Three close losses could cost Nevada a bowl
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Three times Nevada has been on the verge of victory against favored teams in the fourth quarter, and three times it has failed.
If Nevada fails to achieve a post-season berth, the thoughts of Nevada coach Chris Ault and his players will turn to the early season game against Northwestern that was lost in the final 21 seconds, the game against Boise State where the Broncos tied the game on the last play of regulation and went on to win in four overtimes and Friday night’s game against Hawaii where the Pack lost with 11.7 seconds remaining.
The loss dropped Nevada to 5-5 overall and 3-3 in Western Athletic Conference play going into next weekend’s game at San Jose State.
“I think we played well,” nose guard Matt Hines said. “We just didn’t come out on top. In a situation like this, I’d rather lose by 50, and we lost by 2.”
“We’re playing good, but we can’t seem to get that last inch,” said running back Luke Lippincott, who rushed for 140 yards, his fifth straight 100-yard game and seventh overall. “We could be 9-1 right now.”
Lippincott’s 5-yard run gave Nevada a 26-25 lead with 8:27 left in regulation, but the Pack would only get one first down on its final three possessions.
Two plays after Kevin Basped forced and recovered a Tyler Graunke fumble at the Hawaii 44, the Wolf Pack turned it right back over when Arthur King fumbled at the Hawaii 47.
Nevada got another opportunity when it took over at its own 47 with 5:18 remaining.
Lippincott gained 14 down to the Hawaii 41, but Brandon Fragger was stopped well short of a first down on a third-and-5 play from the Hawaii 36. Brett Jaekle pooch punted down to the 12-yard-line.
That set the stage for Hawaii’s game-winning drive that resulted in Dan Kelly’s 45-yard field goal after Nevada tried to freeze him twice.
“It was a good ballgame, but you’ve got to move that ball in those last two series,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “We just didn’t get it done. We had our chances. Our offense just could not move the ball at the end when we needed it. They were able to move the ball and convert.”
Conversely, the Nevada defense played a solid game throughout, especially in the second half when it allowed only nine points.
“I was very pleased with our guys,” Ault said. “I saw some things happen that haven’t been happening defensively this year. I’m happy about that.
“The defense played well, especially in the fourth quarter. They kept them in check in those third and fourth-down situations. We played with some energy and consistency. I thought consistency was key. That is something which we had not done on pass coverage before.”
Devon Walker made a couple of nice break-ups in the second half, and Jerome Johnson contributed a couple of key plays, too.
Freshman quarterback Colin Kaepernick played judge and jury after the game, and found himself guilty of sub-par play.
“I replayed the plays that I could have made to help the team,” said Kaepernick, who completed just 9 of 20 for 134 yards. “I’ll take the blame for this one. The first half I didn’t play well and the second half I played OK.
“They disguised their blitzes (early). In the second half, we made adjustments. Things worked out better for us.”