Trickery helps Nevada clinch bowl bid
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO – The Nevada Wolf Pack used the art of deception to put away the Hawaii Warriors Saturday night.
“You never know with those things,” Pack head coach Chris Ault said. “But we felt real comfortable calling it.”
Mason Magleby tossed a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kolby Arendse on a fake field goal with 4:18 to play as the Pack outlasted the Warriors, 42-28, at Mackay Stadium.
“I’ve been telling everyone all week that it would work,” said Magleby, who is normally the Pack’s third-string quarterback. “I just told them, ‘It’s going to work, it’s going to work.’ That felt good.”
The Pack led just 35-28 as Jake Hurst lined up for an apparent 32-yard field goal.
“I could have signaled for a timeout and we could have called it off if things changed,” Magleby said. “But we felt pretty good about it.”
Magleby rolled to his left and found Arendse wide open.
“We were going for the win,” said Ault of his decision to trick the Warriors. “Those are planned things. If we didn’t make it, we have a seven-point lead and our defense has to step up.”
The Pack defense struggled all evening, despite Hawaii playing without starting quarterback Bryant Moniz for most of the game and leading wide receiver Royce Pollard for the entire game. Moniz, the leading quarterback in the Western Athletic Conference with 2,733 yards and 22 touchdowns, injured his right ankle on a sack by the Pack’s Brandon Marshall on Hawaii’s third drive of the game and was replaced by senior Shane Austin. Pollard injured his knee a week ago in a loss to Utah State.
Austin, who had thrown just three passes in the Warriors first nine games, completed 17-of-38 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown.
“Our defense was very inconsistent,” Ault said. “Up until the end when we made some plays I was not pleased.”
The victory also made the Wolf Pack bowl eligible for a seventh consecutive year.
“That’s not something we were even thinking about,” Ault said. “Our goal is to win a WAC championship.”
The Pack, which still has three games remaining in the regular season, has now won five games in a row to improve to 6-3 overall and 4-0 in the WAC. The Pack also has now won 16 consecutive games at home for the second longest current home winning streak in the nation (Oregon has won 21 in a row).
The Pack has never gone unbeaten in WAC play.
“Somebody told me that and I just thought that was pretty cool,” said Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo, who completed 25-of-36 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns.
Hawaii (5-5, 3-3) cut the Pack’s lead to 35-28 on a 21-yard touchdown pass by Austin to Jeremiah Ostrowski with 11 minutes to play. Austin drove the Warriors 69 yards on eight plays, including a 4th-and-5 pass to Billy Ray Stutzmann for 11 yards down to the Pack 21-yard line.
Fajardo found wide receiver Shane Anderson from five yards out for his third touchdown pass of the game as the Pack took a 35-21 lead with just over 14 minutes to play. Fajardo also connected with Corbin Louks for a 14-yard gain down to the 5-yard line to set up the scoring pass to Anderson.
Fajardo, who ran for 81 yards on 19 carries, scored on a 25-yard run for a 28-14 Nevada lead with 9:35 to play in the third quarter. The touchdown capped off a 93-yard, nine-play drive.
The drive was set up by a fumble recovery by Pack cornerback Duke Williams in the end zone. Hawaii’s Joey Iosefa fumbled the ball away on a first down run from the 1-yard line after the Warriors had recovered a Pack fumble on the second half kickoff.
Hawaii, which had won four of its last five games against the Pack heading into Saturday’s game, came right back on a 3-yard touchdown run by Iosefa to cut the Pack’s lead to 28-21 with 3:12 to play in the third quarter. Iosefa’s score capped a 46-yard, eight-play drive.
The Wolf Pack, which has now won 10 WAC games in a row, took a 21-14 halftime lead as Fajardo found Rishard Matthews on an 8-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds to play in the second quarter. Fajardo and Matthews hooked up three times for 35 yards on the 64-yard, six-play drive.
Matthews finished with eight catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half.
The Pack had taken a 14-3 lead as Lampford Mark scored on a 4-yard run with 1:18 to play in the first quarter and Fajardo found Matthews for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 10:54 to go in the second quarter.
Fajardo completed all seven of his passes for 66 yards to set up Mark’s score and Mark ran the ball four times for 28 yards to help set up the first Fajardo-to-Matthews touchdown.
Mark finished with 105 yards on 24 carries.
The Wolf Pack, though, saw its 14-3 led evaporate in a span of just 63 seconds late in the second quarter.
A Fajardo fumble set up a 38-yard field goal by Tyler Hadden with 2:30 to play in the half. The Warriors only had to go 21 yards in five plays to set up the field goal, cutting the Pack lead to 14-6.
Another Pack mistake gave the Warriors a touchdown with 1:27 to go in the half as John Hardy-Tuliau blocked a Jake Hurst punt and fell on it in the end zone. Austin then connected with Stutzmann for the 2-point conversion pass to tie the game at 14-14.
Austin was just 4-of-15 for 50 yards and one interception in relief of Moniz in the first half. Pack cornerback Isaiah Frey picked off an Austin pass deep down the middle midway through the second quarter.
Frey also picked off Austin late in the fourth quarter to protect the 42-28 lead.