"You have to find a way to win in the fourth quarter," barked Nevada head coach Chris Ault last night in Fresno.
In what must have been a bitter loss, the Bulldogs watched an upset victory over No. 21 Nevada vanish in the closing minutes, as the Wolf Pack did as Ault suggested. They found a way to win in the fourth quarter.
Furious comebacks are nothing new for Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick. Over the past three seasons, he's engineered drives to lead the Wolf Pack back from significant deficits against Boise State, only to lose by tiny margins. Last night, his comeback did not fall short.
Nevada edged Fresno State, 35-34.
Nevada came back from deficits not once, but twice to take the lead at key moments in the game. After trailing throughout the entire first half, the Wolf Pack had two scores in 27 seconds to take a lead into the locker room at halftime.
Fresno State came back in the second half and regained the advantage, only to watch Nevada pull out the win in the final minutes.
Not one, but two thrilling come-from-behind, last-minute drives in a single game was enough to get the crowd gathered to watch it at the Capital Saloon in Woodland, California, to either stand and cheer or stare in disbelief.
Woodland, not far from Fresno, has a large contingent of both Bulldog and Wolf Pack fans, and they turned out to watch this game in the area's most popular watering hole. I figured it would be a good vantage point from which to watch the game.
Fresno State fans did most of the cheering, as the Bulldogs actually dominated much of the game. Despite the Bulldogs' besting of the Wolf Pack in first downs, rushing yards, passing yards, total offense and time of possession, it was the Nevada fans who were cheering at the end of the game.
The keys to Nevada's win were stout defense when it was needed and their not-to-be-denied QB, Colin Kaepernick. At times, the Pack defense seemed off-kilter and gave up some big plays. But when it absolutely had to stop the Bulldogs, it did.
The other factor was Kaepernick. Playing in front of some 200 family and friends from nearby Turlock, Kaepernick reminded folks why it was an enormous mistake for California schools to have failed to recruit him.
After beating Fresno for the third time, and following up on the thrashing he delivered to Cal earlier this season, California head coaches must be wondering how the former Pittman High School player was missed.
Kaepernick has now passed for 9,237 yards and rushed for 3,852 yards. With three regular season games and a bowl appearance guaranteed, the speedy QB needs 148 more rushing yards to be the only player in NCAA history in the 9,000/4,000 club.
Kaepernick went 10-for-26 for 171 yards while rushing for 152 yards on 16 carries, with two TDs. He now has 54 rushing TDs and needs three more to tie Tim Tebow for second place in NCAA history for rushing TDs by a QB. The all-time record of 59 is held by Eric Crouch, and that record is within reach.
ESPN commentators noted that Kaepernick has season stats that compare favorably and even surpass other dual-threat QBs such as Terrelle Pryor and Cam Newton. But one must consider career stats to truly get a sense for Kaepernick's imprint on the game.
Kaepernick will likely finish his career as the only player in history to pass for over 9,000 yards and rush for over 4,000, will be the only player to pass for over 2,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 three times, and be among the top three in NCAA history for rushing yards and rushing TDs by a QB.
Kaepernick isn't just the best dual-threat QB this season, he is arguably the best in NCAA history.
Doubters need only ask the folks at the Capital Saloon about that.