Marcus Lavergne /Nevada Sagebrush
Nevada wide receiver Richy Turner (2) stiff arms Boise State cornerback Jonathan Moxey (30) during the Wolf Pack’s 51-46 loss on Saturday, Oct. 4. Turner was limited to two catches and 36 yards.
By Eric Uribe
Nevada and Boise State didn’t just flip the script during Saturday’s 97-point shootout, both teams completely rewrote it. The rivals rolled up 1,032 yards of offense, made a comedy of errors with seven turnovers and bookended another epic chapter to its history before the Broncos outlasted the Wolf Pack 51-46 in front of the third-largest crowd in Mackay Stadium history (32,327).
“Somehow, we had a chance to win the game at the end, and I’m not sure we deserved that with the way that we played,” Nevada head coach Brian Polian said.
Before Saturday, Wolf Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo had never thrown more than two interceptions in a game. In fact, the senior threw just three all of last season. But Fajardo was intercepted four times during the loss, which the Broncos converted into 28 points.
“You know, I’m man enough to stand up here and say it was on me,” Fajardo said. “My teammates did a wonderful job coming up to me and saying, ‘Keep your head up. Keep fighting. I really appreciate my teammates and coaches sticking through it.”
Stuck through it he did, as Fajardo accounted for 377 yards of offense and five touchdowns — including a 56-yard scamper. The five-touchdown day matched Fajardo’s career-high mark when he scored five on Air Force last season.
“I refuse to put all four interceptions on Cody,” Polian said. “Look, without Cody, we don’t have a chance to win at the end. You have to take the good with the bad. Could he had played better? Of course. But everyone on this team could have played better and coached better — starting with me.”
Meanwhile, Boise State quarterback Grant Hendrick went from goat to hero in the span of a week. After a four-interception outing in last week’s 28-14 loss to Air Force that got him benched, the senior was near perfect on Saturday. Hedrick completed 26-of-31 passes for 346 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Broncos running back and early Mountain West Conference Player of the Year candidate Jay Ajayi was shutdown throughout the game before a 74-yard scamper during the fourth quarter padded his stats to 152 yards off 27 carries.
Boise State, which came into the matchup averaging 27.2 points in four games, hung the most points in their program since dropping 60 on Southern Miss last year.
Nevada’s defense looked nothing like the unit that had surrendered a meager 77 points in its first four games. The Broncos owned the Wolf Pack on third downs, converting 10 of 16 tries.
“This thing could have gotten way out of hand and been a blowout in a heartbeat,” Polian said. “But we fought our tails off. That’s worth repeating. That game could have gotten ugly.”
Boise State led by 15 points heading into the final quarter before Nevada linebacker Ian Seau tipped and intercepted a pass for a 32-yard touchdown to swing the momentum. The turnover was one of three for the Broncos, who also had a botched quarterback-running back exchange and had a butt fumble of their own when Hedrick ran into his own lineman.
“It felt pretty good, but it would have been even better if we would have won,” said Seau of his first-career touchdown.
The Wolf Pack had one last chance to escape with a victory with two minutes to play, two timeouts and the ball at its own 36-yard line. No Mackay miracle this time as Nevada ran out of magic and went three-and out to drop to 3-2 (1-1 MW ).
The Broncos (4-2, 2-1 MW ) avoided losing back-to-back games for the first time since 2005 and extended their winning streak over the Wolf Pack to four games.
“We showed a lot of guts and persevered,” Polian said. “For that, they do deserve credit.”
Nevada has little time to lick its wounds before Colorado State (4-1, 0-1 MW ) comes to Mackay Stadium on Saturday.
Eric Uribe can be reached at euribe@ sagebrush.unr.edu.