RENO -- Give credit to the defense and special teams.
Logan Carter returned an interception for a third-quarter touchdown, then B.J. Mitchell recovered a fumbled punt to set up Damon Fine's 28-yard field goal with 1:13 remaining to lift Nevada to a 12-9 WAC victory against SMU on Saturday night.
The Wolf Pack (3-1 overall, 2-0 WAC) rallied from a 9-0 halftime deficit to win a game in which their offense never got into the end zone against SMU (0-4).
"There's a lot of ways to win and we won with defense and special teams tonight," Nevada coach Chris Tormey said.
"I thought our defense really stepped it up, especially in the second half. All three takeaways in the second half were huge."
Start with Nick Hawthorne's interception in the third quarter. Fine had just missed a 48-yard field goal attempt and SMU was driving, but Hawthorne's interception and 5-yard return gave the Wolf Pack possession at the Mustangs' 45. Quarterback Andy Heiser hit Nichiren Flowers with a 6-yard pass on third and 9, and coupled with a 15-yard personal foul, gave the Wolf Pack first down at the 21. They were unable to get into the end zone, but Fine put Nevada on the scoreboard with his 38-yard field goal with 5:10 left in the third quarter.
SMU's next possession ended abruptly when a short pass into the right flat by quarterback Tate Wallis was picked off by Carter, who ran 40 yards untouched for the touchdown to tie the score 9-9 with 2:44 left in the third period. Nevada missed an opportunity to take the lead when Fine's PAT kick attempt was blocked.
The Wolf Pack threatened midway through the fourth quarter, ignited by a 36-yard burst up the middle by Chance Kretschmer to the SMU 25. But the drive stalled and Fine's 34-yard field goal attempt was knuckleballed wide to the left.
Faced with a fourth and 20 situation from their own 42, the Wolf Pack's Derek Jones got off a 55-yard punt that returner Matt Rushbrook fumbled on the 20. Mitchell recovered the ball and four plays later, Fine got the call for his the game-winner.
Incidentally, it was the first game-winning field goal for Fine in his four years at Nevada.
"It was a chip shot," Fine said. "We'd had little problems earlier in the game, but we were able to get that fixed. There was no doubt about that last kick."
And the 5-foot-9, 147-pound junior from Indianapolis drilled it.
Kretschmer ran for 122 yards on 24 carries to lead the Wolf Pack offense. The junior tailback had 84 yards in the second half.
Quarterback Andy Heiser completed 11 of 25 passes for 96 yards, with Flowers catching five balls for 59 yards.
Chris McMurtray kicked a 33-yard field goal to give SMU a 3-0 lead with 7:43 left in the first quarter.
Keylon Kincade added a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:58 to play in the half. The touchdown capped a 12-play, 58-yard drive set up by an interception by Jonas Rutledge.
Kincade rushed for 89 yards on 21 carries in the first half and finished with 122 yards on 31 attempts. By the way, Kincade and Kretschmer are both on the Doak Walker Award Watch List.
Also, this was an SMU defense victimized in a 52-7 loss to Oklahoma State last week in which Rashaun Woods and his NCAA record seven touchdown pass receptions. This was also a team that had scored just 23 points in three previous games.
The Wolf Pack was a 19-point favorite coming into this game, but Tormey never paid any attention to those numbers.
"He's a load. He runs hard," Tormey said of Kincade, the Mustangs' senior tailback. "It was just like their Baylor game that came down to the end with them losing, 10-7. If they can run the football and stay close, they're going to be in a lot of games because they play great defense."