BY DARRELL MOODY
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer
RENO " Nevada quarterback Nick Graziano was probably the most surprised person in Mackay Stadium when he was told only seconds before kickoff that he was starting.
It was Graziano's first significant action of the season. He went 4-for-8 passing for 42 yards in one quarter of action in Nevada's 44-17 win over Utah State Saturday afternoon.
"I had no idea I was starting until game time," Graziano said. "It's the opportunity you wait for as a backup. The opportunity to come in as a starter is better as opposed to coming in when the game is already decided. After the first two plays I settled down and got confidence in the offensive line."
Pack running back Vai Taua fumbled on the Pack's second play from scrimmage, but made up for it with a 26-yard scoring play on the second possession.
Nevada coach Chris Ault was pleased with Graziano's performance.
'He did a good job," Ault said. "He did a nice job with audibles. He had two mental mistakes and the one interception."
The interception along the sideline should be credited to Utah State's Kejon Murphy, who made a great break on the ball.
According to Ault, Graziano will return to backup status next week.
AMAYA REDEEMS HIMSELF
Wolf Pack safety/kick returner Jon Amaya's fumbled punt played a key role in last week's 48-45 loss to New Mexico State.
Against Utah State, Amaya returned two punts for 64 yards, one of which led to a score.
Amaya returned a punt 38 yards early in the game all the way down to the Utah State 27, but it went for naught when Taua fumbled on the second play from scrimmage.
Later in the first quarter, Amaya took a Peter Caldwell punt at the Utah State 45 and returned it 26 yards to the 19, setting up Colin Kaepernick's TD run on the first play of the drive.
"Coach (Barry) Sacks worked hard on that (returns) last week," Ault said. "You all know how I feel about Jon Amaya. I believe in him."
Nevada honored former volleyball star Tiffany Neumeier-Breeden, football star James Canada, baseball star Andy Dominique, former football and baseball coach Bill Ireland (deceased) and the 1956 national championship rifle squad during halftime ceremonies.
Neumeier-Breeden still holds many of the statistical records for Nevada.
Canada missed only four games in his four-year Nevada career and went on to play five years in the NFL for Tampa Bay and Indianapolis.
Dominique, a right-handed power hitter, was Big West Player of the Year in 1997. He led the Pack to regional appearances in 1994 and 1997 and made his professional debut with the Boston Red Sox in 2004. He also played for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2007.
The deceased Ireland, who was represented by his wife, children and grandchildren, coached Nevada baseball from 1961-67, and later became UNLV's first head football coach.
Nevada has now won four straight against Utah State and has a 15-4 edge all-time ... Senior wide receiver Marko Mitchell caught four passes for 122 yards, including a 75-yarder in the second half. His last 10 TD catches have been 75, 48, 42, 48, 59, 64, 64, 28, 31, 58). It was his third 100-yard game of the season and he has now caught a pass in 21 straight games ... Dontay Moch recorded two sacks and three tackles for loss ... The Aggies defense forced four turnovers in a game for the first time since last year's season finale against Idaho ... Nevada linebacker Jared Silva-Purcell scored his first career TD late in the fourth quarter when he intercepted a pass and returned it 47 yards for a score.
- Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or (775) 881-1281