“That's the one thing I was thinking about the whole game - just keeping the cannon blue,” said Nevada's running back, Luke Lippincott said.
Not only did Nevada beat its biggest rival, but to make the deal sweeter, it got its first win of the season.
“This win doesn't heal wounds,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “When you are 0-3, you are fighting for your identity. We knew we were a better team that what we've been this season."
Nevada (1-3) cashed in on its first drive. In seven plays, the Wolf Pack scored on a 12-yard run by Lippincott. For the second score, Mike Ball got a handoff from Colin Kaepernick for a 10-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead for the Wolf Pack with just under the five minute mark. It was also Ball’s first collegiate touchdown, capping the 74-yard offensive sequence in nine plays for Nevada,
The Rebels (2-3) gained possession on their own 18-yard line and went on to march 82 yards on a drive that spanned the first and second quarters. The Rebels’ Channing Trotter took a handoff and scored for UNLV, cutting Nevada’s lead in half, 14-7.
Nevada went right back to work. A 14-yard pass from Kaepernick to Brandon Wimberly put Nevada in the red zone on the UNLV 7-yard line, for a first and goal. Ball picked up his second touchdown with the 1-yard run. That made the score 21-7 with 10:25 left in the half.
A huge factor in Nevada getting the yardage that it did was the strength in the offensive line.
“Our offensive line made the difference in this game,” Ault said. “They played outstanding."
The rest of the team agreed.
“"Breaking the school rushing record speaks for itself,” Kaepernick said. “Our offensive line just dominated up front."
Nevada totaled 559 rushing yards, which was indeed a school record. Ball, Kaepernick and Lippincott all managed to get more than 170 yards each. Nevada also had 214 passing yards. Unfortunately the Wolf Pack also had five fumbles and lost four of them. It also tallied 15 penalties for 168 yards.
“We had deserving penalties. You always have things you can't control,” Ault said.
The Rebels were able to capitalize on a Nevada fumble, needing just 51 seconds to score. UNLV ran three plays, capped by a 39-yard toss from Clausen to Jerriman Robinson for a score over the middle. That pulled the visiting Rebels within one touchdown of the Wolf Pack, 21-14, with 7:27 on the clock.
“They did a good job stripping us,” Ault said. “We kept our poise. We went back out in the second half and kept in our game plan. I thought our players responded great. Our defense played its best game today, in terms of being consistent.”
On its next possession, the Wolf Pack had its third fumble of the game. A Lippincott rush was stripped by Jones and recovered by Mike Grant on the Rebels 37. The Rebels tied things up with 15 seconds to go in the first half. Trotter ran in a 1-yard rush and the score was 21-21 in the North-South rivalry.
The second half was all about Nevada keeping the Cannon blue. To start the second half, Nevada had possession for more than three minutes and went 80 yards in six plays when Ball got his third TD, on a 32-yard rush.
Not too long after, Nevada gave up its fourth fumble of the game and it led to another UNLV touchdown that left the scoreboard reading 28-28.
Lippincott had a 43-yard run on third-and-10 which got Nevada to the 4-yard line. Ball got his fourth touchdown of the game with the 4-yard run, giving Nevada the go-ahead score, 35-28, with 50 seconds left in the third.
With 11:21 left in the game, Kaepernick hooked up with Green for a 17-yard touchdown pass and a 42-28 lead.
“We didn't play well enough to win and the game got away from us late,” UNLV coach Mike Sanford said.
Getting the start for Nevada on Saturday, Lippincott did not disappoint. On the next drive for the Wolf Pack Lippincott got a 64-yard run on the first play of the drive putting Nevada on the 11-yard line. From the 1-yard line, Kaepernick took the snap, passed it behind him to Lippincott who passed it back to Kaepernick for a 6-yard touchdown. It was Lippincott’s first career touchdown pass, and Kaepernick’s first career touchdown reception, leaving less than seven minutes to play.
Nevada wasn’t done. After taking over on its own 9-yard line, Ball rushed for an 89-yard touchdown on the second play of the drive. Nevada only needed 52 seconds to score. It was Ball’s fifth rushing touchdown of the game.
Kaepernick had his seventh game with more than 100 yards Saturday. It was also his second game of 100 or more against UNLV. He totaled 173 rushing yards on 17 carries. Ball had 15 carries for 184 yards and five touchdowns. Lippincott had 19 carries for 170 yards.
With one win under its belt, the Wolf Pack starts WAC play next week, hosting Louisiana Tech at 6:05 p.m.