Nevada Wolf Pack edge Weber State, 19-13 | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada Wolf Pack edge Weber State, 19-13

By Joe Santoro For the Nevada Appeal

The Nevada Wolf Pack didn’t need a Mackay Miracle to beat the Weber State Wildcats on Saturday.But that didn’t make it any easier.The Wolf Pack survived three turnovers, eight penalties and a blocked punt to hold off the upset-minded Wildcats of the Big Sky Conference, 19-13, in front of a thin crowd of 14,174 at Mackay Stadium.The Pack, now 2-1 for the second consecutive season, needed four Brandon Talton field goals to avoid its second loss to a Football Championship Subdivision team in the last three seasons. The Pack lost to Idaho State, also of the Big Sky Conference, 30-28 in 2017.“It wasn’t a perfect game by any means,” Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell said. “We made a lot of errors. We can play so much better in so many areas.”The Wolf Pack, which has won four in a row and nine of its last 12 games at home under Norvell, snapped a two-game losing streak against Weber State that lasted 26 years. The Wildcats won the last two games in the rivalry, in 1992 and 1993, just a year after suffering a 55-49 loss at Mackay in 1991 when the Pack staged a historic 35-point comeback in the second half.“Nobody likes losing at home,” Wolf Pack linebacker Gabe Sewell said. “So our spirits are up even though it was an ugly win. We’ll take it.”Weber State, 1-2 with both losses coming to Mountain West teams (the first loss was 6-0 to San Diego State two weeks ago), almost stole the victory. The Wildcats led 10-3 in the second quarter and 10-9 at halftime.“I just feel like we could have done a lot better,” Sewell said.The Wolf Pack never really put the Wildcats away until its final drive of the game. The Pack, leading 19-13 after Talton’s fourth field goal with 4:49 to play, took over the ball at its own 25 with 3:27 to go. The Pack then proceeded to kill off the final 3:27 with eight running plays. Toa Taua, who finished with 85 yards on 16 carries, had 32 yards on four carries on the final drive and Jaxson Kincaide, who ended up with 75 yards on 11 carries, had 14 yards on three carries on the game-ending drive. A 13-yard run to the Weber State 48-yard line with 1:55 to go on 3rd-and-nine might have been the biggest play of the game. Kincaide later put the game away for certain with a nine-yard run to the Weber 35 for a first down with about a minute to play.“I’m proud of the way we handled the end of the game,” Norvell said. “That was important for us to run the ball at the end of the game and run the clock out.”Wolf Pack quarterback Carson Strong was intercepted twice and also lost a crucial fumble in the fourth quarter. But the freshman did complete 30-of-44 passes for 299 yards and helped the Pack control the ball for 37:25. The Pack also converted 11-of-20 third down plays into first downs.Strong and Norvell, though, were disappointed that all of those impressive numbers didn’t translate into more than one touchdown, a 33-yard run by Kincaide early in the second half that gave the Pack a 16-10 lead.“Carson made some bad throws but he’s a young player,“ Norvell said. “That’s all part of playing a red-shirt freshman. He will continue to get better.”“We moved the ball (the Pack outgained Weber 453-137) but we just have to finish drives,” Strong said. “I can’t turn the ball over and we can’t have penalties in the red zone like we did.”The Wildcats led 10-9 at the break, holding the Pack to three Talton field goals from 36, 30 and 25 yards out. The Wolf Pack, though, dominated the game everywhere but on the scoreboard, piling up more first downs (13-5) and more yards (251-56) and also controlled the ball for more than 21 of the 30 first-half minutes. “At halftime all I wanted was for us to settle down,” Norvell said. The difference in the first half was the mistakes. The Pack committed more penalties (6-0) and more turnovers (2-1). Strong was intercepted on a throw to the right sideline on which he was trying to throw it out of bounds. In the second quarter he was picked off again on a throw he said he never should have made.“I should have thrown that first one 50 yards out of bounds and that other one I just should have kept it and run instead of trying to do too much,” Strong said.The biggest Wolf Pack mistake in the first half was getting a punt blocked early in the second half. That led to Weber State’s only touchdown of the game, an 11-yard pass from Kaden Jenks to Rashid Shaheed for a 10-3 Weber lead. Jenks, the Wildcats’ backup quarterback, was pressed into duty because of an injury last week to starter Jake Constantine. Jenks completed just 6-of-21 passes for 63 yards.“If that (the blocked punt) doesn’t happen they don’t score a touchdown the whole game,” Norvell said.The Pack, though, did take a quick 3-0 lead on a 36-yard Talton field goal on its first drive of the game. Strong connected through the air with Dominic Christian (14 yards), Jaxson Kincaide (35 yards) and Kaleb Fossum (20 yards) to set up the field goal but even that drive (10 plays, 56 yards) had its struggles as the Pack committed two false start penalties.Weber State, which has won the last two Big Sky Conference titles, responded to take a 10-3 lead early in the second quarter. The Wildcats went 38 yards in six plays to tie the game at 3-3 on a 43-yard field goal by Trey Tuttle a minute into the second quarter. Weber State’s Raoul Johnson then blocked a Pack punt at the Nevada 15-yard line to completely change the momentum of the game.A Daniel Brown interception, off a pass which first bounced off Weber running back Josh Davis, changed the momentum back toward the Pack. It also set up Talton’s second field goal of the game, a 30-yarder that cut the Weber State lead to 10-6 with 3:34 to go in the half.The Pack then saved its best drive of the first half for last, going 10 plays in 2:31 for a 25-yard field goal by Talton with nine seconds to go. Strong connected with Fossum twice on the 61-yard drive, for 10 and 26-yard gains. The freshman quarterback also found tight end Ben Putman for a pick-up of 24 yards down to the Weber State 8-yard line on first down. That final Wolf Pack drive of the opening half, though, was merely a sign of things to come. The Wolf Pack went 85 yards on nine efficient plays on its first drive of the second half to take a 16-10 lead.Strong completed passes to Fossum (11 yards), Elijah Cooks (eight yards) and Kincaide (14) on the drive. The quarterback also scrambled 14 yards for a first down at the Weber State 47-yard line.It was Kincaide, though, that did the honors, streaking down the left sideline for 33 yards and a touchdown with just eight minutes to go in the third quarter. It was the senior running back’s ninth touchdown of his career and was also the first touchdown the Wildcats had allowed this season after six-plus quarters against a FBS team.The Wildcats, ranked No. 6 in the nation in the FCS, wouldn’t go away. Weber State forced a Pack punt from the end zone and took over at the Wolf Pack 32-yard line. After three plays netted just two yards, Tuttle then sliced the Pack lead to just 16-13 with a 47-yard field goal with 50 seconds to play in the third quarter.Norvell said he expected a tough battle against Weber State, especially since the Wolf Pack was coming off a 77-6 loss at Oregon the previous week.“I knew we’d have some adversity,” Norvell said. “It was a long, tough week. It’s never fun to get beat like that. Nobody likes losing. But, for us, to respond was important. It didn’t matter who we played.”“This was much needed,” Sewell said.“We had a bad taste in our mouth all week,” Kincaide said. “We just tried to get it out. This game was all about heart.”The Wolf Pack will travel to UTEP next Saturday for its final non-conference game of the season. The Pack opens Mountain West play against Hawaii at Mackay Stadium on Sept. 28.“We’ve played three good football teams,” said Norvell of the wins over Purdue (34-31) and Weber State and the loss to Oregon. “Those are three teams that are going to beat a lot of  people over the course of the season.”