Leading into the 2016 season, the University of Nevada counted down 50 of the greatest memories in Mackay Stadium history to celebrate the stadium’s 50th anniversary this year.
In another 50 years, when 100 of the greatest memories are compiled, odds are good that James Butler’s name will be mentioned a few times.
The Wolf Pack’s junior running back put on a show on Saturday night and lit up the scoreboard as Nevada rolled Buffalo 38-14 in the official 50th anniversary game at Mackay. Butler’s performance – 28 carries for 174 yards and a career-high three touchdowns – was as bright as the halftime fireworks show to commemorate the anniversary.
Butler moved into 14th place on Nevada’s career rushing list, passing Otto Kelly (2,284 yards, 1981-83). His 174 rushing yards were the third most of his stellar career thus far, just 15 off a career high.
The 24-point margin was the second-largest in the Brian Polian era and the most since his first win, a 38-7 victory over UC Davis in 2013. Nevada is now 12-1 under Polian when allowing 19 points or fewer.
Nevada scored in every quarter, building a 24-0 lead at halftime and opening the second half with a score to go up 31-0. The Bulls got on the board with a touchdown with 3:01 left in the third.
Tyler Stewart orchestrated the strong output offensively. He completed 16-of-21 for 160 yards and a touchdown – a 2-yard pass to Wyatt Demps in the fourth quarter. He also ran for 31 yards and another score.
Freshman Jaxson Kincaide rushed for 99 yards on 18 carries and showed that he may emerge behind Butler to form the formidable 1-2 punch Nevada enjoyed in recent years with Butler and the departed Don Jackson.
The Pack used sophomore quarterback Ty Gangi in packages and also had sophomore safety Asauni Rufus take a snap in the triple option. But Stewart took the bulk of the snaps and responded by leading Nevada to a dominant win.
Defensively, Alex Bertrando matched a career high with 10 tackles. Jaden Sawyer recorded a tackle for loss and broke up two passes.
Stewart was a perfect 4-of-4 on Nevada’s opening drive, as he marched the Pack down the field and capped the drive himself with a nine-yard TD run. He threw for 46 yards on the drive and it marked the second straight home game that Nevada marched down for a score on its opening drive.
The Pack defense never broke in the first quarter. Buffalo notched 115 yards in the first 15 minutes but came away with zero points as the Pack forced a punt, a missed field goal and stopped the Bulls short on fourth-and-1 on Buffalo’s first three possesions. Patrick Choudja played a huge roll, sharing a TFL to help set up the field goal attempt and then stonewalling the Bulls on fourth-and-1 at the Pack 43.
Nevada’s second score of the game – a 23-yard field goal by Brent Zuzo – was set up with an electrifying 48-yard run by true freshman Jaxson Kincaide. That made it 10-0 and the Pack wasn’t finished.
Butler made it 24-0 with a pair of second-quarter touchdown runs, two and four yards, respectively and Nevada went into halftime with it’s largest lead at an intermission since a 28-0 lead in 2011 against New Mexico.
Nevada Press Release