Nevada escapes with narrow victory over SMU |

Nevada escapes with narrow victory over SMU

Paul Andrew, Tribune real estate executive

RENO — The Nevada Wolf Pack was a 19-point favorite going into Saturday night’s game against Southern Methodist University. Someone forgot to tell the Mustang defense.

In a game that turned into a defensive struggle, the Pack was fortunate to come away with a 12-9 victory, thanks to a 28-yard field goal by Damon Fine with 1 minute, 13 seconds left in the game.

Though 3-1 overall, and 2-0 in league play, Nevada didn’t play like the team many think will compete for the Western Athletic Conference title.

SMU held Nevada’s offense, which looked so potent in the previous game against San Jose State, without a touchdown. The Pack was held completely scoreless in the first half, having two drives stopped on interceptions by starting QB Andrew Heiser.

Even though running back Chance Kretschmer, the WAC’s leading rusher, did run for 120 yards, the offense showed little consistency and was unable to mount any long scoring drives.

Trailing 9-0 in the third quarter, Nevada finally got on the board thanks to a 38-yard field goal by Fine. On the next SMU series, Pack linebacker Logan Carter intercepted a Mustang pass and returned it 40 yards for the score. Unfortunately for Nevada, the extra point was blocked, keeping the score tied at 9.

Late in the game, the Pack received a break when SMU punt returner Matt Rushbrook fumble on his own 20. After gaining nine yards on two Kretschmer carries, the Pack relied on Fine’s leg for the game winning kick, giving Nevada the narrow victory.

Nevada can’t be feeling overly confident going into next Saturday night’s civil war in Reno against state rival UNLV. Also 3-1, John Robinson’s Rebels have looked strong in victories over Wisconsin, Hawaii and Toledo, with their only loss coming against the Big 12’s Kansas (4-1).

At stake in the game is the Fremont Cannon, possessed for a year and painted the school’s colors by the winning team. The cannon has always been UNLV red in Chris Tormey’s three-year tenure as coach of Nevada. Pack fans and alums consider this the most important game of the year, which will create grumblings in Reno about Tormey’s job if the cannon remains red for a fourth straight year.

In an intense rivalry game like Nevada-UNLV, emotions run high and anything can happen. If the Nevada defense can continue their strong play and the offense get back on track, the Wolf Pack could once again see the Fremont Cannon painted Nevada blue.

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