Nevada football beats San Jose State
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – San Jose State came into town with a four-game winning streak and a red-hot quarterback in Adam Tafralis, who had completed 72 percent of his passes this year.
It didn’t faze Nevada one bit.
The Wolf Pack defense, thanks to a great pass rush and solid secondary play, held Tafralis to a season-low 68 yards passing and the Spartans to 239 total in a dominant 23-7 win before a homecoming crowd of 19,636 Saturday night at Mackay Stadium.
The win upped Nevada’s record to 4-3 overall and 1-2 in Western Athletic Conference. San Jose State dropped to 4-2 overall and 1-1 in conference.
Nevada, which played without safety Nick Hawthrone, recorded two sacks, intercepted a pass and recovered two fumbles, and generally made life miserable for the Spartans’ offense.
“The defense was just outstanding for four quarters without question,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “The defense presented the offense with 14 points. The thing that impressed me that even when San Jose had a big play, our defense didn’t back down. It continued to put on pressure. They played hard and fast.
“Our defensive staff did a really great job of preparing these players this week. Our defensive coaches made sure these players knew there was no ‘ifs.’ It was all about what we were going to do. We played as good a defensive game as we have all year.”
Nevada gave up a 48-yard run to Yonus Davis (11 carries, 100 yards) and a 30-yard pass to James Jones.
Cornerback Joe Garcia said the bye week was helpful because it gave the Pack players a chance to study film a lot more than normal. Fleet SJSU receivers Jones and John Broussard caught three balls each for a combined 60 yards.
“We were able to read routes a little better; knew what to expect,” Garcia said. “Jones is a great athlete. The coaches challenged us and I challenged everybody.”
The defensive work certainly impressed SJSU head coach Dick Tomey.
“They were tougher, smarter and more disciplined,” Tomey said. “We got taught a lesson by a much better team. We couldn’t protect the passer. Good teams make you do things you normally don’t do. We had way too many penalties (8) and too many turnovers (3).”
San Jose’s problems started early, as Travis Moore, who started in place of Jeff Rowe (hamstring), drove Nevada 74 yards in 18 plays. Nevada, which held the ball for nearly 40 minutes thanks to its offensive line play of Dominic Green, Fred White, Barrett Reznick, Jimmy Wadhams, Greg Hall and Charles Manu, used nearly nine minutes of the clock.
The Pack came up empty, however, when Ault opted to bypass a chip-shot field goal and go for it on 4th-and-1 from the Spartans’ 2. Moore rolled right and pitched it to Robert Hubbard, who was thrown for a 2-yard loss.
“They gave us a little different look that we didn’t expect,” Moore said. “I wished I’d tucked it instead of pitching it.”
After a San Jose penalty pushed the ball back to the 2, Tafralis got the two yards back on a keeper. On the next play, Tafralis dropped back into the end zone to pass, and under heavy pressure by outside linebacker Ezra Butler, lofted a pass that was intercepted by Charles Wilson at the 1. Butler almost had two safeties in the game, but Tafralis escaped each time.
Robert Hubbard, who finished with a career-high 161 yards on 33 carries, scored on the next play. Brett Jaekle converted the PAT to make it 7-0 with 4:46 left in the quarter.
Nevada controlled the ball for 5 minutes 44 seconds on its next drive, going from its own 20 to the Spartans’ 10 before the drive bogged down when Carl Ihenacho stopped Brandon Fragger for a 3-yard loss on a shovel pass. Jaekle came on to kick a 27-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
Nevada lost two golden opportunities to increase its lead and send the Spartans packing early, but turned the ball over each time.
After being pinned back at their own 15 following Waylon Prather’s 68-yard punt, the Wolf Pack drove down inside the 25, but Fragger coughed up the football after being hit by Shane Lapka. Chris Vedder recovered at the SJSU 17.
Another long punt by Prather (72 yards) put Nevada back at its own 18. Moore completed an 18-yard pass to Jack Darlington for a first down at the 34. After an incomplete pass, Moore tried to complete a pass to Dwayne Sanders along the left sideline. Dwight Lowery stepped in front of Sanders, picked off the pass at midfield and returned it 37 yards down to the 13. It was Lowery’s eighth theft of the season.
“I wouldn’t say it was a wrong route,” Moore said. “It was a stop route and I led him too far. Their cornerback was playing outside contain hard. I thought he (Sanders) was going to come back a little more.”
On the next play, Tafralis found the dangerous Jones in the left corner of the end zone for a score. Jared Stubeck’s PAT made it 10-7 with 10.5 left in the half.
The defense forced a fumble on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, as Broussard caught a 9-yard pass and then coughed up the ball after a hit by cornerback Devon Walker at the 29. Jeremy Engstrom picked up the loose ball and rambled 22 yards down to the 7.
Hubbard carried it down to the 1 on the next play, and then Moore, who completed 20 of 28 for 178 yards, scored on a keeper. Jaekle’s PAT made it 17-7 with 13:33 left in the quarter.
Hubbard carried the Pack in the second half, gaining 101 yards on 20 carries. The Pack was content to keep the ball on the ground, and the Spartans were helpless to stop it.
“They played a lot more physical than us,” SJSU linebacker Matt Castelo said. “Their offensive line was very physical and good.”
Hubbard, who fumbled twice against Hawai’i, was pleased with his effort and happy to be out of Ault’s doghouse.
“Am I out of it?,” he joked. “I practiced hard over the bye week. My teammates never lost confidence in me and neither did I. I got his confidence back in me.”
Hubbard was frustrated, however, that he didn’t break any long runs. His longest run from scrimmage was 17 yards, but he ran hard and ran tough, which is something Ault expects out of his backs.
Hubbard keyed Nevada’s final scoring drive, carrying 10 times for 48 yards. His longest run of the night, the aforementioned 17-yarder, gave Nevada a first down at the 2. Moore threw a TD pass to Mike McCoy on the next play to make it 23-7 with 3:33 left in the game, capping the 15-play, 88-yard drive.
San Jose State fumbled the ensuing kickoff at its own 24, but Fragger was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Spartans’ 15.
San Jose State went to back-up quarterback Myles Eden on its last possession, and he guided the Spartans to the Nevada 33 before the Pack held on downs.