Nevada, ranked 18th in the country, built a 28-point halftime lead, 31-3, as it improved to 10-1 overall and 5-1 in WAC tilts, setting up Friday night’s highly anticipated game against fourth-ranked Boise State (10-0, 6-0) here in northern Nevada.
"It is going to be a great opportunity for us," Nevada coach Chris Ault said. "And they are coming to Mackay. That's pretty special."
"Boise's defense is as good as there is. And their offense is the best they've ever had. We have our work cut out for us," he said.
The win was the 500th in the program’s history.
The Wolf Pack offense put together its usual impressive performance, but the defense was solid as well, limiting the Aggies to just a pair of field goals and even keeping them out of the red zone until the latter half of the final quarter. It was the second time this fall Nevada had held an opponent without a touchdown.
"Our defensive effort was outstanding," Ault said. "We had 11 tackles for a loss. That's pretty doggone good."
Nevada went right to work offensively. The Wolf Pack took the opening kickoff and proceeded to march 75 yards on 14 plays. The result was a 2-yard Vai Taua touchdown run that lifted the Wolf Pack into a 7-0 lead with 9:17 showing on the first-quarter clock.
The Wolf Pack padded its early edge by adding a 36-yard field goal from Anthony Martinez less than three minutes later. A Nevada drive stalled at the NMSU 19, but the Pack came away with points after the Martinez boot left 6:38 to go in the initial quarter. The key play on the 53-yard drive was a 37-yard Kaepernick to Virgil Green hookup down the sideline.
Nevada continued to build on its advantage. With 12:47 to go in the second half, Kaepernick found a wide-open Green running down the middle. He hit him for a 22-yard touchdown connection, helping the Wolf Pack forge ahead 17-0.
The touchdown pass was the 79th all-time for Kaepernick, making him the school’s all-time leader in that category.
The key sequence on the four-play, 70-yard drive came when Kaepernick broke loose for a 26-yard run. New Mexico State was flagged for a personal foul on the play for throwing the Pack QB to the ground after he had already been forced out of bounds, giving Nevada 15 free yards.
It looked like the margin would be 24-0 at the break after Kaepernick tacked on a 9-yard touchdown run following a read-option play with 3:40 still left in the first half, capping a seven-play, 52-yard scoring march.
That wasn’t the case as each team scored in the final minute.
New Mexico State got the goose egg off its half of the scoreboard with 52 ticks left before the intermission. That was the result of a 47-yard Aggies field goal by Tyler Stampler.
Nevada didn’t need much time to answer and it did just that. Thirty seconds after the Aggies’ field goal, Kaepernick hit Taua with a strike down the sideline and the Pack back bolted 79 yards for another Nevada touchdown. That left the Wolf Pack with a 31-3 edge at halftime.
"They were in man coverage and Kap threw a perfect ball," Taua said. "If I would have dropped it they probably would have taken me out of the game."
Like the scoreboard, the stat sheet was one-sided as well at the break. Nevada racked up 348 yards of total offense (218 passing, 130 rushing) in the first two quarters. Conversely, New Mexico State had just 107 yards of total offense and had not entered the red zone.
NMSU made it 31-6 on its second drive of the second half. Stampler notched his second field goal of the game, a 39-yard try, with 9:08 to go in the third quarter.
Nevada’s scoring prowess didn’t disappear after halftime. Taua collected his third touchdown of the game on a 7-yard scoring scamper with 4:44 left in the third quarter. The Pack had used 11 plays to go 52 yards to pay dirt and grab a 38-6 lead.
Taua wrapped up his day with 111 yards on 22 carries. It was the 24th time he eclipsed the century mark during his Wolf Pack career. That is the most 100-yard rushing games of any active player in the nation.
Nevada wasn’t done. It added a sixth touchdown on the day when Lampford Mark got through the line untouched and bolted 57 yards to the goal line for a score with 10:30 still left on the game clock, extending the local team’s lead to 45-6.
The Wolf Pack had done all of its scoring damage to that point without the help of a New Mexico State turnover. That all changed with 5:17 to go in the game when Nevada defensive back Khalid Wooten returned an interception 90 yards for a score, pushing Nevada on top 52-6. The scoring return was tied for the third longest in school history.