Wolf Pack chews up Tigers in season opener


Appeal Sports Writer

RENO " As season-opening games go, Nevada's 49-13 demolition of Grambling State Saturday night at Mackay Stadium wasn't bad.

Nevada's offense racked up an impressive 625 yards, including more than 400 on the ground, and the defense, which allowed only 230 yards, was pitching a shutout until the final four minutes of the contest.

The Wolf Pack's 49 points were the most for Nevada in a season-opening victory since the team turned in a 50-8 win over UNLV on Sept. 7, 1991, at Mackay Stadium.

Still, as Nevada head coach Chris Ault pointed out after the game, the Wolf Pack has a long way to go. With games against Texas Tech and Missouri looming, mistakes have to be minimized.

"It was OK," Ault said. "Defensively, we gave up too many big plays. The goal line stand was exciting and showed nice energy and a good attitude. I thought we played really hard.

"Offensively, we did what we had to do. We made some critical mistakes at quarterback. I don't think we played as consistently as we could have. There were some good signs overall and there are some things we can do better."

As promised, both Nevada QB's " Colin Kaepernick and Nick Graziano " played quite a bit. Kaepernick was 10-for-17 with an interception and 122 yards. He also ran for 63 yards and three touchdowns, a career-high. Graziano was 7-for-12 for 75 yards.

Ault did point out that he was able to play a lot of the younger players on both sides of the ball in different situations, which gives the coaches a chance for some good evaluation when they look at the film today.

Nevada set the tone early, scoring on its first possession after Pack safety Uche Anyanwu tipped a Greg Dillon pass and freshman Brandon Marshall, making his first collegiate start and playing his first game, intercepted the ball and returned it 22 yards to the 6.

After running back Luke Lippincott was thrown for a yard loss, Kaepernick scored on a keeper around the left side, barely reaching the ball inside the pylon. Steve Jaekle's PAT made it 7-0.

"It gave us a short field, and we were able to get on the board," Ault said of Marshall's first career interception.

Nevada blocked Luis Leal's 26-yard field goal attempt on the ensuing possession, but failed to capitalize.

Grambling State failed to get a first down its next possession, and a short 28-yard punt gave the Pack great field position at the Grambling State 48.

It wasn't wasted.

After a short scramble by Kaepernick, the sophomore quarterback completed a 10-yard pass to Mike McCoy down to the 28. Kaepernick completed a 9-yarder to Lippincott and broke loose for a 19-yard touchdown run, the first of his three rushing touchdowns, to make it 14-0.

Grambling put together a 63-yard drive, but turned the ball over on downs when Marshall and Greg Coulson stopped Frank Warren short of a first down at the Nevada 20.

The teams exchanged punts twice before Nevada went on its third scoring drive.

After a 7-yard gain by wide receiver Mike McCoy on an option play, Vai Taua broke loose for 62 yards before being dragged down from behind by Nigel Copeland at the Grambling 5. Three plays later, Taua crashed over from the 1 to make it 21-0 with 6:55 left in the half.

Taua enjoyed his first 100-yard night, rushing for 103 yards and two scores. In fact, all the backs ran well. Brandon Fragger carried nine times for 83 yards and a TD, Courtney Randall carried six times for 30 yards and Lippincott, after a slow start, carried nine times for 69 yards and a score.

"I felt like all the running backs did good," Lippincott said. "Whoever was in there played well. We had over 400 yards rushing, and that's how we've been practicing. The offensive line is a good group of leaders on our team and they showed it on the field."

While the offense ran up and down the field at will in the first half, the defense made Grambling's life miserable. The Tigers had just 84 yards at halftime, including minus-11 on the ground. Dantay Moch spent a lot of time pressuring Dillon and finished with two sacks and eight tackles. Both sacks came in the first half.

"We are trying to go out there and do our best and make a name for our defense," Moch said. "I love being in the backfield. It's like my second home."

Nevada built on its half-ending momentum by taking the second-half kick and driving 73 yards in nine plays with Taua scoring on a 4-yard run.

The key play in the possession was a 30-yard completion that Kaepernick threaded between two defenders for a first down at the Grambling 8.

Grambling finally got on the board, though it was its defense that did the work.

Kaepernick overthrew McCoy on a second-and-10 play. Grambling's Desmond Leonard picked off the errant pass and returned it 61 yards to make it 28-7.

A procedure penalty and an out-of-bounds kickoff gave Nevada great field position at its own 45.

The Pack was in the end zone six plays later, as Kaepernick scored on a 28-yard run on a read-option play and it was 35-7.

Nevada would go on to score two more times before Dillon threw a 21-yard scoring pass to Kenneth Batiste with 4:38 left to round out the scoring.

- Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or (775) 881-1281


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