Juan Villa / The Collegian
Something was in the air Saturday at Mackay Stadium.
That something was the Fresno State passing game.
In a 49-41 win over Nevada, the Bulldogs put the ball in the air for 168 yards and quarterback Tom Brandstater completed 10 of 16 passes.
Three consecutive carries by Ryan Mathews put the Bulldogs on the board in the first quarterâ€” the first time this season the Bulldogs have scored on their first drive.
Fresno State mixed things up a bit on that 50-yard drive, putting Clifton Smith at quarterback. However, both times the Bulldogs were called for false starts.
Mathews had three touchdowns and 171 yards rushing, 8 yards short of Derrick Wardâ€™s single-game rushing record for a freshman.
â€œI had the flu all this week. I didnâ€™t even practice until Thursday,â€ Mathews said. â€œAfter I ran that big play early in the game, I had to throw up.â€
Smith scored on a 67-yard punt return, giving the â€™Dogs an 11-point lead, which jump-started some big running plays.
â€œWeâ€™ve been working hard all week. We just got out here and we knew we had to run the ball real well,â€ Mathews said.
Halfway through the second quarter, Nevadaâ€™s quarterback Nick Graziano suffered a season-ending foot injury.
â€œHis foot will need to have surgery on Monday and yes, he will be done for the year,â€ Nevada head coach Chris Ault said. â€œHe injured some tendons in his foot.â€
Redshirt freshman quarterback Colin Kaepernick stepped in nicely for Graziano, completing 23 of 36 passes for 384 yards and five touchdowns.
With Fresno State leading 21-13 in the second quarter, Nevadaâ€™s catch-up opportunity came when Kaepernick dove over the goal line after a 14-yard scramble. But a 15-yard facemask penalty brought back the score.
After an incomplete pass on third down, Bear Pascoe blocked a 46-yard field goal attempt by Nevadaâ€™s Brett Jaekle, which was recovered by Bulldog A.J. Jefferson for a 40-yard touchdown return.
Juan Villa / The Collegian
â€œI thought Special teams was good. We blocked a kick for a touchdown,â€ Bulldog head coach Pat Hill said. â€œI thought we played with great effort today.â€
Jefferson returned the opening kick off of the second half 33 yards to set up his former high school teammate Mathews.
On Fresno Stateâ€™s first play of the second half, Mathews scored on a 67-yard run to put the Bulldogs ahead 35-13
Running back Lonyae Miller added a 72-yard score in the fourth quarter and the last Bulldog touchdown of the game.
He had 12 carries and finished with 95 yards rushing.
It wasnâ€™t the last touchdown, however, for the Wolf Pack, who would go on to score 21 points.
Running back Luke Lippincott scored with 28 seconds remaining and tight end Adam Bishop scored on a 34-yard pass with three seconds remaining.
â€œGreat win, great win, a lot of guys having to play a lot different positions. I was very pleased,â€ Hill said. â€œThey got a little sloppy towards the end. We didnâ€™t have the ball very much but we scored on big plays. A lot of big plays and thatâ€™s what we need to get going.â€
This is the first time in Nevadaâ€™s head coach Chris Aultâ€™s 23-year coaching career that his team has lost to Fresno State in Reno.
â€œThe final score doesnâ€™t do this game justice,â€ Hill said. â€œOur guys executed well and fought hard until the end. Iâ€™m proud of this team today.â€