Pack runs over Bulldogs, wins 7th straight
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO – The Nevada Wolf Pack football team sent a loud and clear message Saturday afternoon that was likely heard from Reno to Boise.
“You know, they (the Broncos) can take this for whatever they like,” Nevada running back Vai Taua said of the Wolf Pack’s 52-14 dismantling of the Fresno State Bulldogs at Mackay Stadium. “We’ll just cross that Boise bridge when we get there.”
That will be the night of Nov. 27 when the Western Athletic Conference title, and a possible BCS bowl game berth for Boise State will likely be on the line. Before then, though, the Pack (7-3, 6-0), winners of their last seven for the first time since 1995, will play at New Mexico State Nov. 21.
“We all know Boise is the frontrunner,” Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault said. “We understand that.”
The entire WAC understands that.
“A lot of their (Fresno State) players came up to me after the game,” said Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who threw just 12 passes against Fresno State. “They just said, ‘Great game. Beat Boise.'”
The Wolf Pack certainly appears ready to do just that after dominating Fresno State. The 38-point victory is the Pack’s largest in its 86-year rivalry with Fresno since a 53-7 victory in 1948 when a young Chris Ault was 2 years old.
“That’s the best game we’ve played as one whole unit all year,” said the Pack head coach, who also led the Pack to a pair of seven-game winning streaks as head coach in 1994 and 1995. “I’m excited.”
The Wolf Pack did what it does best, rushing for 461 yards and seven touchdowns. Taua, with 179 yards, and Kaepernick, with 95 yards, each went over 1,000 yards on the season (for the second consecutive season) during the game.
“It’s all about the offensive line,” said running back Luke Lippincott, who had 149 yards and three touchdowns on the ground on just 10 carries. “The offensive line is driving the train right now. They are not just on the train. They are driving it.”
Lippincott, with 866 yards this year, could join Taua (1,059 yards) and Kaepernick (1,015) as the only three teammates in NCAA FBS history with 1,000 or more yards in the same season. The Pack is also just 80 yards short of matching the school record for rushing yards in a season (3,611, set last year).
When asked if this is the best rushing team in Pack history, Ault answered, “I think it’s getting close. To run for the yards we’ve run for is pretty special. That’s something you just don’t see.”
The Fresno State defense only saw the backs of Lippincott, Taua and Kaepernick all day as the Pack trio ran to the end zone a combined seven times.
“You could drive a truck through those holes,” said Taua, who scored on runs of 65 and 50 yards. “You could drive a SUV through those holes.”
The Wolf Pack outscored Fresno State 45-0 over the final 46 minutes of the game after the Bulldogs (6-4, 5-2) took a 14-7 lead on a pair of TD passes by Ryan Colburn (24-of-35 for 362 yards).
“It was just a great team win,” said safety Jonathon Amaya, who knocked Fresno running back Ryan Mathews (32 yards on eight carries) out of the game with a jarring hit late in the second quarter. “I saw a lot of trust in everyone’s eyes.”
In addition to Taua’s two long TD runs, Kaepernick scored on runs of six and 21 yards and Lippincott found the end zone from 1, 27 and 4 yards away as the Pack running game piled up at least 300 yards and two touchdowns for the seventh consecutive game.
The dozen pass attempts (and 45 yards) are the fewest in Kaepernick’s career since he came on in relief against Fresno State two years ago at Mackay Stadium.
“Our offensive line is just dominating lately,” Kaepernick said when asked if the Pack has enough confidence in its run game now to win a game without throwing a single pass. “We always want to pass to show teams we can do that and have that option. But, yes, we do have that much confidence in our run game.”
Ault, though, is accustomed to his offense piling up video game numbers. It was the defense that put a smile on the veteran coach’s face that stretched from, yes, Reno to Boise.
“That’s the best our defense has played this year,” Ault said. “That’s why I’m excited.”
The Pack held Fresno to just 112 yards on the ground. Mathews came into the game as the nation’s leading rusher at 1,459 yards.
“Our defense has arrived,” Ault said. “I’ve been waiting for this for two years. We haven’t played defense on a championship level but we did today.”
“I’ve said it before,” Pack linebacker James-Michael Johnson said. “When our defense plays like that, when our offense plays well, we’re a scary team.”
Did the Pack do enough to scare a certain undefeated team, say, in Boise?
“We’re not worrying about that yet,” Kaepernick said. “We have another game this week. We know not to look past any team. That’s when you get beat.”
That, by the way, hasn’t happened to this team in 51 days, since a 31-21 loss to Missouri at Mackay Stadium.
“We still have two more games (three with a likely bowl game) to show what we can do,” Lippincott said. “We want to prove to the nation that we’re better than a lot of people think.”