Pack-Bulldogs: A tale of two trajectories

Nevada’s current 14-game losing streak also includes eight straight Mountain West losses. The Pack’s 2023 conference opener is Saturday at Fresno State.

Nevada’s current 14-game losing streak also includes eight straight Mountain West losses. The Pack’s 2023 conference opener is Saturday at Fresno State.
Nevada Athletics

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A look ahead to Saturday’s (7:30 p.m.) Mountain West football game between the Nevada Wolf Pack (0-4, 0-0) and Fresno State Bulldogs (4-0, 0-0) at Valley Children’s Stadium in Fresno, Calif.:


HOW TO WATCH, LISTEN: TV: FS1. Radio: 105.7 FM.

THE POINT SPREAD: Fresno State is favored by 24.

AT STAKE FOR NEVADA: The Wolf Pack is looking for its first Mountain West victory since beating Colorado State, 52-10, in the final game of the 2021 regular season.

AT STAKE FOR FRESNO STATE: The defending Mountain West champions are 4-0, ranked No. 25 in the nation by the Associated Press (26th in the coaches’ poll) and will take a 13-game winning streak into its Mountain West season opener.

HEADED IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS: Nevada has lost 14 games in a row and has lost its last eight Mountain West games. Fresno State has won 13 games in a row overall and has won its last eight Mountain West games (seven in the regular season, plus the Mountain West title game last December).

HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF: The last time the Wolf Pack started a season 0-4 it also faced Fresno State in its fifth game. The 0-4 Pack of 2017 lost to Fresno State on the road, 41-21, to fall to 0-5.

LOSING STREAK FACTS: The Wolf Pack is 0-7 at home and 0-7 on the road during its 14-game losing streak. The streak started with a 55-41 loss to Incarnate Word, an FCS team, on Sept 10, 2022, at home. The Pack has been outscored 510-233 during the streak, an average of 36.4-16.6. At kickoff on Saturday, it will be 392 days since the Pack last won a game (Sept. 3, 2022, against Texas State).

PACK FOLLOWING IN REBEL FOOTSTEPS: The state of Nevada has now owned two of the longest losing streaks in Division I-A in the last few years. The Pack’s current 14-game slide is the longest in the nation. UNLV also owned the nation’s longest losing streak when it also lost 14 in a row, going 0-6 in 2020 and losing its first eight in 2021. The Pack’s current losing streak is its longest in school history. The longest losing streak in UNLV history is 16 games, starting with the final five games of 1997 and continuing with all 11 in 1998. A Wolf Pack loss at Fresno State followed by a loss to UNLV next weekend will give the Pack a share of the longest college football losing streak in the history of the state.

FRESNO STATE LAST WEEK: The Bulldogs beat Kent State, 53-10, at home. The Bulldog starters scored a touchdown on the first seven drives of the game before being taken out in the fourth quarter. Fresno State quarterback Mikey Keene was 24-of-31 for 325 yards and four touchdowns.

NEVADA LAST WEEK: The Wolf Pack lost to Texas State, 35-24, after building a 17-0 lead at halftime. It is the first time this century the Pack has lost a game after leading by at least 17 points. Quarterback Brendon Lewis was 21-of-32 for 151 yards and an interception through the air and rushed for 89 yards on 12 carries.

THE SERIES: The Wolf Pack is 22-31-1 against Fresno State in the rivalry, which began in 1923. The Wolf Pack won seven of the first 10 games with one tie. Fresno State won 22-of-29 games from Nevada from 1934-2007. The two rivals, though, have split the last 18 games.

THE LAST TIME: Fresno State beat Nevada, 41-14, at Mackay Stadium on Nov. 19, 2022. Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener was 29-of-42 for 361 yards and two touchdowns while Nevada’s Nate Cox was 16-of-38 for 243 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Cox connected with Dalevon Campbell for a 73-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

THE HEAD COACHES: Nevada’s Ken Wilson is 2-14 in his second year as head coach. Gordon McEachron (1955-58) owns the program record for taking the longest to earn his third victory. McEachron was 2-15-1 from 1955 until the fourth game of 1957 when he finally earned his third victory in his 19th game (21-13 over UC Davis). Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford is 40-18 in his fifth season (2017-19, 2022-23) as Fresno State’s coach. Tedford was also 82-57 as Cal’s head coach from 2002-2012, though two of the losses were to Nevada (2010, 2012). Wilson is 0-8 in the Mountain West, while Tedford is 23-9.

