RENO -- Take two.
Last week was supposed to provide Cal its first real challenge of the season. But it didn't take long to determine that Colorado wasn't in the same league as the Bears.
So Cal will try this test thing again when it visits Nevada tonight for a prime-time game to be televised on ESPN2. It doesn't figure to be as easy as the first two weeks, when the Bears outscored UC Davis and Colorado by a combined score of 104-10.
Not only does the Wolf Pack have one of the most dynamic offenses in the country, it will be Cal's first road game of the season. The Bears should wake up Saturday having a little better sense of where they stand.
"These guys are really good," Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed said of Nevada. "We're going to have our hands full. We can't take these guys lightly. We're preparing like they're any other great team out there."
The Bears beat Davis, a Football Championship Subdivision opponent, 52-3 in their opener. Many believed Colorado, from the Big 12, to be improved over last season's 3-9 mark. But turnovers, penalties and general ineptness on offense by the Buffaloes turned the game into a blowout early and Cal prevailed 52-7.
The biggest challenge tonight will be on Cal's defense, which will try to find a way to stop Nevada's pistol offense that has put up huge numbers in recent years. It will be a battle of the best -- the Wolf Pack enter with the nation's top offense (592 yards per game), while the Bears have the No. 1 defense (160 yards allowed per game).
"They're definitely not a team to sleep on," Cal linebacker D.J. Holt said. "You definitely can't take an offense of that caliber lightly. You have to really execute the game plan and do your job so you don't get exposed."
Nevada has had its share of success in the Western Athletic Conference in recent years, but it hasn't always translated against better competition. The Wolf Pack is 2-18 in its last 20 games against teams from Bowl Championship Series qualifying conferences, bowl game opponents and Boise State. But Nevada has played Boise State tough in recent years, including a 69-67 four-overtime loss in 2007.
"This is a great opportunity for us," Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "In the past, we've had opportunities. We just haven't capitalized on them. We're looking forward to capitalizing on this one, this week."
Kaepernick is the engine behind the Wolf Pack's high-powered offense. He's one of only two players in college football history to throw for at least 2,000 yards and rush for at least 1,000 in back-to-back seasons. And the pistol is similar to the spread option attack used by Oregon, which torched the Bears last year in a 42-3 victory.
"It's just about going out and executing what you do better than what they do," Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said. "That's our goal every week regardless of the offensive scheme. We try to run our defense better than the other team runs their offense. That's what we preach week in and week out. This week will be no different of a challenge."
Last year, the Wolf Pack became the first team ever to have three 1,000-yard rushers. Not surprisingly, Nevada led the nation in rushing. Two of them remain this season -- Kaepernick and tailback Vai Taua, who was the Wolf Pack's leading rusher last season (1,345 yards).
Cal coach Jeff Tedford compared Taua to his own dynamic running back, Shane Vereen.
"He looks just like Shane," Tedford said. "He's very fast and powerful up the middle. He breaks arm tackles. They're a tough, tough offense to deal with."
Nevada's defense isn't at the same level as its offense. The Wolf Pack ranked just 96th nationally last season and is 70th this season after two games. But Nevada didn't give up a touchdown in last week's 51-6 rout of Colorado State.
"I'm expecting we're going to have to score some points to win," Cal quarterback Kevin Riley said. "If we can get a lead on them early, we'll see how they play defense. This whole season, they've had a big lead early and that kind of changes how you play defense. So hopefully we can get a lead early and change up their offensive and defensive rhythm."