3. James-Michael in the middle: With middle linebacker Mike Bethea lost to graduation, All-WAC linebacker James-Michael Johnson moved from the outside to the middle spot. To make up for the loss of Johnson on the outside, junior college transfer DeAndre Boughton has come in and prove he could be the go-to guy at that spot.

Fall questions

1. They want balance, but can they achieve it? For the past three seasons, Nevada has been trying to add a consistent passing game to its already stellar running game. We all know Kaepernick has a gun, but harnessing it hasn’t been easy. And with the strength of the running game, he hasn’t had to throw much. However, the lack of a passing game hurt the Wolf Pack against Boise State and SMU, so that will be a top priority in the fall.

2. Not-so-special teams: Nevada has not returned a punt for a touchdown since 2001 and has not returned a kick for a score since 1998. The Wolf Pack have not had a big-time return man, but might have found one in junior college transfer Rishard Matthews, who led all junior college players in punt returns last year.

3. Defense is still a question mark: Yes, the defense improved this spring, but Buh isn’t ready to declare it fixed. It’s easy to go against your own offense, but the Wolf Pack won’t know what it has until it plays in real games. The defensive line and linebackers looked good this spring, but the secondary, which has been one of the worst in the country the past couple of years, is still suspect.