Nevada football bombs Utah State 44-17 | NevadaAppeal.com
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Nevada football bombs Utah State 44-17

BY DARRELL MOODY

Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

RENO “Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick waited in frustration for more than a quarter for an opportunity to play.

Kaepernick, who has played brilliantly most of the season, was benched right before kickoff because Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault didn’t feel that his starter had properly prepared himself to play.

“No, not ever in my career (has that happened),” Ault said following the Wolf Pack’s easy 44-17 victory over Utah State Saturday afternoon at Mackay Stadium. “It’s Homecoming and you aren’t prepared. You have to be kidding me. It’s semi-done. It’s a real issue for me. How hard we’re fighting and as hard as we can play.”

The win was critical for Nevada which improved to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the Western Athletic Conference. Nevada is now two wins shy of becoming bowl eligible with five games left to play, including three on the road and two at home.

“It was big, real big,” Pack wide receiver Mike McCoy said. “Now we’re above .500. If we can run the table, there is no telling what can happen.”

The real story, at least early on, was the issue with Kaepernick.

It was obvious by his body language and demeanor that Kaepernick didn’t agree with Ault’s decision. The coach, however, said his sophomore quarterback was fortunate to get what playing time he did.

“For me it was very frustrating,” said Kaepernick, who completed 10-of-20 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown and ran for 48 yards and two scores. “Not being on the field and not having an impact on the field was frustrating.

“Overall, my play was average. I’ve had better days. I didn’t make some throws I should have made and didn’t make some reads I should have. (Backup QB) Nick (Graziano) saw the defense well and threw the ball well. He did a good job.”

Ault admitted after the game that there are certain things that Nevada can do with Kaepernick under center compared to Graziano.

That was evident early in the second quarter when Kaepernick, on his first snap, scored on a 19-yard run to give Nevada a 13-0 lead with 13 minutes, 38 seconds left.

“Anytime you score in a game it has to be a spark, whether it’s me, Vai (Taua) or Graz (Graziano),” Kaepernick said.

Ball security, which was a problem all day for Nevada, reared its head later in the second quarter when Kaepernick completed a 2-yard pass to Brian Fludd, who fumbled at the Nevada 39. Caleb Taylor recovered for the Aggies.

It only took Utah State three plays to reach the end zone and get back into the game.

Diondre Borel (19-for-38, 262 yards, 2 TDs) completed a 23-yard pass over the middle to tight end Tarren Lloyd for a first down at the 16. On second-and-10, Borel found Otis Nelson for a 16-yard score to make it 13-7 with 2:27 left in the half.

Nevada showed its explosiveness on the ground on the ensuing drive, going 70 yards in six plays with McCoy scoring his first TD of the season on a 10-yard run to give the Pack a 20-7 halftime lead.

“It felt pretty good,” McCoy said. “I think I got my first touchdown of the year last year against Utah State. It feels good to get into the end zone. I don’t care (if it’s a run or pass) as long as I get in.”

In the third quarter, Taua rambled for 27 yards on first down, and then Courtney Randall ripped off gains of 18 and 12, respectively to give the Pack a first down at the Utah State 11. McCoy scored two plays later.

What was impressive is that Nevada had the ball for 8:25 compared to 21:35 for the Aggies, yet still had a two-touchdown lead. Utah State stopped itself with eight first-half penalties for 65 yards.

“Penalties are very frustrating,” Nelson said. “It seems like just when we think we got something going or get a big play, something gets called back. That’s something we’ve had all year and we need to eliminate that.”

Nevada got its offense in sync in the second half, scoring on its first three possessions to take a 37-10 lead.

Taua, who gained 122 yards and scored on the ground for the fourth consecutive game, carried five times for 28 yards and caught two more passes for eight yards in the third quarter. His second four-yard grab set up Nevada’s Brett Jaekle’s 26-yard field goal for a 23-7 lead.

After Utah State went three and out on the ensuing drive, the Wolf Pack showed its quick-strike capabilities when Kaepernick tossed a 75-yard TD pass to Marko Mitchell, who caught the ball around the 30, juggled it momentarily, and raced into the end zone for a 30-7 Nevada lead.

Kejon Murphy returned the ensuing kick-off 57 yards to Nevada’s 43, and the Aggies punched out one first down before Chris Ulinski kicked a 42-yard field goal, trimming the deficit to 30-10 with 2:57 left in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, Nevada went up 37-10 after driving 77 yards in nine plays with Kaepernick sneaking over from the 1.

Utah State scored again on its next possession when Borel hooked up with Nelson on a 52-yard TD pass to make it 37-17.

The Pack offense, despite the slow start because of the quarterback change, gained 523 yards. The defense gave up 333 yards, but had five sacks and an interception. The unit played much better than it did the previous week.

“I thought we played good,” said ex-Fallon star Josh Mauga, who led Nevada with eight tackles. “They made a couple of big plays toward the end of the half and in the third quarter. We made a step forward. Now we have to keep going.”

The last TD to Nelson irked Ault a little bit.

“Jailbreak touchdowns, we have to stop that,” Ault said.

– Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or (775) 881-1281