Nate Butler broke through for a 59-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter, capping 13 unanswered second-half point for Nevada, which put away Fresno State 30-16 Thursday night in a Mountain West Conference game at Bulldog Stadium before an announced crowd of 25,476.
At 2-7 overall (1-5 Mountain West) and with three games left, the Bulldogs will fall short of the six wins needed to be eligible for bowl eligibility.
On Fresno State’s first offensive play after Butler’s run, Daemon Bader intercepted quarterback Kilton Anderson. The Wolf Pack took over on their 27.
It hurts. We have a bunch of guys that work their tails off wanting to put themselves in position to win a football game. Didn’t get it done.
Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter
Down just one point at halftime, Fresno State generated only 8 yards in the third quarter and a crazy deficit in time of possession wore on the defense that had to that point played the Wolf Pack run game well. Nevada held the ball for 13:20 in the third quarter, running 23 plays. Fresno State, by comparison, held possession for only 1:40 and ran just four plays.
“We had a chance at halftime, thought we competed well. Came back after half, turned the ball over and got ourselves in a hole,” Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter said. “Give them credit, they found plays in the second half and it hurts. We have a bunch of guys that work their tails off wanting to put themselves in position to win a football game. Didn’t get it done.
The Bulldogs held the Wolf Pack (5-4, 3-2) to two field goals in the quarter and trailed only 23-16. But Nevada, which had only 25 rushing yards and 138 total yards at halftime, started to bludgeon the tiring Bulldogs with their run game and in the fourth quarter raced away when James Butler bolted 59 yards almost untouched for a touchdown that put the Wolf Pack up 30-16.
Nevada ran the ball on its last three plays from scrimmage in the third quarter and all 19 that it ran in the fourth, churning out 194 yards on the ground including the touchdown run.
Fresno State could not counter and in the fourth quarter went back to quarterback Zack Greenlee, who had lost his starting job to Kilton Anderson after a dismal performance in a loss at San Diego State in which the Bulldogs gained just 89 yards.
Starter Kilton Anderson completed just 12 of 26 passes (46.2 percent) for 88 yards with one touchdown and one interception before the came out of the game.
On Greenlee’s first drive, the Bulldogs put the ball in the end zone twice – but each time the score was nullified by a penalty. Bader then intercepted Greenlee at the Nevada 1, ending the Bulldogs threat.
Anderson led two second-quarter touchdown drives for Fresno State.
Anderson and Josiah Blandin hooked up for a 2-yard touchdown with 14 seconds left in the second quarter, but Kody Kroening potential tying PAT banged off the right upright and missed. Nevada led at halftime 17-16.
Early turnovers helped make up for sputtering offenses and Nevada finally found the range midway through the second quarter in building leads of 7-0, 14-3 and 17-10.
A national television audience on ESPN2 was treated to offensive inefficiency until Wolf Pack quarterback Tyler Stewart connected with Hasaan Henderson for a 73-yard touchdown with 9:02 to play in the second quarter. Bulldogs safety Charles Washington took a poor angle, got turned around and Henderson danced unimpeded into the end zone to make it 14-3.
Anderson, a redshirt freshman, responded by directing a nine-play, 75-yard march that ended with his 24-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to four with 5:55 remaining until halftime. A roughing penalty on third-and-13 from the Fresno State 36 kept the drive going, and Anderson followed that by hitting Jamire Jordan for 16 yards to the Wolf Pack 33.
Nevada’s Brent Zuzo kicked a 47-yard field goal with 2:57 left.
A sack of Anderson on the Bulldogs’ opening drive led to a fumble and a 30-yard return by Nevada’s Matthew Lyons for a 7-0 Wolf Pack lead less than 2 minutes into the game.
Tyquwan Glass picked off Stewart to set up a Bulldogs drive that culminated in Kody Kroening’s 25-yard field goal with 10:30 to go in the half. Fresno State heard some boos from the home crowd when it passed on going for it on fourth-and-1 from the Nevada 8 and opted instead for the chip-shot kick.
The opening quarter ended with Nevada ahead 7-0 despite just 30 yards of offense. Fresno State had 45. Five minutes into the second quarter, the Wolf Pack were averaging 3.1 yards per play and the Bulldogs 2.9.