Pack stuns ‘Big Mac,’ 16th-ranked Bulldogs |

Pack stuns ‘Big Mac,’ 16th-ranked Bulldogs

Steve Yingling

Cathleen Allison/ Nevada Appeal Fresno State players Tyrone Culver (36) and Garrett McIntyre, right, pile on a loose ball Saturday night during their 38-35 upset loss to Nevada in Reno. Photo by Cathleen Allison

RENO Ð With his head bent slightly forward, a despondent Garrett McIntyre stood outside a stunned Fresno State locker room and politely answered a spate of difficult questions.

The former South Tahoe High football player’s body language told the story. The 16th-ranked Bulldogs had just been shocked by Nevada 38-35, denying Fresno State a chance at an outright Western Athletic Conference championship.

It was the first time during McIntyre’s four-year college football career that the Pack had beaten him.

“They are a good football team. There is no surprise,” McIntyre said. “We just didn’t execute. We didn’t play our football. We lost, because we killed ourselves.”

A week after basking in nationwide respect for nearly upsetting top-ranked USC at the L.A. Coliseum, the Bulldogs started a step slow in the sub-freezing desert temperatures at Mackay Stadium. The 161Ú2 point favorites quickly fell behind 17-3 and never had the Pack in serious trouble.

“I think we prepared well this week and we were focused, but it came to game day and we weren’t, I guess,” McIntyre said.

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The flat-footed McIntyre doing the postgame interviews was a far cry from the one bounding up and down before the game started and the one who relentlessly pursued Nevada quarterback Jeff Rowe from sideline to sideline.

Although the Bulldogs didn’t come out ready to play, McIntyre did his part to try to get his team going.

He made the Bulldogs’ first tackle and he stopped B.J. Mitchell in his tracks for a 2-yard loss to halt Nevada’s first drive. However, the drive culminated in a 40-yard field goal by freshman Brett Jaekle, giving Nevada a 3-0 advantage – a lead the Pack wouldn’t relinquish until early in the fourth quarter.

“I knew in the first quarter that they came to play,” McIntyre said. “We knew we had to step up and we didn’t do it.”

Nevada ran away from McIntyre most of the first half – a move that paid big dividends as reserve Robert Hubbard and Mitchell combined for 118 rushing yards and two scores in the opening 30 minutes.

“You’re talking about a football team that can stop anybody in the country,” said an elated Nevada coach Chris Ault, who used unbalanced lines and a shotgun formation to neutralize the Bulldogs’ edge in quickness.

McIntyre provided Fresno State with another momentum boost just before halftime when he tackled Hubbard in the backfield. The 5-yard loss forced the Pack, who was leading 24-10 at the time, to punt and kept the home team building on the surge of energy it got from stopping the Bulldogs twice on first and goal on the previous possession.

“Those plays mean nothing,” McIntyre said. “All that doesn’t matter unless you win.”

Fresno State’s offense capitalized on McIntyre’s big play by driving 51 yards in seven plays to score on Paul Pinegar’s 20-yard touchdown strike to Joe Fernandez with 44 seconds left in the half. A missed extra point kept the score in the Pack’s favor, 24-16.

McIntyre moved outside to defensive end for much of the second half. But he was unable to run down Rowe for a career-high eighth sack of the season.

Fresno State eventually forged ahead 27-24 on a controversial 3-yard touchdown reception by Paul Williams and a two-point conversion reception by Jermaine Jamison.

But Nevada drove 72 yards on its next possession to retake the lead for good. McIntyre pressured Rowe into a incomplete pass on one play, but Rowe didn’t need to pass often. Hubbard’s 28-yard run to the Fresno State 16 set up his 13-yard touchdown run on a draw play with 8:12 left.

Rowe added a 12-yard touchdown pass to Nichiren Flowers with 1:29 left and the Pack withstood a late rush by the Bulldogs. When the final gun sounded, Pack fans swarmed their upstart WAC co-champions at the 30-yard line and McIntyre escaped to sympathetic ears of family and friends outside the Fresno State locker room.

“It sucks,” McIntyre said. “It was a tough game. They came out playing hard and we played horrible defense in the first half. They ran the ball down our throats.

“Give them credit, they played hard tonight and we didn’t execute.”

Meanwhile, in a jubilant Nevada locker room, players were singing a Wolf Pack rendition of the “Oh When the Saints Come Marching In.”

“These guys have gone above and beyond my expectations,” Ault said. “I can’t say enough about this football team. You look at the guys we’re playing with … they play with more heart than talent.”