NUMBERS NOT PACK PRETTY: Fresno State has outscored its opponents by an average of 39-19 this season. Nevada has been outscored, on average, 41-17. The Bulldogs have outgained opponents, on average, 429-298, while Nevada has been outgained, 534-311. Nevada has scored seven touchdowns on offense while Fresno State has scored 18. Fresno State has more passing yards (1,255) than Nevada has total yards (1,242). Fresno State has allowed the second-fewest rushing yards in the Mountain West at 103.3 a game while Nevada has allowed the second-most at 193. Fresno State’s offense has averaged the second-most passing yards in the conference (314) while Nevada has allowed the second-most (341). Fresno State averages the most first downs per game in the conference (25.3) while Nevada averages the fewest (15).

PACK PLAYING CLEAN FOOTBALL: The Wolf Pack has been called for just 13 penalties this year, the fewest in the Mountain West. The Pack has lost 129 yards in penalties, also the fewest. Fresno State has been called for 26 penalties for 196 yards.

FRESNO’S OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Elijah Gilliam is sixth in the Mountain West at 68.5 rushing yards (274 overall) a game. Mikey Keene leads the Mountain West with 301.3 passing yards a game. Kicker Dylan Lynch is second in the league at 43 points (nine field goals, 16 extra points). Wide receiver Erik Brooks is third in the Mountain West at eight catches per game (32 total), Jaelen Gill and Jalen Moss are tied for seventh at five per game (each with 20). Brooks’ 448 receiving yards (112 per game) leads the conference.

PACK OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Quarterback Brendon Lewis is 66-of-107 for 550 yards and two interceptions and is still looking for his first touchdown pass. Sean Dollars has 48 carries for 161 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Ashton Hayes has 102 yards on 30 carries. Jamaal Bell leads all Pack receivers with 24 catches for 223 yards and one touchdown pass (thrown by backup quarterback A.J. Bianco).

KEENE-BROWN CONNECTION: Fresno State quarterback Mikey Keene and Wolf Pack defensive back Chad Brown were teammates, technically, in 2021 at Central Florida. Brown enrolled at UCF in January 2021 but never played a game. He participated in spring football at UCF but left the program and signed with the Wolf Pack in late May 2021. Keene signed with UCF in December 2020 and played two seasons with the team (2021-22), completing 233-of-355 for 2,377 yards and 23 touchdowns. Brown has played in four games this season for the Pack and has one tackle. Brown, who played high school football in Baltimore (St. Frances High), does have a connection to Fresno. He was at Fresno City College for two seasons (2019, 2020), though he didn’t play in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions.

SOUTH TAHOE TO FRESNO STATE: Former South Tahoe quarterback Jake Tarwater is now a tight end for Fresno State. Tarwater passed for 5,558 yards and 63 touchdowns and rushed for 191 yards and two touchdowns from 2018-20 at South Tahoe. After leaving high school he played at Truman State (Division II) in Missouri and College of the Sequoias (where he switched to tight end) in Visalia, Calif. The 6-3, 242-pound sophomore enrolled at Fresno State in August (the Wolf Pack offered him a scholarship last December). He has played in all four games this season for the Bulldogs without a catch.

KAEPERNICK EMERGES: Colin Kaepernick’s record-breaking career as a Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback blossomed against Fresno State on a sunny afternoon at Mackay Stadium in 2007. The redshirt freshman entered the game in the second quarter for an injured Nick Graziano on Oct. 6, 2007 (the fifth game of the season), with the Pack trailing 14-6. Kaepernick’s first two passes were incomplete, but he then found Mike McCoy for 43 yards and Marko Mitchell for a 9-yard touchdown on his third and fourth passes. The Wolf Pack would end up losing, 49-41, but a new Pack era had been born. Kaepernick, who went to high school in Fresno State’s backyard (Pittman High in Turlock), completed 23-of-36 passes that day against the Bulldogs for 384 yards and four touchdowns and also rushed for 60 yards and a score. Kaepernick and the Pack would beat Fresno State each year from 2008-10.

NEILL EMERGES: The career of Wolf Pack quarterback David Neill also was born against the Bulldogs. Neill, a true freshman making his first college start, completed 21-of-38 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns as the 0-2 Wolf Pack stunned the Bulldogs on the road, 27-24, in 1998. Neill would go on to become one of the greatest Pack quarterbacks in history, completing 763-of-1,374 passes for 10,901 yards and 73 touchdowns. Neill and the Pack lost to Fresno State each year from 1999-2001.

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