Wild victory for Wolf Pack | NevadaAppeal.com

Wild victory for Wolf Pack

RENO – One of the smallest crowds in recent Mackay Stadium history saw one of the wildest games in Nevada history.

Jeff Rowe threw a 25-yard pass to Nichiren Flowers on the first play of the third overtime, and then Tulsa’s Brandon Diles fumbled the ball out of the end zone two plays later, ensuring Nevada’s wild 54-48 triple-overtime win Saturday night before a crowd of just over 7,000 at Mackay Stadium.

The win was Nevada’s second straight, evening its record at 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the Western Athletic Conference. The Wolf Pack are 4-0 at Mackay Stadium this season.

“When you win, it’s a lot easier to look at these tapes,” said Nevada coach Chris Ault, who was unhappy with his defense in the second half and his kick coverage unit which gave up a game-tying 94-yard return with 2:05 left in regulation. “We have a good thing going. We’re recapturing Mackay. Maybe it’s not pretty, but it’s damn exciting.

“The defense didn’t play well, but what the heck. We had the game won, but let them back in it. The defense played well in the first half and kept us in it. It was just the opposite in the second half (the offense carried the team).”

The game was tied at 41 at the end of regulation play. It was a wild 2 minutes 17 seconds, as both teams combined for four touchdowns (two each), including a 94-yard kickoff return by Ashlan Davis. It was Davis’ second kick return for a score in two weeks. Both of Nevada’s scores came from Chance Kretschmer (112 yards, 2 Tds).

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Nevada scored in the first overtime, as B.J. Mitchell scored from a yard out. The key play in the drive was a pass interference call on a second-and-6 play from the Tulsa 20 giving Nevada a first down at the Tulsa 8. Mitchell scored three plays later. Damon Fine’s kick made it 48-41.

Diles, who rushed for a career-high 202 yards, scored on Tulsa’s first play in the first overtime. Brad DeVault’s PAT made it 48-48.

Neither team scored in the second overtime, as Kevin Stanley picked off a James Kilian pass at the Nevada 1, and Fine missed a 38-yard field goal on the Wolf Pack’s ensuing possession. Several Nevada players, including Fine, argued the call to no avail.

Rowe (20 for 33, 299 yards) was flushed out of the pocket to start the third overtime, but found Flowers in the back of the end zone for the score to make it 54-48. Because it was the third overtime, Nevada had to go for two and Rowe was sacked.

“You have to look for him (Flowers),” Rowe said. “He’s an athlete. He’s got the ability.”

Two Wolf Pack players appeared to get a piece of Diles near the goal line. Linebacker Jeremy Engstrom said the team was still trying to figure out who forced the fumble after the game.

Engstrom said the Wolf Pack players were upset with their run defense, and that much of it stemmed from poor tackling.

“I think somebody missed a tackle that made him stumble,” Engstrom said. “He (Diles) ran hard, but we didn’t do what we were supposed to do. We have to tackle better.”

Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe said the Golden Hurricane went after Nevada on the ground because the Wolf Pack were so banged up on the defensive front.

“We have a totally different running scheme than Rice,” Kragthorpe said. “Hawaii ran well against the Pack, and they’re a little hobbled so we wanted to attack them on the ground. We just felt going there was their weakness.”

It was a first half that Nevada would rather forget. The Wolf Pack committed eight penalties for 90 yards and twice broke down in the red zone, settling for field goals instead of touchdowns. The score was tied at 13 at the half.

Damon Fine kicked field goals of 35 and 22 yards, and Nick Hawthrone returned an interception 30 yards. Tulsa countered with field goals of 38 and 33 yards by DeVault and a 1-yard touchdown run by Diles.

Tulsa took a 20-13 lead on Diles 5-yard TD run following Mitchell’s fumble at the Nevada 25. Quarterback James Kilian’s 15-yard bootleg set up Diles’ run.

Nevada bounced back with two scores, as Rowe tossed a 5-yard pass to Tony Moll with 8:56 left, capping a 77-yard drive. After Tulsa went three and out, Nevada drove 48 yards in four plays to take a 27-20 lead as Mitchell scored on a 4-yard run with 6:24 left in the third quarter.

Urel Parrish tied the game at 27 with a 1-yard with 6:03 left in regulation, setting the stage for the wild finish in regulation.

Tulsa’s final touchdown came on the last play of regulation, as Kilian hit Caleb Blankenship with a 16-yard pass.

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281.