Nevada Wolf Pack head coach Chris Ault wanted to see more of Mike Ball on Saturday.
Ball was more than happy to show him.
“You just have to be ready when the coaches give you an opportunity,” said Ball after rushing for 60 yards and a 1-yard touchdown on nine carries in a Wolf Pack scrimmage at Mackay Stadium. “That’s all we can do.”
Ball, a junior, is one of four backs along with Lampford Mark, Stefphon Jefferson and Nick Hale, competing for the starting running back spot.
“We wanted to see Lamp (Mark) and Mike Ball more in this scrimmage,” Ault said. “So we gave them the ball more.”
Ault, though, insisted that the increased workload had nothing to do with who is or is not in the lead for the starting job.
“No, not at all,” said Ault, whose Wolf Pack will open the season Sept. 10 at Oregon. “We’re not even thinking about that right now.”
Ball said he isn’t really thinking about it either.
“I’m just leaving that to the coaches,” said Ball who was born in Dallas, Texas and graduated from Desert Pines High in Las Vegas in 2008. “They’ll make the right decision. All I want to do is run hard and help this team win. The coaches will put us in the right spot to succeed.”
Ball rushed for 33 yards on seven carries in Tuesday’s scrimmage but 24 of those yards came on one run. On Saturday, though, he seemed to run with a bit more passion and energy on each one of his nine carries.
The first time the 5-foot-10, 225-pounder touched the ball he exploded around right tackle for 21 yards on the sixth play of the scrimmage.
“He ran hard,” Ault said. “He’s had a good camp.”
Ball picked up a tough 13 yards up the middle on one carry on the third drive of the scrimmage. He later showed a nice combination of speed and power on a 19-yard run on his eighth carry of the afternoon.
“I want to run hard on every play,” Ball said. “I used to watch Courtney Randall (a senior in 2010) do that on every play. That’s how I want to run.”
The Wolf Pack ground game picked up 220 yards on 55 carries in the scrimmage. That was after gaining 247 yards on the ground on 53 carries on Tuesday. The offense, though, struggled as a whole, scoring just two touchdowns on 16 drives after scoring seven touchdowns and kicking two field goals in 15 drives on Tuesday.
Quarterback Tyler Lantrip completed just 5-of-16 passes for 24 yards and was intercepted twice. Five Pack quarterbacks combined to complete 15-of-33 passes for 147 yards.
“I was disappointed with our offense,” Ault said. “We had chances to make plays but we didn’t.”
The running game, though, continued to shine.
Mark, a senior, had 37 yards on nine carries. Freshman Anthony Knight was impressive once again, gaining 31 yards on mostly up-the-middle physical runs. Knight also scored the scrimmage’s only other touchdown on a 1-yard burst.
Jefferson had a difficult afternoon, gaining just two yards on three carries and fumbling the ball away once. Nick Hale, who started the scrimmage at tailback, had six yards on just two carries.
“Nick Hale has had the best camp so far of any of (the backs),” Ault said. “That’s why we didn’t give him the ball that much today. We’ve seen all we need to see from him. We wanted to see some of the other guys.”
Ault also hinted that Ball and Mark, the Pack’s two most experienced backs, could be in the lead for the starting job.
“We need Lampford and Mike to be the leaders back there,” Ault said. “They are the guys we’re counting on.”