Wolf Pack Nip Bulldogs
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No pregame to speak of here; the South Carolina/Florida game went long.
14:00 – ESPN just switched over and Fresno State is driving already.
12:37 – The Bulldogs draw first blood with a steady mix of power running and timely passing… I think.
7-0 Fresno State
10:37 – Nevada's pistol offense wastes two minutes—but not a second more—on striking back as quarterback Colin Kaepernick dashes thirty-seven yards for a touchdown.
8:44 – Ryan Colburn, the southpaw QB for Fresno State, can't miss right now… except for that one incompletion…
8:12 - … and this one just now that was thrown into double coverage in the end zone. Other than that, though, this guy can't miss.
8:08 – That was unreal. Colburn kept the play going and going and going and then finally found a receiver to convert 3rd and 5; the Bulldogs are known for their power running, so Colburn being on can be exploited for huge benefits…
7:42 - …like right there.
14-7 Fresno State
3:25 – The Wolf Pack are keeping pace solely because of Kaepernick right now; he just broke a 49 yard run and was tackled by the horse collar at the end of it.
1:24 – Now, Kaepernick is also responsible for throwing an interception in the red zone; the Bulldogs come up with a major stop.
0:07 – It turns out Colburn can run as well, but he won't have to if he maintains his accuracy.
END FIRST QUARTER. FRESNO STATE LEADS 14-7.
9:34 – Fresno State has gone to its patented power running game and has had the ball for all but one minute of the entire quarter so far, but all it has amounted to at this point is a forthcoming 55-yard field goal attempt…
9:28 - … which is missed by Kevin Goessling.
9:13 – More proof that Kaepernick is doing this by himself: He breaks off another big run, but holding is called on Nevada.
6:53 – Robbie Rouse is running all over the Wolfpack defense, but it only serves another field goal attempt on this drive, but it is made this time.
17-7 Fresno State
1:59 – Is there a receiver that will help Kaepernick or are they all going to make like you do when you sing the last line of "Ring Around the Rosie"?
1:28 – Good for Malcolm Shepherd as he becomes the first Nevada player not named ‘Colin Kaepernick' to make a significant impact on offense; he has three catches for forty-four yards on this drive.
1:01 – Vai Taua finishes the drive with a basic power run up the middle; the Wolfpack are back in now that other skill players are contributing.
17-14 Fresno State
0:44 – Wow, that cannot happen in this situation. Colburn had been playing mistake-free so far, but he lets the ball slip out of his hand and Nevada has the ball at the Fresno 20.
0:37 – Receiver Brandon Wimberly is getting in on the offensive act as well as he makes a beautiful catch on the sidelines and would've scored if he had managed to stay in bounds.
0:34 – Bang. Just like that, the Wolfpack have the lead on Taua's second touchdown run in the last twenty-seven seconds.
0:28 – Naturally, Nevada squibs the ensuing kickoff, but, unnaturally, Fresno State can't handle it and the kicking team recovers…
0:00 - … but no further damage is done—doing more would have been inhumane on the part of the Wolfpack.
HALFTIME. NEVADA LEADS 21-17.
Coming into the game, it was going to be Nevada's pistol versus Fresno's power running, but until the last few minutes of the half, it was Fresno State versus Colin Kaepernick; it was in those last few minutes that it became Fresno State versus Fresno State. Sure, Malcolm Shepherd and Brandon Wimberly got into the act with some big catches for the Wolfpack, but the unforced errors by the Bulldogs are the main reason the score changed so drastically in such a short amount of time. Obviously, the team that can avoid further unforced errors will be the one in the best position to lose to Boise State with the WAC Championship on the line.
13:08 – Fresno State is able to stop Nevada on the latter's first drive and, as an added bonus, blocks the ensuing punt; the Bulldogs would be well-served to take advantage of this field position…
12:55 - … which just got even better after Rouse dashes for twenty-four more yards.
11:52 – With throws like that from Colburn, along with the big runs from Rouse, it's a miracle that the game is this close; the two aforementioned have been the two best players on the field tonight so far (with Kaepernick a very close third).
24-21 Fresno State
9:28 – Nevada comes right back with an "everyone contributes drive"; the video game is on!
6:28 – There goes Rouse out of the Wild Bulldog and Fresno State is back in front; it's almost like clockwork now.
31-28 Fresno State
0:54 – The Bulldogs ran on the first seven plays of this drive and gained sixty yards in doing so, but the play action fake and throw to the end zone that should have worked only led to a pass being caught out of bounds.
END THIRD QUARTER. FRESNO STATE LEADS 31-28
14:54 – On 4th and 3, Pat Hill opts to take the points; we'll see if that pays off because a six-point lead hardly seems safe in a game like this.
34-28 Fresno State
13:10 – Chris Ault shows a little more courage as he goes for it on 4th and 1 in his own territory; the big man, Taua, gets the necessary yardage.
8:42 – The gamble on fourth down has paid off so far for the Wolfpack, but they are faced with another 4th and 1 at the Bulldog 8 yard line; what will Coach Ault do this time?
8:37 – It doesn't work this time; Nevada chewed up about six minutes of clock and came away with nothing.
8:05 – No major harm done, though, as, incredibly, Fresno State goes three-and-out off the turnover on downs and Nevada gets the ball back with good field position.
4:51 – Taua will never have an easier twenty-four yard run than that one; the Wolfpack may have failed on fourth down on their last drive, but they've come out ahead… for now, at least.
1:27 – It possibly came about two quarters too late, but Nevada finally loaded the box and stuffed Fresno State's run game; Colburn, who has been so good all game, had no answer for the Wolfpack blitz on third and fourth down. After all the fireworks, it was a defensive stop—of all things—that decided it once and for all.
GAME OVER. NEVADA WINS 35-34.
Pat Hill's teams don't lose at home very often, but when they do, it's usually because of an ill-timed bad call. Last year, it was the desperation Wild Bulldog play that killed any chance of a comeback against Boise State and this year, it was kicking a field goal on 4th and 3 that would still cause the Bulldogs to lose if they gave up one more touchdown. Credit to Ryan Colburn and Robbie Rouse, though, who both had monster games; it's just a shame that the coach didn't trust either of them to pick up three yards in a critical situation.
Chris Ault had some tough fourth down decisions of his own, but going for it on both of them brought reward even though one of them failed. True, Nevada came away empty-handed on its first fourth quarter drive, but its opponent was left deep in its own territory with plenty of time left; one three-and-out and one touchdown on the ensuing drive later, and the difference in the game was produced. There's a difference between playing to win and playing not to lose—it doesn't take an Ivy League education to figure out which coach embodied which tonight.
Congratulations, Wolfpack, you have earned the right to watch Boise State celebrate yet another WAC Championship on your home turf.