Nevada suffered an epic collapse as it watched the visiting Bulldogs erase a 17-point lead with just nine minutes remaining in the game on its way to losing 24-20.
“We had our opportunities, we really did,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “We didn’t find a way to finish in the fourth quarter, on either side of the ball, offensively or defensively. They did, and that’s the difference. They finished, and we did not. I’m just sick about it.”
With a chance to secure at least a share of the Western Athletic Conference title, Nevada came out and dominated the Bulldogs. For dominating both sides of the ball in the fashion that it did though, the Wolf Pack only took a 7-0 lead into the half.
Scoring on a 20-yard pass from quarterback Cody Fajardo to Rishard Matthews just before the end of the first quarter, Nevada looked primed to run away with the game. However, two costly turnovers stalled promising Wolf Pack drives though.
At the intermission, Nevada had managed 272 yards while holding Louisiana Tech to just 43, including negative seven yards rushing. The failure to put more points on the scoreboard would prove costly for Nevada.
“We were moving the ball there,” Ault said. “We gave the ball up. We had some momentum going there. So absolutely, no question that first half, offensively speaking, we should have had more points and didn’t. We didn’t execute. We didn’t get it done.”
Nevada came out of halftime strong, scoring on its first three possessions. After the teams exchanged field goals to start the second half, the Wolf Pack added another field goal and scored a touchdown on a 4-yard run by Stefphon Johnson to take a commanding 20-3 lead with 13 minutes left in the game.
Still Louisiana Tech was far from finished.
On their next drive, the Bulldogs put together an 84-yard drive that was capped off with a 9-yard pass from Colby Cameron to Quinton Patton. The Bulldogs pulled within 20-10 with just over nine minutes remaining.
Forcing a Nevada three-and-out, Louisiana scored another touchdown as it again drove the length of the field. This time, Cameron hit Myles White for a 14-yard touchdown to end an 89-yard drive that brought the Bulldogs within a field goal of tying the game at 20-17 with less than six minutes in the game to go.
Another quick Nevada punt handed the Bulldogs the ball at their own 7-yard line with 2:29 to play. Seven plays later, Louisiana had its first lead of the game as Cameron connected with wide receiver Taulib Ikharo in the left corner of the end zone, leaving the scoreboard reading 24-20 with 51 seconds left.
“It’s really disappointing,” Ault said. “We had our opportunities. That’s the thing that bothers me most. I’m sure when we look at the tape, we’ll look at it and cringe. It’s tough.”
Having dominated for most of the game, the fourth quarter was a catastrophe for the Wolf Pack. After taking the 20-3 lead two minutes into the final quarter, Nevada seemingly fell apart. Up until that point, the Wolf Pack had totaled 450 yards on offense while giving up only 123 yards.
From that point, the Bulldog onslaught began. In the final 13 minutes, Nevada managed just 15 yards of offense while it watched Louisiana Tech go off for 289 yards and three touchdowns.
“We just lost control in the fourth quarter,” Nevada defensive back Isaiah Frey said. “It wasn’t so much them as much as it was us, not making plays when they came our way and things like that. You could tell we were kind of on our heels throughout the fourth quarter. We did that to ourselves.”
Fajardo finished the game with 212 yards passing, along with 125 yards rushing. Lampford Mark gained 112 yards on the ground, while Matthews led the Wolf Pack in receiving with eight catches for 87 yards.
Colby led the Bulldog comeback with 355 yards passing. Patton had seven receptions for 162 yards to lead the receiving effort.
Nevada will now travel to play Utah State Saturday at 11 a.m. in hopes that it can bounce back from the loss.