Wolf Pack gets big road win at BYU
For the Nevada Appeal
The Nevada Wolf Pack is getting downright defensive about preserving its perfect season.
The Wolf Pack, now 4-0 for the first time since it moved to Division I-A in 1992, went on the road for the first time this year Saturday afternoon and beat the Brigham Young Cougars, 27-13, at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“Our defense was excellent,” Pack head coach Chris Ault said. “They kept us in the game all day long.”
The Wolf Pack held BYU to just 91 yards rushing (320 overall) and one touchdown for the program’s 12th victory in its last 14 games dating back to early last season. BYU, now 1-3, has now lost three games in a row for the first time in head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s six-year career.
“It’s great to be 4-0,” said Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who passed for 196 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 82 and another score. “We didn’t come out and play our best football. But we’ll take the win.”
The Pack, which also beat BYU in Reno (31-28) in 2002 in its last meeting with the Cougars, got over a huge hump by beating BYU in Provo, Utah. It was the Pack’s first non-conference regular season victory outside the state of Nevada since it won at Washington in 2003. The win also was the Pack’s first in the school’s history at Provo in four games.
“You beat BYU at BYU, you’ve done something special,” Ault said.
The Pack defense is also becoming something special. BYU converted just 5-of-19 third and fourth down plays combined.
“Our defense played excellent goal-zone defense,” Ault said.
The only BYU touchdown of the day – a 2-yard run by J.J. Di Luigi midway through the first quarter – was the result of a mistake by the offense as running back Vai Taua fumbled the ball away at the Wolf Pack 36.
BYU went 36 yards in five plays and also needed a lot of help from the Pack defense to get into the end zone. Defensive end Dontay Moch was called for an off-side penalty and cornerback Isaiah Frey was whistled for pass interference in the end zone, giving the Cougars the ball at the 2 -yard line.
BYU, though, could only manage two field goals the rest of the day.
“Our defense toughed up,” Ault said.
The Wolf Pack took control of the game at the end of the first half as both the defense and offense came up big.
BYU, trailing 21-7, marched down to the Wolf Pack 4-yard line on first down but had to settle for a field goal. Pack linebacker Brandon Marshall stuffed Di Luigi for a 1-yard loss on first down and cornerback Doyle Miller batted away a pass intended for Bryan Kariya in the end zone as the Cougars eventually cut the Pack lead to 21-10.
The Pack offense, though, promptly went 55 yards in nine plays for a huge momentum-stealing 38-yard field goal by Ricky Drake for a 24-10 halftime lead.
BYU never really stopped the Pack offense in the first half.
The Pack went 84 yards in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead on the game’s first drive as Kaepernick found running back Courtney Randall for a 6-yard touchdown pass. Kaepernick, who completed 16 (25 attempts) passes to nine different receivers, also found wide receiver Tray Session and tight end Zack Sudfeld each for eight yards and wide receiver Brandon Wimberly for a 36-yard completion down to the BYU 11-yard line on the opening drive.
Taua did most of the dirty work on the Pack’s second drive, carrying the ball seven times on the 12-play drive for 32 yards, including a 1-yard scoring run for a 14-7 Pack lead.
Taua, a senior, finished with his 20th career 100-yard game, grinding out 133 yards on 29 carries. The 29 carries are a career-high for the 5-foot-10, 220-pounder.
“I give all the credit to my O-line,” Taua said. “They made a lot of big holes for me.”
The Pack’s third touchdown of the game came on their first possession of the second quarter. Taua set the tone early on the nine-play, 57-yard drive, bursting up the middle for 17 yards to the BYU 31-yard line. Kaepernick then found Session for 14 yards through the air and carried it himself into the end zone, picking up 26 yards down to the BYU 4-yard line and scoring from four yards out on the very next play for a 21-7 Pack lead.
Bot the offense and defense came up big once again in the second half.
The offense all but put the game away on a crucial 21-play drive that chewed up 8:53 of the clock. The drive resulted in a 29-yard field goal by Anthony Martinez and a 27-10 Pack lead with 11:27 to play in the game.
Kaepernick, who became the Wolf Pack’s career leader in total yardage (breaking David Neill’s school record of 11,145 yards) praised BYU’s defense after the game. The Pack did not score a touchdown in the second half after scoring at least one touchdown in each of the first 14 quarters of the season.
“They have a hard-hitting defense,” Kaepernick said. “In the second half they had us under control pretty well. But we didn’t play well offensively in the second half.”
The Pack defense enjoyed a pair of game-changing moments in the second half.
Trailing 24-10, BYU had an excellent chance to get back in the game with just under six minutes to play in the third quarter. Facing a 4th-and-4 play from the Pack 16-yard line, the Cougars elected to go for the first down and possible touchdown. Pack linebacker James-Michael Johnson and defensive end Ryan Coulson, though, brought down BYU running back Bryan Kariya after a 3-yard gain to end the key drive.
The Pack defense also sealed the victory late in the fourth quarter after Kaepernick was intercepted for the first time this year deep in Wolf Pack territory (28-yard line).
Pack defensive tackle Brett Roy sacked BYU freshman quarterback Jake Heaps for a 10-yard loss on 4th-and-5 from the Wolf Pack 23-yard line to end the drive with 3:48 to play.
“This win gives us confidence,” Kaepernick said. “We just need to keep winning, keep working hard and keep improving.”
The Wolf Pack will be at UNLV next Saturday night (7 p.m.).