Nevada football passes first test, beats UC Davis in season opener
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO, Nev. — The Nevada Wolf Pack passed its first test of the season Thursday night, Sept. 3, at Mackay Stadium.
New starting quarterback Tyler Stewart completed 13 of 20 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown as the Wolf Pack methodically turned back the UC Davis Aggies 31-17 in front of a season-opening crowd of 21,483.
The victory over the Football Championship Subdivision Aggies, though, wasn’t the walk in the park the Pack might have expected. The Big Sky Conference foe that finished 2-9 a year ago actually outscored the Pack 14-10 in the second half. Davis quarterback Ben Scott also completed 32-of-47 passes for 238 yards.
“I will never apologize for a win,” Pack coach Brian Polian said. “There were a lot of good things out there tonight and things we need to do better. But, overall, there was a lot to be excited about.”
Running back Don Jackson, who had 124 yards and two touchdowns, agreed that the Pack should feel good about Thursday night.
“You have to celebrate after a win, no matter who it is against,” Jackson said. “They are never easy.”
Most of the excitement Polian was talking about, though, was in the first half. The Pack jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter and the outcome was never in doubt the rest of the game.
Polian was most pleased about the play of his quarterback. Stewart also ran for 43 yards on nine carries, including a 15-yard touchdown.
“I felt I was prepared and the offense was prepared, so I was just excited to get out there and play,” Stewart said. “I came here to play football and get an education so I was just happy to be out there with those guys.”
Jackson had his fifth 100-yard rushing game of his career. James Butler also chipped in with 65 yards on 14 carries as the Pack ran for 232 yards on 39 carries.
“The Union (the offensive line) did a great job for me,” Jackson said.
Jackson did the honors on the first two drives, scoring on runs of one and seven yards. Stewart then completed a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jarred Gipson as the Pack took a 21-0 lead with just over six minutes to play in the half.
The only Davis points of the first half came on a 26-yard field goal by Brady Stuart just 47 seconds before halftime. The Aggies, though, moved the ball well at times in the first half, picking up 156 total yards.
Stewart and the Pack offense stumbled right out of the second half gate, punting on the first two drives of the third quarter after not punting at all in the first half. Stewart was also sacked twice in the third quarter after going untouched in the first half.
The Aggies then seemed to get a second wind. They scored their first touchdown on a 5-yard pass from Scott to wide receiver Ramon Vargas. Vargas’ score completed a well-executed 15-play, 77-yard drive that ate up 8:45 of the game clock.
The Wolf Pack upped its lead to 31-10 with 5:11 to go on a 15-yard touchdown run by Stewart. Stewart faked his way around Davis free safety Zack Jones at about the 12-yard line on his way to his first rushing touchdown of his career.
Davis’ final scoring drive, which ended with Scott’s 3-yard touchdown run with two seconds to play, covered 67 yards in 12 plays.
The Aggies ended up dominating time of possession, hogging the ball for just over 34 minutes. The Pack, though, outgained Davis, 395-327.
The Wolf Pack will host the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday, Sept. 12 at Mackay Stadium.