Spencer emerges as go-to receiver for Wolf Pack | NevadaAppeal.com

Spencer emerges as go-to receiver for Wolf Pack

STEVE RANSON
Appeal News Service

RENO – Caleb Spencer has emerged early this season as Nevada’s “go to” receiver.

The Pack’s wide receiver reached the century milestone in receiving yards for the second straight week in the first half of the UNLV-Nevada football game. By halftime, Spencer had caught nine passes for 100 yards from quarterback Jeff Rowe.

For the game, Spencer led all Pack receivers with 144 yards on 12 catches.

“Jeff made it easy for me. No spectacular catches,” Spencer said.

During Nevada’s 55-21 loss to Washington State in the season opener, Spencer had a career high day by snagging seven passes for 126 yards and one TD. His longest reception covered 52 yards.

The Wolf Pack junior was pressed into action because Nirchiren Flowers, one of the team’s top receivers last year, sat on the bench in the first half against WSU because of disciplinary issues. Flowers caught only two passes for 20 yards against the Cougars.

Spencer is developing into a consistent receiver. In his first year with Nevada in 2004, the Honolulu native caught 67 passes for 761 yards and four TDs.

That all changed against UNLV. Flowers snagged two passes for 29 yards in the first quarter and finished the first half with four receptions for 51 yards. The Tulare, Calif., native finished the game with five catches for 63 yards

Ault said his staff changed the offensive scheme in the third quarter. Quarterback Jeff Rowe concentrated on Spencer one play, and Flowers another.

Rowe was happy with his receiving corps.

“They concentrate and double team on Nirchirin, and Caleb keeps stepping up,” Rowe said.

JUST FOR KICKS

The Pack struggled in the red zone Saturday. After Nevada scored its first touchdown in the first quarter, freshman kicker Brett Jaekle shanked the extra point attempt. At the end of the second half with one second left, Jaekle’s 45-yard field goal was blocked.

However, Jackle did connect on a 25-yard field goal with 3:12 left in the first quarter.

The former Bonanza High (Las Vegas) player finally nailed his second field goal in the third quarter which gave Nevada a 12-7 lead. He also booted a 22-yarder with 8:12 left in the game.

Ault said the kicking game was a big factor.

He said Justin Bergendahl pinned UNLV down several times deep in their territory. He averaged 52.8 yards per punt, third best in Nevada history.

A BIG CROWD

Earlier in the week, Wolf Pack ticket officials kept their fingers crossed for a crowd of at least 20,000. A flurry of ticket sales, though, increased that number to a turnstile crowd of 23,457 by kick off.

The attendance figure ranks as the 19th largest crowd at Mackay Stadium history.

At 7:30 a.m. Saturday, more than 200 Nevada fans had lined up at Lawlor Events Center to purchase tickets for the UNLV game.

Saturday’s crowd is the largest in almost two years, easily eclipsing last year’s top attendance day. The largest crowd that day saw a game in 2004 numbered 18,800 for the Rice on Oct. 16.

THE BIG RIVALRY

Coming into Saturday’s 31st game, both teams had each won 15 games. The Wolf Pack had a healthy lead over UNLV in the 1990s until the Rebels won the last five games, including a 16-12 thriller in Reno two years ago. Last year, UNLV blistered the Pack in Las Vegas, 48-13.

During coach Chris Ault’s tenure at Nevada, the two teams have split 14 games. The last time an Ault team had defeated UNLV was 1995, a 55-32 win at Mackay Stadium.

Eight first-year coaches to the UNLV football program have had mixed success against the Wolf Pack.

Like the overall series, first-year coaches split their eight debut game until new coach Mike Sanford became the fifth UNLV coach to lose to Nevada in his first-year debut.

Before Sanford, legendary coach John Robinson lost his first game against Nevada, 26-12, in Reno.

Those who defeated the Pack in their debuts included Tony Knap, Harvey Hyde, Wayne Nunnely and Jeff Horton.