Record-setting day for Pack football in win over San Jose State
BY DARRELL MOODY
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer
RENO ” This has been a sensational year for the Nevada offense, and it just got even more special Saturday afternoon.
The Wolf Pack set two team records ” rushing yards in a season and rushing touchdowns in a season ” en route to a surprisingly easy 41-17 victory over San Jose State before a crowd of 14,343 at Mackay Stadium.
By virtue of the win, Nevada became bowl-eligible for the fourth straight season. Nevada improved to 6-4 overall and 4-2 in the Western Athletic Conference. The Pack is tied with Louisiana Tech for second place going into next Saturday’s home showdown with undefeated and conference-leading Boise State.
Nevada entered the game needing 179 yards to set the record and they obliterated the mark of the 1978 team with 333 yards, as quarterback Colin Kaepernick ran for 147 and Vai Taua for 125 against a team that had allowed only 119 yards per game.
The Pack scored four times on the ground ” two by Kaepernick and once each by Taua and Courtney Randall – to eclipse the season mark of 34 set by the 1978 and 1981 squads. Nevada has 35 rushing touchdowns with two games left in the season.
Also, Kaepernick eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground for the season. He becomes the fifth WAC player to throw and pass for 1,000 yards, joining Air Force quarterbacks Beau Morgan, Dee Dowis and Bart Weiss and Hawaii’s Michael Carter.
“That’s pretty outstanding for a quarterback,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “Take that rushing (number), and you have to throw the offensive line in there. You talk about Vai and Kap, but it starts up front and works its way back.”
“It (the team rush record) feels good,” said center Dominic Green. “We want to add to it and make the record last a while until a good offense comes through again.”
The records came on a day where Nevada didn’t play its best game, leaving two or three touchdowns on the field, which Ault alluded to after the game. Kaepernick completed just 15-of-31 passes for 192 yards, but missed several wide-open receivers.
“We didn’t play the type of game we had the opportunity to play,” Ault said. “The first play of the game our ‘X’ receiver was open and we threw it into the ground. Kap had a chance to throw three touchdowns to wide-open receivers. I was a little disappointed.
“The running game surprised me, the yards we got ” kind of quiet. That’s a good defense we played.”
Nevada again dominated time of possession ” 36:23 to 23:37.
The Wolf Pack went into the half with a 17-3 lead, as San Jose State avoided a first-half shutout with a 44-yard field goal by Jared Strubeck. Nevada’s defense held the Spartans to 83 yards total offense in the first half, including minus-16 yards rushing on 12 attempts.
It very easily could have been 31-3, as Nevada started two drives at its own 41 and one at midfield, but only had a field goal to show for it.
“It always concerns me when you get great field position (and don’t score), no question about it,” Ault said. “They ran their defense. They’re allowed to stop people.”
Nevada opened the scoring on its second possession with a 35-yard Brett Jaekle field goal for a 3-0 lead.
It should have been a touchdown, however. Thanks to a 34-yard option run by Colin Kaepernick, Nevada moved the ball to the Spartans 4, but an incomplete pass, a tackle-for-loss by Jarron Gilbert and a botched handoff by Kaepernick ” which resulted in an 11-yard loss ” pushed the ball back to the 18.
The short field caught up to the Spartans again midway through the second quarter when Nevada started at the San Jose State 44 following a 39-yard punt.
The Pack was stopped for three-yard losses on the first two plays of the possession and appeared on the verge of punting it away.
On third-and-17 from the Nevada 49, Kaepernick scrambled and found Chris Wellington along the left seam for 44 yards and a first down at the Spartans 7. Kaepernick scored on the next play and Jaekle added the extra point for a 10-0 lead with 6:12 left.
After forcing San Jose State to punt for the sixth consecutive time, Nevada took over on its own 28 with 2:10 left.
Two Randall runs gained 15 yards to the Nevada 43. After an incomplete pass on second down, Taua broke loose for a 57-yard touchdown run which featured two broken tackles in the secondary. Jaekle’s PAT made it 17-0. Nevada may have caught San Jose State expecting pass on the third-and-6 play.
“That broke the ice for our offense,” Ault said. “We had talked about it this morning, about running (in that situation). Most of the times people would throw it.”
The Spartans finally scored with 22 seconds left on Strubeck’s field goal with 22 seconds left in the half.
The second half was a much different story.
Each team scored on their first two possessions. Nevada had eight and 11-play scoring drives, respectively, while the Spartans’ drives were three and two plays, respectively. The wild start to the second half still kept the Spartans behind three scores, 31-14, entering the final quarter.
The Spartans’ two scoring drives were what had Ault’s blood boiling after the game. Both were set up by poor kickoff coverage which gave the Spartans field position at the 50 and the San Jose State 46.
Kyle Reed (15-for-27, 215 yards) finished both drives with touchdown passes to David Richmond (nine receptions for 91 yards) of 11 and 10 yards.
“Two touchdowns in four plays,” Ault said. “That’s ridiculous. It gets them back in the ballgame. The kickoff returns were just ridiculous. We kick off (deep) two or three times after that and we do a good job.”
It’s tough to blame a defense which held the Spartans to minus-23 yards on the ground for the two scores. Having to defend in the short field is a tough chore. Nevada did a nice job the rest of the game and even stopped the Spartans when they got to the 18 late in the game.
The defense gave up some big plays in the second half, and Ault said that can’t happen next week against Boise State.
Nevada’s performance left Spartans coach Dick Tomey impressed.
“I think Nevada is a really good team,” Tomey said. “Obviously we were soundly beaten. We had a little window to get back in the second half, but we couldn’t get it done. I’m still amazed they have lost twice in conference.
“It (the offense) was a little better than last week. We did some good things. We
couldn’t run the ball but nobody can run the ball against [Nevada]. We pretty much gave up on it in the second half.”
– Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or (775) 881-1281