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Wolf Pack demolishes Idaho on Senior Day

JOE SANTORO
For the Nevada Appeal

RENO – Brandon Marshall stood just off the field at Mackay Stadium with his family and waited for his name to be called on Senior Day.

“It was surreal,” the Nevada Wolf Pack senior linebacker said of the pre-game ceremonies honoring the Wolf Pack’s seniors on Saturday. “I didn’t even think about it until that moment and then it hit me, ‘Man, this is my last game at Mackay.’ It felt weird. I didn’t know how to react.”

It turns out Marshall and the rest of the Wolf Pack seniors knew exactly how to react in the final regular season game of the year. They went out and crushed the Idaho Vandals 56-3 in front of 10,027 fans to snap a two-game losing streak.

“That was the last time we’re going to suit up at Mackay,” said senior linebacker James-Michael Johnson, who had an interception and nine tackles. “We wanted to go out and have a lot of fun.”

It was the most fun the Wolf Pack has had in almost a month after heartbreaking losses to Louisiana Tech and Utah State. The victory over the Vandals allowed the Pack (7-5) to finish in a second-place tie in the Western Athletic Conference at 5-2 with a bowl invitation likely coming no later than Monday morning.

“This game meant a lot to us,” Johnson said. “We wanted to come out and prove all our critics wrong after those two losses.”

The victory also secured the Wolf Pack’s fourth consecutive winning season. The last time the Pack had at least four consecutive winning seasons was 1988 through 1996 when they had nine winning years in a row.

“This was a great way to send the seniors off,” Pack coach Chris Ault said. “This is the last time those seniors will play at Mackay Stadium. Games like this are something you’ll always remember.”

The Wolf Pack, which has now won seven consecutive games against Idaho, dominated the Vandals almost as soon as the Senior Day festivities came to close. Senior backup quarterback Tyler Lantrip was given the start and the 23-year-old responded with the best game of his Pack career.

Lantrip, who completed 24-of-31 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns, tossed three of his touchdown passes to red-shirt freshman wide receiver Aaron Bradley from 63, 15 and 22 yards out.

“Tyler was very accurate,” Ault said. “He did a nice job of coming in and having a good feel for what we we’re trying to do. He did a nice job of managing the ball game. And the game plan was darn good.”

The game plan was so good that third-string quarterback Mason Magleby even came in and completed 5-of-6 passes for 21 yards and two touchdowns. The last time the Pack has had six touchdown passes was also against Idaho, in a 63-17 victory last season when Colin Kaepernick threw five and Lantrip tossed one.

“It was fantastic to see (Lantrip) do so well and go out there and execute,” said Pack senior cornerback Isaiah Frey, who also had an acrobatic, one-handed interception. “It was nice to see him get his final shot here at Mackay.”

Lampford Mark, who went over 100 yards rushing (104 on 24 carries) for the third consecutive game, scored on a 6-yard run with 20 seconds left in the first quarter to open the scoring. Lantrip’s three touchdown passes to Bradley and his 28-yard scoring pass to Tray Session then put the game away as the Pack opened up a 35-3 lead in the third quarter.

“It was a great opportunity for me,” said Bradley, who caught his first three career touchdowns. “I have been looking forward to a breakout game all year and it just so happened to come in the last game.”

Two of Bradley’s touchdowns came on screen passes, including the first one when he raced down the sidelines for 63 yards.

“Rishard (Matthews) just sealed his man off and that opened up a huge lane for me down the sideline,” Bradley said. “Those screens and those blocks by my teammates were huge for me.”

Lantrip, who was unavailable to speak to the media after suffering a concussion, left the game after the third quarter. Magleby then took over and connected with Matthews from 4 yards out and Kendall Brock from 7 yards for the final two Pack touchdowns. Magleby, a sophomore, is now 10-for-11 in his career for 109 yards and four touchdowns.

“We saw some fun things,” Ault said. “Our offense moved the ball real well. We had the ball all day long (35:48 to Idaho’s 24:12) just like we’ve done all season. But the difference today is when we got down there (near the end zone) we scored every time.”

Idaho, which finished last in the eight-team WAC at 1-6 (2-10 overall), could only manage a 19-yard Trey Farquhar field goal that cut the Pack’s lead to 14-3 in the second quarter. Farquhar also missed a pair of field goals from 48 and 47.

“I’ve felt like we’ve had a good defense all year though some people might not think so,” said Marshall who had nine tackles.

The Pack has now held three opponents (UNLV, New Mexico and Idaho) to seven points or fewer this year. The last season the Pack defense did that was 2006 when it did it five times.

“We take pride in our defense around here at Nevada,” Marshall said.

The entire afternoon, though, was about turning the seniors final game at Mackay into a giant outdoor holiday party.

“We just kind of looked at each other and said, ‘We’re playing for us,'” said Johnson of the seniors.

Many of these seniors played a huge part in the Pack’s 13-1 record a year ago and 16-game winning streak at Mackay which ended two weeks ago with the loss to Louisiana Tech.

“Coach Ault told us before the game to go out there and start a new Mackay streak for the underclassmen,” Frey said.