Nevada rolls past Nicholls State
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Nevada proved it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
The Wolf Pack fell behind by 10 points in the first quarter, but roared back to score 38 unanswered points en route to a 52-17 win over Nicholls State Saturday night at Mackay Stadium before a crowd of 15,233.
Nevada snapped a four-game losing streak, dating back to last year’s losses to Boise State and Miami. It also sends the Pack into its bye week on an upbeat note.
“It was critical to get a win,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “We just needed to get a win. Last week was a tough loss. This was important for us to be able to establish something. The only thing that we established is that we’re 0-2.
“It was a nice workmanlike game. I’m pleased. We played well enough to learn a lot. The defense other than the first quarter played very well. After the first quarter, the offense put things together and made big plays.”
It was truly a tale of two quarters in the first half. Nevada trailed 10-0, as Nicholls State turned a Nick Graziano interception into an Alex Romero field goal on its first possession, and then tacked on a Zach Morgan TD run with 18.9 left in the quarter.
“The first quarter was pretty bad getting shut out like that,” said Graziano, who threw for a career-high five touchdowns, something a Nevada quarterback hadn’t done since David Neill in 1998. “It’s always good getting a win even though we didn’t start well. We were able to finish well, and that always helps.
“The rushing game picked up (in the second quarter) with the guys up front doing a good job.”
It wasn’t just the running game that picked up. Nevada’s entire offense caught fire and quickly turned the game into a route with 31 second-quarter points.
On three of the four second-quarter scoring drives, the Pack needed just two downs to score three of their four touchdowns in that span. Three of the four scoring drives were under a minute in length (47 seconds, 16 seconds and 12 seconds).
Following the NSU score, Nevada took the ensuing kickoff at its own 20, and after five runs by Luke Lippincott, had moved the ball to the NSU 30. The drive bogged down at the NSU 28, and Brett Jaekle came on to kick a career-best 45-yard field goal to make it 10-3 with 12:05 left.
Nicholls State made one first down on its next possession, but Matt Hines stopped back-up quarterback Zach Chauvin short of a first down at the 40, forcing the Colonels to punt.
It took Nevada six plays to get into the end zone, and Graziano played a big hand in the scoring drive.
Brandon Fragger started the drive with an 11-yard run, and then Graziano completed a 13-yard pass to Arthur King for a first down at the NSU 39. After a short gain by Fragger, Graziano scrambled for 12 yards down to the 24. Two plays later, Graziano rolled right and threw back across the field to a wide-open Adam Bishop to complete the 25-yard pass-and-catch play. Jaekle’s PAT tied the game at 10.
Moments later came a momentum-changing play.
On fourth-and-2 from the Nevada 28, the Colonels tried a fake punt and Morgan was thrown for a 3-yard loss by Chris Wellington and Andy McIntosh.
“They tried two fake punts and we were ready for it,” Ault said. “Defensively, that punt team did a great job.”
Lippincott, who eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the second straight week (14 for 127) did the rest. He carried for nine yards down to the 16, and then bolted through a big hole on the next play to score. Jaekle’s PAT made it 17-10.
Nicholls State went three and out on its next possession, and Nevada had decent field position at its own 39.
Arthur King carried on a double reverse for 12 yards, and Graziano found Marko Mitchell for a 49-yard scoring pass, the longest completion of his young career, and Nevada had a 24-10 advantage.
The Colonels managed one first down on their next drive, but a Jay Dixon sack put them back inside the 20 and forced a punt.
Nevada took over at its own 48, and was in the end zone in two plays, as Graziano, who threw for 236 yards, fired a 48-yarder to King, who was wide open, to make it 31-10.
“The difference between the two quarters was big plays,” Ault said. “Our offense made plays. Luke ran well and our offensive line did a great job. Our receivers made some good plays. The last two weeks and even at times in the Nebraska game they have done well.”
Nevada made it 38 straight points when Bishop caught the second of his three scoring passes, a 17-yarder. That made it 38-10.