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Pack avenges loss, destroys Colorado State

Joe Santoro, Tribune News Service

RENO – Revenge is a dish best served up by a complete team effort.

The Nevada Wolf Pack avenged a disappointing loss to Colorado State a year ago by whipping the Rams 51-6 Saturday night in the rematch in front of 18,098 fans at Mackay Stadium.

“This definitely feels good,” Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. “This gets a big weight off our shoulders. We had to swallow a tough pill last year (a 35-20 loss at Colorado State).”

The Pack controlled the game on both sides of the ball from the opening kickoff to the final gun, outgaining the Mountain West Conference Rams, 631-272.

“This was an excellent team win,” Pack head coach Chris Ault said.

The Wolf Pack, 2-0 for the first time since 1995, is now 10-3 since its loss at Fort Collins, Colo., last September. The Rams, now 0-2, are 0-11 since beating the Wolf Pack a year ago.

None of the troubles the Pack experienced a year ago showed up Saturday. The Pack was called for 11 penalties and turned the ball over five times in the loss last season to the Rams. The Pack did not have a turnover on Saturday and committed just four penalties.

“Everybody was locked in and focused,” Kaepernick said. “And that showed by how well we played on offense, defense and special teams.”

The defense made Ault smile the most Saturday night. The head coach questioned his defense’s effort last week in a 49-24 season-opening victory over Eastern Washington.

“The defense set the table,” Ault said. “You could feel it on the sideline. This defense stepped up and played hard.”

The Wolf Pack also held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time since a 42-0 victory over Louisiana Tech in 2006.

“Our effort wasn’t there last week,” linebacker James-Michael Johnson said. “This week we weren’t going to let that be an issue. Our effort was going to be there on every play.”

The Wolf Pack took control early against the Rams, scoring on all six of its first-half drives to take a commanding 34-3 halftime lead.

Kaepernick became just the ninth quarterback in Division I-A history to pass for 3,000 yards and also run for 3,000 on an electrifying 57-yard run on the game’s second play.

Kaepernick, who also became the seventh Pack player in history to rush for 3,000 career yards, gave the Pack a 10-0 lead on a 44-yard touchdown run with nine minutes to play in the first quarter.

The Pack quarterback was personally responsible for 305 total yards of offense and three scores in the first half. The senior was unstoppable in the first half, rushing for 139 rushing yards and passing for 166 yards (15-of-21) and two scores. He would finish with 161 yards rushing and 241 passing (21-of-29).

Kaepernick’s first touchdown pass of the night was a perfectly thrown 29-yard strike to Tray Session in the right corner of the end zone. The touchdown, which gave the Wolf Pack a 17-0 lead with 5:48 to go in the first quarter, capped off an efficient 5-play, 85-yard drive.

Tight end Vigil Green caught Kaepernick’s second TD pass of the night, grabbing a 15-yard pass behind Colorado State safety Ezra Thompson for a 24-3 Wolf Pack lead with 12 minutes left in the half.

The first half was in direct contrast to a year ago when the Pack found itself down 14-0 to the Rams. The Pack had 420 yards of total offense for the entire game last year against the Rams, just five more yards than it had in the first half Saturday night.

The first half on Saturday was not all about Kaepernick’s arm and legs. Running back Vai Taua also had a big half, picking up 83 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

Taua, who gained most of his yards straight up the middle of the Rams’ defense, exploded up the middle for 25 yards to set up the Kaepernick-to-Session TD pass in the first quarter.

The senior, who went over 3,000 career rushing yards in last week’s 49-24 victory over Eastern Washington, scored on a 4-yard run up the middle for a 31-3 Pack lead with 2:48 to go in the half.

“That was all about our offensive line,” Taua said. “They were pushing people back five yards on every play.”

The Pack’s final drive of the half resulted in a 33-yard field goal by freshman (McQueen High) Anthony Martinez with three seconds to go in the half. Martinez earlier booted a 31-yarder on the game’s opening drive for a 3-0 Pack lead.

The Wolf Pack defense also played a near perfect half, holding the Rams to just 134 yards, three first downs and a field goal.

Colorado State freshman quarterback Pete Thomas did complete 12-of-17 passes for 104 yards but the Pack held the Rams to a mere 30 yards on the ground on a dozen carries in the opening half and just 78 yards for the game on 31 carries.

The Wolf Pack domination didn’t stop at halftime.

The Pack wiped away any Colorado State comeback hopes by driving 69 yards on eight plays for another touchdown on their first possession of the second half.

Kaepernick again did the honors, running it in from eight yards out for a 41-3 Pack lead. Kaepernick was removed from the game for backup Tyler Lantrip with about 11 minutes to play.

“We still have areas we need to improve on,” Ault said. “But tonight was a big step for this football team.”


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