Nevada appeared well on its way to a decisive victory over New Mexico with an 11-point lead as a fourth quarter started. Then, with 14:32 left in the game, the Lobos returned a fumble 77 yards to pull within a score and let the air was let of the stadium.
It was a play reminiscent of a UNLV’s 52-yard interception return for a touchdown last week in a devastating lost to its rivals, and suddenly, the Wolf Pack found itself facing adversity on the heels of last week’s loss.
The team responded resolutely.
The Wolf Pack scored the final two touchdowns of the game, posted a 517-273 advantage in total yards and raced away to a 35-17 victory over the Lobos on Saturday afternoon for its first Mountain West win of the season. Nevada (3-3, 1-1) rushed for a season-high 351 yards with one-hundred yard efforts from Don Jackson and James Butler, while Tyler Stewart accounted for four touchdowns in a dominant display from the Pack.
New Mexico got on the board first with a 42-yard field goal with 9:36 left in the first quarter, but Nevada led 14-10 at halftime behind a 13-yard touchdown rush by Stewart and a 15-yard scoring run by Butler.
Nevada added to its advantage late in the third quarter as Stewart’s second touchdown run of the game capped an 83-yard drive, putting the Pack in front 21-10 with 3:00 left in the third. The defense forced a quick 3-and-out and the Pack offense had the ball in Lobo territory to start the fourth quarter before Nias Martin’s 77-yard fumble return pulled the Lobos within 21-17.
Just when the contest was in doubt, Nevada put its foot down.
The Pack quickly scored a touchdown in four plays and 75 yards to lead 28-17 with 13:02 left in the game following junior TE Jarred Gipson’s 8-yard TD reception. Senior LB Jordan Dobrich recovered a fumble in the end zone on the Lobos’ next drive, setting up a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive by the Pack offense. Stewart hit junior WR Jerico Richardson with a 27-yard TD reception, putting Nevada ahead 35-17 with 78 seconds left in the game.
Junior DB Elijah Moody clinched Nevada’s victory with his first career interception, picking off a pass at midfield with 1:03 left in the contest. The Wolf Pack lined up in the victory formation and kneeled the ball twice to clinch the victory.
Nevada outgained New Mexico by 244 yards while setting season-high marks in total offense (517), touchdowns (5), first downs (30), rushing yards (351), yards per play (7.1) and fewest yards allowed (273).
Player of the Game: Take your pick - Nevada left plenty of options for its player of the game selection. Stewart set a career-high in completion percentage (84.2), Jackson (22-152) and Butler (21-145) each rushed for over 100 yards, while Richardson caught nine passes for 121 yards and a score. On the defensive side, Jordan Dobrich tallied a game-high and season-high 12 tackles with one fumble recovery.
Play of the Game: Facing a fourth down with less than two minutes remaining in the game, Nevada elected to go for it with the ball on New Mexico’s 27-yard line. The decision paid dividends. Stewart threw to Richardson behind the first down sticks on a short hook route. Richardson turned up-field, juked an attempted tackle on the corner who was covering him, and sprinted past the Lobo defense for a 27-yard TD reception with 1:08 left on the clock. The play put Nevada ahead 35-17 and clinched Nevada’s first MW victory of the season.
What it Means: Put it in the words of Don Jackson in the Wolf Pack’s postgame press conference – “This one feels good, man.” The Wolf Pack faced adversity after last week’s loss in the Battle for the Fremont Cannon, but the team responded in a big way. Nevada’s thorough performance against the Lobos re-established its pursuit for a title in the Mountain West and will have the Wolf Pack once again feeling confident about its abilities.
Up Next: Nevada returns to the road next week, playing at Wyoming this Saturday, Oct. 17. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. PT at War Memorial Stadium. The game will be broadcast digitally on ESPN3. The Cowboys (0-5, 0-1) are playing at Air Force tonight in Colorado Springs, Colo. Nevada leads the series history against Wyoming, 3-2.
Nevada Press Release