The Wolf Pack, thanks to two touchdown passes by Jeff Rowe and two rushing touchdowns by Drew Robinson, built an early 14-point lead en route to a 42-24 win over San Jose State Saturday night before a crowd of 10,648 at Mackay Stadium.
The win pushed Nevada's record to 5-4, the first time in five weeks that the Wolf Pack have been over the .500 mark. It was also the fifth straight win at home for Nevada. With three weeks left, (SMU, Fresno State and Boise State), Nevada must win two games to get to the needed seven victories.
"I'm pleased," head coach Chris Ault said when informed that it had been a while since the school had won three straight. "We beat decent teams, but not the best in our conference. I'm really pleased. I think the offense did a nice job tonight. We did not turn the ball over. I thought the offense did a good job of taking care of the ball and Jeff was accurate.
"Overall, the defense played well. We gave up a couple of big plays and the kickoff return. We played well against a team that's explosivce and can move the ball."
San Jose State managed just 32 yards on the ground, and you won't win often if you can't establish the run.
It was the fifth time in nine games that Rowe, who finished 25 of 35 for 252 yards, eclipsed the 200-yard mark. Each week he looks more at home under center and running the offense.
"A lot of it (the success) is confidence," Rowe said. "We're starting to come together. I'm on the same page with the receivers."
Nevada took a 7-0 late in the first quarter, putting together a 10-play 65-yard drive that was capped by Jeff Rowe's 4-yard scoring pass to Caleb Spencer. Damon Fine added the extra point.
Rowe completed all five of his pass attempts on the series for 58 yards. Spencer had three of those grabs for 28 yards, including a 23-yard catch on a third-and-14 play for a first down at the San Jose State 46. Rowe found Nichiren Flowers for 12 yards and a first down at the 34. Rowe and Flowers hooked up on a third-and-one play for 18 yards down to the 7. Three plays later, Rowe dropped back and fired a bullet that Spencer reached up right at the goal line and caught. It originally appeared that the pass was meant for Flowers in the back of the end zone, but that wasn't the case.
"It sailed on me," Rowe said. "I meant to hit him in the chest."
The Wolf Pack increased their lead to 14-0 on their next drive following a San Jose State punt, driving 74 yards on 10 plays with B.J. Mitchell scoring from the 1 to end the 5 1/2 minute drive.
The big play was a 12-yard completion to Alex Rosenblum with an ensuing 15-yard facemask penalty called on Josh Powell that gave the Wolf Pack a first down at the Spartan 46. Rowe, who was 3-for-3 on the drive, hit Adam Bishop for a seven-yard gain to the 15, and then threw a screen to Flowers for 14 yards down to the 1, setting up Mitchell's score.
The Spartans lost a golden opportunity to cut Nevada's lead late in the first half after Rosenblum fumbled at the Nevada 28. Five plays later, Thompson was hit by Roosevelt Cooks and fumbled. J.J. Milan recovered at the Nevada 9. Milan had another strong game, finishing with two sacks and the fumble recovery.
It was a rough first half for the Spartans, who allowed four sacks and seven penalties in the opening 30 minutes. San Jose State fumbled four times and lost two of them.
"That fumble before the first half killed our momentum," San Jose State coach Fitz Hill said. "We were hoping to come away with at least three points before the half.
"I have a hard time digesting that (turnovers). Last year we had five fumbles all year and then we have five in the last two games. Protection was a big problem for us. They (the quarterbacks) were on their backs a lot, and that's not a good position for the quarterback."
San Jose State cut the lead to 14-3 with 13 minutes left in the third quarter on Jeff Carr's 39-yard field goal, capping a four-play 20-yard drive, starting a stretch where the teams combined for 24 points the rest of the quarter.
Nevada put together its third scoring drive (out of six chances) on its next possession, driving 80 yards on 10 plays capped by Rowe's 10-yard scoring pass to Spencer, who enjoyed his first two-touchdown game of his career. Spencer picked up a nice block at the line of scrimmage from Flowers. Nevada's offense was so efficient that it never once faced a third-down play on the drive. Fine's PAT made it 21-3.
The Spartans needed less than two minutes to get back into the end zone thanks to a 55-yard pass from Dale Rogers to John Broussard down to the Nevada 3. Lance Martin scored on the next play. Carr's PAT made it 21-10 with 7:42 left.
Nevada needed to take control and did exactly that, scoring on two of its next three possessions.
The first came after linebacker Shaun Tagatauli forced and recovered a fumble at the SJSU 5 when he sacked Rogers.
Nevada scored on the next play. Rowe handed off to Chance Kretschmer, who was going to throw the ball back to Rowe in the left flat. Rowe stumbled, and Kretschmer kept the ball instead and rambled into the end zone. Fine's PAT made it 28-10 with 4:18 left in the third period.
"That's what Chance does is make plays," Rowe said. "I tripped (getting out there). They were in a zone so it's good that he didn't throw the ball."
The fourth quarter was just as wild, as the teams scored at will on each other.
Robinson's 1-yard scoring run with 9:45 left upped the lead to 25 points, 35-10, and essentially put the game out of reach.
Nevada converted two third-down plays on the march. John Broussard did make things interesting for SJSU when he returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a score, but it wasn't nearly enough.
SJSU kicker, Jeff Carr, tied a SJSU record with his 36th straight extra point...