The battle for the Fremont Cannon started out perfect for the Nevada Wolf Pack. After forcing UNLV to punt on the opening possession, Nevada quickly marched 79 yards down the field capped off McLane Mannix touchdown catch.
The Pack then scored two more unanswered touchdowns and pushed their lead up to 20-0 — kicker Ramiz Ahmed missed the extra point attempt after the third touchdown.
The following Rebels possession ended prematurely after a Max Gilliam fumble that was recovered by Nephi Sewell at UNLV’s 18-yard line. The Wolf Pack only gained six yards and settle for a field goal. With a 23-0 lead early in the second quarter, Nevada was rolling on all cylinders.
UNLV responded quickly with their first score thanks to a 38-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Armani Rodgers to Lexington Thomas. Gangi threw his first of three interceptions on a deep ball on the following Nevada drive. Once again UNLV scored going 72 yards in just over two and a half minutes. The Rebels narrowed the Wolf Pack lead to nine with 9:47 remaining in the first half.
Needing to regain the momentum punted on each of their next two possessions. Both punter Quinton Conaway’s punts hurt the Wolf Pack in the field position game as the Rebels started at their own 43-yard line and the Nevada 48-yard line. The latter drive ended with the Rebels finding pay dirt for the third time of the night. The 23-21 score was the closest margin was in the first half.
Nevada closed the half with a 13-play drive that once again end an Ahmed field goal. The Pack ended the half with a 26-21 lead.
The third quarter was relatively quiet, as there was only one score during period. The Rebels took their first lead of the night after Rogers completed a pass to an open Noah Bean in the corner of the endzone.
The Wolf Pack reclaimed lead after a 10-play, four minute and thirty nine second drive was finished with Ahmed’s third field goal of the night. After forcing UNLV to punt, Nevada’s next drive was abruptly ended after another Ty Gangi pick, just outside of the redzone. The turnover proved costly as the Rebels went 73 yards in 12 plays finished by a touchdown on three-yard run for Rogers. Up 34-29, the Rebels attempted a two-point conversion to bring their lead to seven. Rogers designed quarterback run was snuffed out by the defense and UNLV had to put the game in the hands of their defense.
With just over two minutes remaining, the Wolf Pack had one last chance to win the game and give Jay Norvell, Ty Gangi and the rest of the Nevada squad a chance to pull off a comeback after blowing a 23-point lead.
Gangi threw his third and final interception of the night, sealing Nevada’s fate. Gangi’s inaccuracy, the offense’s inconsistency led to the end of the Wolf Pack’s four-game winning streak and their two-game winning streak against the Rebels.
Nevada finishes the regular season 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the Mountain West Conference. Their conference record is tied for second with Hawai’i in the west division. The 7-5 record is Nevada’s best since the 2014 season. Nevada still has one more game to play this season, as they clinched a bowl berth for the first time in three years.
Darion Strugs can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @dstrugs.