Nevada football is just five weeks away from opening the year against UC Davis on Aug. 29 at Mackay Stadium. Over the past decade, the Wolf Pack has produced several successful individual seasons on both sides of the ball.
While we wait for Nevada football to run onto the field, here is a list of the 10 best individual seasons from 2010-19.
2010: Colin Kaepernick, quarterback
Colin Kaepernick had a memorable senior season to cap-off a historic Nevada career. He completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 3,022 yards and 21 touchdowns through the air. On the ground, Kaepernick rushed for 1,206 yards and led the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) with 20 rushing touchdowns. Kaepernick’s dual-threat ability led Nevada to a 13-1 regular season record with a stunning 34-31 upset over No. 3 Boise State at Mackay Stadium. He is second all-time in school history with 10,098 passing yards and third all-time with 4,112 rushing yards.
2010: Vai Taua, running back
Running back Vai Taua joined Kaepernick in the backfield to guide the Wolf Pack’s potent rushing attack. Taua led the WAC in rushing his senior year with 1,610 yards and 22 touchdowns from scrimmage. He finished the season with 1,836 yards from scrimmage and earned All-WAC first-team honors as a result. Taua’s 4,588 rushing yards over four years at Nevada still rank first in school history. He enters his second year as an assistant coach with the Wolf Pack and is in his fourth overall season with the program.
2010: Dontay Moch, defensive lineman
Dontay Moch is one of the best edge rushers in Nevada history. His 2010 campaign wasn’t the best in his career, but it was arguably the best single-season mark by an edge rusher this decade. His sack numbers won’t completely wow anyone compared to his 11.5 in 2008, totaling just 8.5. But Moch recorded a conference-best 22.0 tackles-for-loss, dethroning his 20.0 mark set in the season prior for the most in school history. He earned All-WAC first-team honors for the second consecutive season. Moch is the program’s all-time tackles-for-loss leader (63.0)—13.5 more than the second-place finisher Ezra Butler—and trails Jorge Cordova by one sack for the all-time sack lead.
2011: Brett Roy, defensive lineman
After Moch, there was defensive lineman Brett Roy. Roy, who was named to the first-team All American Team by Sports Illustrated, registered 10.0 sacks and 20.5 tackles-for-loss in 2011—both atop the WAC. He was the only player from a non-BCS school to earn such honors. His senior campaign is one of the best for a defensive player in school history. His 20.5 tackles-for-loss are the second-most behind Moch’s 22.0 mark in 2010, while his 10.0 sacks are tied for fourth in school history. Roy finished his Wolf Pack career with 18.0 sacks and 35.0 tackles-for-loss, which both place amongst the Top-10 in school history.
2011: Rishard Matthews, wide receiver
After starting his collegiate career at Bakersfield College, Rishard Matthews transferred to Nevada, where he would play his final two collegiate seasons in 2010-11. After a stout junior season catching passes from Kaepernick in 2010, he inserted his name in the records books in 2011. He capped-off his senior year with 91 receptions, 1,364 yards and eight receiving touchdowns. His 1,364 yards are the sixth-most in school history and the most among any Pack wide receiver this decade. His 91 receptions are currently tied with Bryan Reeves (1993) and Nichiren Flowers (2003) for the ninth-most in program history.
2012: Stefphon Jefferson, running back
Stefphon Jefferson had an illustrious junior season with the Wolf Pack. After finishing fourth on the team with 429 rushing yards and five scores as a sophomore, Jefferson posted a school record 1,883 rushing yards on 5.0 yards per carry. He was the nation’s second-leading rusher and earned All-Mountain West first-team honors in the team’s first year in the conference. He also set the single-season Wolf Pack record for the most rushing touchdowns with 24, joining Colin Kaepernick as the only two players to post 20-plus rushing scores in a single season. Jefferson had 10 100-yard rushing performances that season— the most since Frank Hawkins tallied 11 100-yard games in 1980.
2015: Ian Seau, defensive lineman
Ian Seau, the nephew of 10-time All-Pro and NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau, became the first Nevada player to earn All-Mountain West first-or-second team honors in consecutive seasons since joining the Mountain West in 2012. He totaled 9.0 sacks with 15.5 tackles-for-loss and four forced fumbles in 2015. His 9.0 sacks and four forced fumbles were tied for the conference lead, while his 15.5 tackles-for-loss placed third. Seau’s nine sacks in a season are tied for the eighth-most in program history. The 6-foot-3-inch defensive force finished his Wolf Pack career with 31.0 tackles-for-loss and 17.5 sacks, which both rank among Top-15 in program history.
2015: Dameon Baber, defensive back
Dameon Baber’s numbers may not be as eye-opening as other players on this list, but he impacted Nevada’s secondary as soon as he stepped onto the field. Despite missing the first three games of his freshman season due to redshirting, Baber finished second in the Mountain West Conference and tied for seventh in the FBS with six interceptions. He became the first Nevada player to record six-plus interceptions in a season since Joe Garcia in 2006. His 0.60 interceptions per contest ranked fourth in the nation to go along with 65 tackles on the year. He earned second team All-Mountain West honors in 2015 and patrolled the Wolf Pack’s secondary for the next three seasons.
2016: James Butler, running back
James Butler followed up his impressive sophomore campaign with an even better junior season in 2016. He rushed for 1,336 yards with 12 scores and added 37 receptions for 381 receiving yards and three touchdowns. The 5-foot-9-inch running back became a pass-catching option out of the backfield, and he finished fourth in the Mountain West Conference with 1,717 yards from scrimmage. His 111.3 rushing yards per game that year ranked 21st in the nation. Butler was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week on Nov. 26 in the season finalé against UNLV, rushing for a career-high 196 yards with four total touchdowns on 32 carries.
2018: Malik Reed, linebacker
Nevada linebacker Malik Reed wrecked havoc defensively in his senior season. He led the Wolf Pack with eight sacks and 15.5 tackles-for-loss, which ranked 27th in the nation. He also ranked second on the team with 77 tackles. Reed had four forced fumbles and scored his first career touchdown on a 48-yard fumble recovery against Oregon State. Reed finished the year earning first-team All-Mountain West honors and shared the Golden Helmet Award with quarterback Ty Gangi, an award given to Nevada’s most valuable player. Reed signed ith the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2019.
Isaiah Burrows and Matt Hanifan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SagebrushSports.