The University of Nevada Wolf Pack returned home to Reno to face intrastate rival UNLV today.
The Pack has had a rough start to the season with four consecutive road games, two of which were against Top 5 teams.
After being blown out by Oregon in Week 1, Nevada managed to defeat San Jose State in Week 2. They had Texas Tech on the ropes for most of the game in Week 3, but let the game slip away in the final seconds to lose 35-34. Week 4 saw the Wolf Pack get outclassed by the Boise State Broncos in a 30-10 defeat.
So today's first home game against their primary rival was very important. The Wolf Pack took all their frustrations out on the Runnin' Rebels in a dominating performance and won 37-0.
The stats are astonishing. The Pack rushed for 236 yards, passed for 459 and amassed 695 yards of total offense.
UNLV was held to 102 yards rushing and eight yards passing. Nevada had 31 first downs and converted on third downs on 9-of-14 attempts. UNLV only had seven first downs and converted on only 1-of-14 third downs.
The Wolf Pack used two QBs. Freshman Cody Fajardo started the game and was 11-for-15 for 93 yards. He had no TDs and threw two interceptions.
Senior QB Tyler Lantrip saw a lot of playing time and performed much better than he had in the first four games which he started. Lantrip, who continues to wear a glove on his throwing hand, was 18-for-29 for 366 yards and three TDs with one interception.
Rishard Matthews led Nevada receivers and had a career best day with 10 catches for 220 yards and one TD. He had his longest career reception going 90 yards for a score. It was his best day since his breakout game in the win over Boise State last year.
Stephon Johnson carried the ball for the Pack and had 100 yards on 17 carries. Mike Ball saw no action and Lampford Mark also carried the ball.
It was a sloppy game overall. Nevada had five turnovers, while UNLV had two. Nevada had five penalties for 35 yards compared to UNLV's five for 38 yards.
The Pack defense was impressive. LBs James Michael Johnson and Brandon Marshall continued to dazzle. But the defensive monster today was Brett Roy who had five solo tackles, three assists, three tackles for loss and a sack. Roy is among the top five defensive linemen in the nation.
Some commentators seemed surprised by Nevada's dominating performance. Their record coming into the game certainly suggested they were not very good. But looking a little deeper at their first four games, it becomes clear that Nevada may not be as bad as their 1-3 start suggests.
Yes, they were pretty pathetic against Oregon. But against San Jose State, they actually dominated the game. They had Texas Tech down 21-7 at one point, and really should have won that game.
Even last week in Boise with a dreadful offense, the Pack held Boise to its lowest point total, 30, and narrowest margin of victory this year, 20. Even Georgia couldn't do that. BSU beat Fresno State 57-7 yesterday.
My point is this: Nevada has a decent and improving defense. Let's see if anybody else can hold Boise State to 30 points this season.
Finally, the early road trip is turning out to be a blessing in disguise. Compared to Oregon, Texas Tech and Boise State, UNLV had to be welcome relief. The Pack will not face any other ranked teams from here on out. They are currently 1-0 in the WAC, and resume conference play next week.
Now, UNLV demolished Hawaii, the early season pick to win the WAC. Nevada dominated UNLV. Fresno State was blasted by BSU 57-7. Nevada held BSU to 30 points.
So here's the way I see things shaping up: Nevada is clearly not on the same level as the Oregon's and Boise States, but among the second tier, they are very competitive.
I think Nevada will fare well against their WAC competition. Thus far, Utah State looks to be playing good football and could be a challenge. I think Nevada has gained a lot confidence and will now enjoy a string of wins and will improve their record.
The Nevada Wolf Pack are now 2-3. I still think a 9-3 season and an outright WAC championship is possible. Now who would have thought that after Week 1?