It’s not going to win any beauty pageants. But fourth-year coach Brian Polian will never apologize for a win.
Nevada jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter of Friday’s season opener against Cal Poly at Mackay Stadium before needing overtime to escape with a 30-27 victory.
It is now the third straight season the Wolf Pack (1-0, 0-0) has opened the season with a ho-hum home win over an FCS opponent out of the Big Sky. Nevada bested Southern Utah, 28-19, to start 2014 and got past UC Davis, 31-17, in last year’s opener.
James Butler is expected to carry much of the load this season and broke the 100-yard barrier for the 11th time in his career. Penn State transfer Akeel Lynch is anticipated to carry the rock a decent amount as well in 2016, but finished with just 21 yards on four carries.
The inexperienced defensive Nevada front had a tough time with Cal Poly’s triple-option offense, allowing the Mustangs to run for 383 yards on 71 attempts. Cal Poly led the nation in rushing a season ago, averaging 387 rushing yards a contest.
Cal Poly, which ran 83 plays compared with Nevada’s 58, wore down the defense in the second half, scoring a pair of unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 24.
Quarterback Dano Graves scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:20 left in the fourth (he finished with 148 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries) and the Mustangs lined up to go for two and potentially take a 25-24 lead. A false start penalty led to a PAT.
Nevada’s defense forced a 37-yard field goal try on Cal Poly’s first possession of overtime. Butler sent everyone home with a walk off 5-yard touchdown run.
Things get exponentially more tough for Nevada next Saturday, at No. 10 Notre Dame.
-Tonight’s win is the third season-opening win for the Pack under Brian Polian. Nevada is 61-45-3 all-time in season openers.
-Junior RB James Butler eclipsed the 100-yard rushing marker for the 11th time in his career (21 carries for 123 yards). Dating back to last year, this is Butler’s fourth 100-yard effort in his last five games.
-Nevada is now 6-6 during its FBS era in overtime games. The Pack has won back-to-back overtime contests along with last year’s victory over San Jose State at home.
-Nevada had nine players catch a pass in tonight’s game, that’s the most in the Brian Polian era and the most since Sept. 8, 2012 versus South Florida
-Wyatt Demps first career touchdown reception put Pack ahead 14-0 early in first quarter, six yard catch.
-First career reception in the fourth quarter for sophomore TE Brandon Scott.
-First career reception near the end of the second quarter for sophomore WR Andrew Celis.
-First career reception in the second quarter for freshman RB Jaxson Kincaide.
-Dameon Baber recovered a fumble for the first time in his career on Cal Poly’s opening drive.
-Senior LB Alex Bertrando – 10 total tackles
-Junior DE Patrick Choudja – 8 total tackles
-Sophomore WR Andrew Celis – two catches for 47 yards
-Freshman RB Jaxson Kincaide – two catches for 16 yards
-Sophomore TE Brandon Scott – one catch for six yards
-First time Nevada scored touchdowns on its first two drives of the game since its win over UC Davis last season.
-Nevada’s 21 first quarter points are tied for the most points scored in that quarter since Nov. 21, 2009 when the Pack scored 28 in the first against New Mexico State (has scored 21 points in the first quarter four other times since).
-Tyler Stewart began the game 7-of-7 for 82 yards and two touchdowns before his first incomplete pass in the middle of the second quarter.
-Senior PK Brent Zuzo’s streak of 650 days since his last missed field goal from inside 50 yards came to an end with a miss from 38 yards in the fourth quarter. He had made 19 consecutive from inside 50.
-Senior P Alex Boy recorded a career-long punt of 71 yards in the third quarter (previous long was 68 at Texas A&M last season).