Freshman Ryan Mathews ran for 171 yards and
three touchdowns, Clifton Smith scored on a 67-yard punt return and
A.J Jefferson returned a blocked field goal 40 yards for another
score Saturday as Fresno State beat Nevada 49-41.
Mathews scored on runs of 3, 54 and 67 yards, the longest coming
on the second half's first play from scrimmage. That opened up a
35-13 lead for the Bulldogs (3-2, 2-0 in the Western Athletic
Conference), who totaled 307 yards rushing, including Lonyae
Miller's 72-yard TD run to seal the victory with 12:35 left in the
Nevada freshman quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who replaced the
injured starter Nick Graziano in the second quarter, completed
23-of-36 passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns for the Wolf Pack
(2-3, 0-1 WAC). But two of the touchdowns came after the game had
been decided - a 36-yarder to Luke Lippincott with 28 seconds left
and a 34-yarder to Adam Bishop with 3 seconds on the clock.
It marked the first time in his 23-year coaching career that
Nevada's Chris Ault lost to Fresno State in Reno, where the Wolf
Pack's home record is now 17-4 since Ault returned to the sidelines
three years ago.
Nevada pulled to within 35-20 on Kaepernick's 10-yard touchdown
pass to Brandon Fragger with 9 minutes left in the third quarter.
But Smith ran 15 yards for his second touchdown of the game on
the next series to put the Bulldogs ahead 42-20 with 2:36 remaining
in the quarter.
The Wolf Pack threatened to score again when Mike McCoy took a
33-yard pass from Kaepernick to the 1 yard line, but two plays
later nose tackle Jason Shirley forced Fragger to fumble and
linebacker Ben Jacobs recovered it in the end zone.
Tom Brandstater completed 10-of-16 passes for 168 yards. Miller
finished with 95 yards rushing on 12 carries for the Bulldogs.
Marko Mitchell caught nine passes for 135 yards and McCoy
grabbed five passes for 116 yards for Nevada.
Trailing 21-13 late in the second quarter, Kaepernick scrambled
14 yards and dove into the goal-line pylon, but the touchdown was
called back because offensive lineman John Bender was called for a
15-yard penalty for a hand to the face mask of a Bulldog defender.
On the next play, Mitchell dropped his second pass of the game
and when Brett Jaekle tried a 46-yard field goal, Bulldog tight end
Bear Pascoe blocked it. Smith came out of the pile with the ball
and raced to the end zone for a 28-13 lead 1:45 before the half.
On Fresno State's first series of the game, Mathews carried
three consecutive times for 16, 6 and 3 yards - the last one for a
touchdown and a 7-3 lead with 9:09 left in the first quarter.
A minute later, Smith returned a punt for a touchdown for the
fourth time in his career.
Nevada managed to move inside the Bulldogs' 20 on Graziano's
43-yard pass to Mitchell, but Jacobs tackled Fragger for a 3-yard
loss and Jon Monga sacked Graziano for a 3-yard loss. The Wolf Pack
settled for another 36-yard field goal by Jaekle to pull within
14-6 12:05 before the half.
Fresno State got the ball back when Alex Rosenbloom fumbled a
punt at Nevada's 17. Two plays later offensive tackle Andrew
Jackson was called for a 15-yard personal foul and Clint Stitser
ended up missing a 40-yard field goal attempt.
On the next series, Kaepernick replaced Graziano - who injured
his leg when he was sacked - and hit Mitchell in the back of the
end zone for a 9-yard score to pull within 14-13 with 5:22 left in
the first half.
But A.J. Jefferson returned the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to
Fresno's 46 and Mathews ran 54 yards for a touchdown to go ahead
21-13 at 5:04.