At various points in their high school careers, Isaac Dotson and Teondray Caldwell made the decision to play football at Nevada. On Friday they finally make good on their promises, but not in the way they originally intended.
Caldwell signed with the Wolf Pack out of high school but never enrolled, playing instead at Washington State, where he is now a second-string safety after playing two seasons at running back.
Dotson was going to be the next electric dual-threat quarterback in coach Chris Ault’s pistol offense at Nevada, but when Ault left the Wolf Pack, so did Dotson, switching his allegiance to the Cougars. He too will line up at safety against what were once his future teammates.
There’s also walk-on linebacker Reggie Coates, who actually suited up for the Wolf Pack last season, but he has to sit out this year due to NCAA transfer rules, and it’s unlikely he made the trip.
Friday’s game between Nevada and Washington State is a testament to the intimate nature of college football and the wide roots put down by an ever-revolving network of coaches.
WSU strength coach Jason Loscalzo and trainer Andy Mutnan both held similar positions in Reno.
This weekend, Nevada will be inducting its 1990 team that went 13-2 into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame. Washington State linebackers coach Ken Wilson was a member of the coaching staff that season.
“It was my first full-time job. Coach Ault gave me a chance to be a full-time coach and it was a great football team,” Wilson said. “I still have a lot of great friends from that team; I wasn’t much older than the guys I was coaching at the time, so that’s pretty cool that those guys are getting put in the Hall of Fame down there.”
Wilson coached many players in 19 years as a Wolf Pack assistant, including current WSU graduate assistant Mike Bethea. Wilson also spent one season coaching his son, Tyler, who will start at long snapper for Nevada today.
Cougars running back coach Jim Mastro also spent a decade coaching the Wolf Pack.
Neither coach will have time for any catching up. The Cougars — favored by four points — are in store for a tough and critical game. The Wolf Pack match up well with the Cougars, with a talented and experienced secondary to counter WSU’s potent passing game.
They also have multi-threat quarterback Cody Fajardo, who could surpass 10,000 combined passing and rushing yards for his career on Nevada’s first drive. Fajardo and running back Don Jackson will test a WSU run defense that must improve over last week, when the Cougars let Rutgers running back Paul James rush for 173 yards and three touchdowns in the 41-38 Scarlet Knights win.
The Cougars have a lot of football left, and if quarterback Connor Halliday and his receivers continue to play like they did against Rutgers, WSU’s offense should keep it in any game.
But an 0-2 start to the season would put the Cougars in a tough spot heading into what looks to be one of the toughest conference schedules in the country.
In this game that could conceivably make the difference between whether the Cougars play in a bowl game for the second consecutive season, there will some happy former Nevada players and coaches if the Wolf Pack lose.
Maybe even happy enough to see some old friends, with some good-natured gloating, of course.
“After the game’s over, hopefully we’ll be celebrating,” Wilson said. “And then I’ll think about that.”