RENO — Wide receiver Wyatt Demps had a breakout game, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
With Hassan Henderson and Victor Gonzalez sidelined with injuries, Demps stepped up and produced career highs in catches (9), yards (124) and touchdowns (3) to lead Nevada to a 27-22 win over Fresno State Saturday at Mackay Stadium.
Demps is the first Nevada receiver this year to surpass the 100-yard mark, and he’s the first Nevada receiver to catch three touchdowns in a game since Aaron Bradley caught three against Idaho on Dec. 3, 2011.
“It was my best game at Nevada definitely,” Demps said. “In high school, I caught four touchdown passes at a Homecoming game.”
“A lot,” head coach Brian Polian said when asked how much Demps stepped up in the win. “Without three of our top seven receivers, we needed Jericho (Richarson), Demps, Andrew Celis and Ahiki Muhammad to grind it out.”
Demps kick-started the Nevada offense when he caught a 36-yard scoring pass from wide receiver Andrew Celis, who had taken a swing pass from quarterback Tyler Stewart. Demps was well behind the Fresno State secondary and scored easily.
“Coach (Tim) Cramsey does a great job,” Polian said. “He always has two or three element plays drawn up every game. We just saw an aggressive defensive backfield and we thought we might be able to sneak one. I didn’t anticipate him being that open.”
“I don’t know that I’m surprised (I was so open),” Demps said. “We’ve practiced that play a lot.”
Demps added a 3-yard TD catch at the end of the first half to make it 21-6, and then he capped his night with an 8-yard TD grab that made it 27-16.
BUTLER MOVES UP: Junior James Butler, who carried a personal-best 37 times for 175 yards, broke into the top 10 in career rushing yards at Nevada, passing John Vicari and Anthony Corley to move into the ninth spot with 2,705 yards.
Butler now has 14 100-yard rushing games in his career. He also lost a fumble for the first time in his Nevada career. It had been 287 touches since his last fumble.
Butler said he felt fine after the game, but Polian said he wasn’t aware Butler had that many carries, and Jaxson Kincaide needed to get more work. Kincaide gained 52 yards on eight carries.
A TREND?: Nevada has started well in recent games, but has been unable to build on any first-half momentum, and Saturday was no exception. Fresno State outscored Nevada, 16-6, in the second half. Nevada is averaging just 7 points a game in the second half thus far.
One of Nevada’s biggest problems is stopping the run. Fresno State clicked off a scoring drive of 8-plus minutes in the third quarter to cut the lead to 21-13. Half of the plays were runs, and Nevada gave up 255 on the ground and 462 overall.
“We have to be able to stop the run better,” Polian said. “The NFL is a quarterback driven league. In college, you have to stop the run. We have to do a better job.”
Fresno State’s Dontel James carried 27 times for 169 yards and a score.
BY THE NUMBERS: Senior Jerico Richardson, who had two catches for 13 yards, stretched his streak when he made Nevada’s first reception of the game. That gives him a catch in 25 consecutive games… Linebacker Alex Bertrando’s fumble recovery in the second quarter was the second of his career. He put together his best tackling game, registering 14 stops … On Elijah Mitchell’s first kickoff return of the game, he passed Dwayne Sanders for fourth in career kickoff return yards at Nevada… Nevada is 3-10 under Polian in games decided by 4-to-7 points.
STREAKY SERIES: Nevada is now 27-20-1 against Fresno State all-time, but it’s been a streaky series in recent years.
Nevada has now won two straight, but before that Fresno State had won in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Before that, Nevada had won in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.