Nevada Outlasts Arkansas State 16-13 in OT to Win Arizona Bowl

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2018

Nevada quarterback Ty Gangi (6) throws down field in the first half of the Arizona Bowl NCAA college football game against Arkansas State, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

The Nevada Wolf Pack defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves 16-13 in overtime in the Arizona Bowl on Saturday at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona.

Ty Gangi threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Reagan Roberson for the win in overtime. Blake Grupe put Arkansas State up 13-10 after the Red Wolves got the ball first to open the extra frame.

Grupe also sent the game into overtime, nailing a 32-yard field goal as time expired in regulation.

Devonte Lee had given Nevada a 10-7 lead with 1:06 remaining on a one-yard touchdown run. Gangi kept the drive alive when he found Dominic Christian for a 15-yard pass on 4th-and-7 to get the Wolf Pack inside Arkansas State territory. Two plays later, he hit Ben Putman on a 44-yard pass that put Nevada at the 1-yard line.

Arkansas State should have put this game out of reach well before Lee's touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Red Wolves owned a 499-285 edge in total yards and got 25 first downs compared to 15 for the Wolf Pack.

Ramiz Ahmed got Nevada on the board first with a 36-yard field goal 5:09 from halftime. Marcel Murray responded two minutes later with a two-yard touchdown to help give Arkansas State a four-point advantage, 7-3.

Time and again, though, Arkansas State unraveled when getting across the 50-yard line. Over a stretch of four first-half drives, the Red Wolves turned it over on downs twice, missed a field goal and saw Justice Hansen throw an interception.

Grupe also missed a 25-yard field goal with three seconds left in the second quarter, and Arkansas State's first two possessions of the second half ended inside Nevada's 10-yard line.

Lanard Bonner lost a yard on a 4th-and-goal from the 4-yard line with 9:27 remaining in the third quarter. Arkansas State attempted a trick play that put the ball into the offensive lineman's hands but didn't fool the Nevada defense.

Hansen then threw another interception, this time on a 3rd-and-3 at the Wolf Pack's 6-yard line.

Saturday was an uncharacteristically bad performance from Arkansas State, which had a plus-five turnover margin and tied for 13th in turnovers (13). As a result, the Red Wolves suffered their fourth bowl defeat in five trips under head coach Blake Anderson.

Arkansas State has a streak of eight straight bowl appearances, dating back to Hugh Freeze's brief tenure. Making it nine in a row in 2019 will be difficult, with the team losing Hansen, second-leading rusher Warren Wand and second-leading receiver Justin McInnis. Justin Clifton, Ronheen Bingham and Dajon Emory are among the notable defenders graduating as well.

Nevada finishes 8-5 with Saturday's victory, its most wins since 2010.

Gangi is graduating and leading receiver McLane Mannix has transferred, leaving big holes in the offense for the Wolf Pack. Four of their top five tacklers (Malik Reed, Jomon Dotson, Asauni Rufus, Dameon Baber) are leaving as well.

Head coach Jay Norvell did well to get the program back on track after winning 12 games between 2015 and 2016, but 2019 is shaping up to be a year of transition.

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