Nevada Football: Wolf Pack Wins Second Straight, 34-24 Over New Mexico
A very good defense, offensive and special teams performance propel Nevada to its second straight victory over New Mexico
Wolf Pack Defeat Lobos To Win Their Second Straight Game
After losing 16 straight games, the Nevada Wolf Pack have won back to back contests for the first time in more than a year. That last sentence was something I did not think would happen this season but here we are.
The Wolf Pack turned in a very good performance on defense, offense and special teams to secure a 34-24 victory over New Mexico on Saturday night. It was one of the rare times during the Ken Wilson era that Nevada played well in all three facets of the game. The Wolf Pack at the half had shut out the Lobos 23-0 and the 23 points were the most points scored under Coach Wilson.
The Nevada defense that held the Aztec offense to zero points last week, didn’t shut out New Mexico for the whole game. But the Wolf Pack defense played great in the first half forcing three turnovers and played well enough in the second half to hold off the Lobos comeback push and secure the victory.
The win over New Mexico is the most complete game Nevada has played in a long time. While the defense continued its great play, the offense played well as they scored 27 points in the win. The Wolf Pack offense has been inconsistently bad for most of the season but they turned in a good performance as they were aided by the strong play of the Nevada defense.
It was an offensive performance that Nevada needed in order to win their second straight game. Nevada did not come away from the New Mexico game injury free however. The Wolf Pack had two offensive linemen who were injured during the game and QB Brendon Lewis ( 8 for 16 passing, 92 yards, 11 rushes 64 yards ) left the game due to an injury.
Freshman QB AJ Bianco stepped in and played well and helped extend the Wolf Pack lead late in the game. Overall, a very good effort for Nevada on a cold night in Reno.
The action in the game started in the first quarter where Nevada got on the scoreboard first when Brandon Talton connected on a 34 yard field goal. The score put Nevada up 3-0 early in the game.
On New Mexico’s next offensive series, the Lobos went for it on fourth down and QB Dylan Hopkins had his pass intercepted by Nevada linebacker Jonathan Maldonado. Maldonado, the LB who recovered the fumble to secure the win against SDSU last week, turned in another big play this week. Nevada converted that Lobo mistake into three points on another Talton field goal to put Nevada up 6-0 in the second quarter.
New Mexico turned the ball over again on their next offensive possession when Hopkins had his pass picked off by DB Richard Toney Jr., Toney Jr., returned the ball 43 yards to the endzone and the Talton PAT put Nevada up 13-0.
Nevada was up 16-0 on New Mexico when Hopkins threw his third interception of the night. This time it was DB Michael Coats Jr., who recorded the interception.
After that Lobo turnover, the Nevada offense was able to convert that into an offensive touchdown (Don’t adjust your screens, I did type that). WR/RB Jamaal Bell (11 rushes, 76 yards, 1 touchdown 2 receptions, 2 yards ) scored on a nine yard touchdown run and Brendon Lewis scored on a two point conversion to put Nevada up 24-0 at the end of the first half.
In the second half, the Lobos began to cut into the Wolf Pack lead. First, New Mexico got on the board when PK Luke Drzewiecki connected on a 46 yard field goal to make it 24-3 Nevada.
Then Nevada was forced to punt and gave the ball back to the New Mexico offense. Once they had the ball, the Lobos offense scored quickly. Hopkins (18 for 34 271 yards, 1 TD 3 INTs) connected with WR Jeremiah Hixson on a 59 yard touchdown pass. The point after cut Nevada’s lead to 24-10 midway through the third quarter.
Nevada’s offense seemed to be on the ropes especially after Brendon Lewis went out of the game due to injury. With the Lobos chopping away at the Wolf Pack lead, the Nevada offense showed up at the right time. Nevada’s offense went on an 11 play, 81 yard drive that took more than seven minutes off of the clock in the third quarter.
That long offensive drive, led by freshman QB AJ Bianco did not yield a touchdown but it did yield three points. Brandon Talton’s 22 yard field goal (his fourth of the game) extended the Wolf Pack lead to 27-10 going into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, after the Wolf Pack defense forced New Mexico to punt. Nevada’s offense went to work and capped off an eight play, 32 yard drive with a two yard touchdown run by Jacques Bardalato-Birdsell. That touchdown run and the PAT further extended Nevada’s lead to 34-10.
New Mexico did score twice late in the fourth quarter. Their first score was when Lobos QB Devin Dampier scored on a four yard touchdown run and combined with the converted two point conversion, made the score 34-18 Nevada. And the Lobos final score was when RB Jacory Crosky Merritt scored on a two yard touchdown run to make the final score 34-24 Nevada.
There are some things to work on and improve upon but Nevada turned in a very good performance in the win over New Mexico. With Brendon Lewis out due to injury, AJ Bianco stepped in and did a solid job leading the offense. The defense forced turnovers and put the offense in a position to put points on the board either through touchdowns or field goals.
Now Nevada must continue to play well and improve on those weak areas in order to continue this winning streak. Nevada will be back in action next week in Reno against Hawaii.