Nevada bulls over Buffalo
RENO – Nevada needed to regain the momentum it had lost in the second half, and it was veteran running back Chance Kretschmer to the rescue.
Kretschmer broke off a 52-yard third-quarter run that led to his 1-yard go-ahead touchdown, helping Nevada grab a 38-13 non-conference football victory over winless Buffalo before an announced crowd 17,220 Saturday night at Mackay Stadium.
The win upped Nevada’s record to 2-1 overall, heading into a three-week road trip at San Diego State, UNLV and Hawai’i. Buffalo lost its 13th straight and is 0-3.
“We didn’t play exceptional well (overall),” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “I’m really pleased with how we played in the fourth quarter. They’re not a bad team. They were a physical team. This was a good team.
“It’s another step for us, but it means we have a long ways to go. We’re building. There’s nothing being handed to us. We’re a long ways off from where we want to be. It’s one more step in the right direction.”
And, it helps to have a guy like Kretschmer who makes big run after big run. The 52-yarder may have been one of the biggest of his career.
Buffalo had cut Nevada’s lead to 14-13 on two Michael Baker field goals (28 and 47 yards), and had clearly gained the momentum.
After the teams exchanged punts following the second field goal, Kretschmer (154 yards rushing) gained three yards and then broke off his 52-yarder down the right sideline. Two plays later, he plowed over from the 1 to extend the Wolf Pack’s lead to 21-13 following Damon Fine’s PAT.
“The line cut everybody off on the back side,” Kretschmer said. “The guard pulled out and the receivers blocked downfield. All 11 guys played big roles (on that play).”
“It was a big play by anyone’s standards,” Buffalo coach Jim Hofher said. “It moved field position at a time when Nevada was going against the wind.”
After Nevada’s defense held on downs two straight times, the offense drove downfield and got a 19-yard field goal from Fine to make it 24-13 with 3:25 left.
Jeremy Engstrom’s first career interception on the next series led to a 6-yard scoring run by Jeff Rowe for a 31-13 lead with 2:23 left.
“I was just telling everybody on the sidelines that we needed to take the ball away,” Engstrom said. “We knew they were going to pass the ball. I saw the running back leak out from the mess in the middle. I sat back on it (the play).”
Drew Robinson closed out the scoring with his second TD in as many weeks. The Wolf Pack scored 17 points in the final 3:25.
While the last quarter was great, the first quarter was anything but. Nevada managed 18 yards on 13 plays, and failed to capitalize on good field position on its first two drives.
The first possession started at the Nevada 44, and the Wolf Pack went three and out. Rowe was sacked for a six-yard loss on second down by a blitzing Jeff Bublavi, and then threw behind Caleb Spencer on third down.
On its next possession, Nevada started at the Buffalo 46, and again it was three and out. On fourth-and-6 from the Buffalo 42, Nevada punter Justin Bergendahl bobbled the snap and was spilled for a 20-yard loss at the Nevada 38.
Buffalo was in the end zone five plays later, all runs. Jared Patterson capped the drive with an 8-yard scoring run. Patterson had the big carry of the drive, a 15-yard carry down to the Nevada 23.
“You bet I was concerned,” Ault said. “It took us until the second quarter before we got anything going offensively.”
And, the Wolf Pack exploded for two second-period scores, as Rowe and Nichiren Flowers hooked up for 41 and 51-yard scoring passes to give Nevada a 14-7 lead with 3:03 left in the half.
The Wolf Pack never trailed again, as the defense held firm. The unit allowed just six points over the final three quarters.
“Our defense hung in there,” Ault said. “They didn’t back off.”
“I’m proud of our defense,” tackle Chris Barry said. “We’ve worked our tails off and that has transitioned to the games. This was a physical game. I give credit to Buffalo, but we just wanted it more. It was closer than the score indicated. I felt like it was a close game all the way.”
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281.