Taua's 263 yards help Nevada to 1st win in Fresno since '98

FRESNO, Calif. -- Colin Kaepernick was a pitcher who had major league scouts salivating before he abandoned baseball to run Nevada's unorthodox offense.

The quarterback barely even needed to use his outstanding arm at Fresno State -- not while Kaepernick and his teammates were running right over every Bulldog in sight.

Vai Taua ran for a career-best 263 yards and a late touchdown, and Kaepernick added 118 yards and two scores in Nevada's 472-yard ground attack in a 41-28 victory Friday night, the Wolf Pack's first win in Fresno since 1998.

Courtney Randall had 66 yards rushing and another touchdown for the Wolf Pack (5-4, 3-2 WAC), who rarely stopped moving forward in another prodigious performance by Kaepernick and their distinctive "pistol" offense, which even gave Texas Tech some trouble earlier this year.

After holding on to the ball for 13:46 in the fourth quarter, Nevada finished with 600 total yards -- its third 600-yard game this season, even with Kaepernick going 7-for-17 for just 128 yards through the air.

"We knew towards the end of the second quarter that they were getting tired," said Kaepernick, a sophomore whose 20th rushing touchdown tied Hall of Famer Marion Motley's career total. "We just kept executing our game plan and running it in on those guys. It's fun to run this offense."

Seyi Ajirotutu caught two touchdown passes from Tom Brandstater for the Bulldogs (5-4, 2-3), who lost their second straight and dropped to 1-3 at Bulldog Stadium this season with just their second loss to Nevada in the schools' last 10 meetings. Brandstater went 23-of-43 for 260 yards, but threw two interceptions.

A.J. Jefferson returned a kickoff 93 yards for a score in the fourth quarter to keep Fresno State close, but Kevin Grimes intercepted Brandstater's fourth-down pass in the final minutes, and Ajirotutu fumbled at the Nevada 10 with 1:57 to play.

With inexperienced players lining up at several key defensive positions, the Bulldogs' youth and injury problems were too large to mask.

"We might not be the same team we were in September, but we're going to keep battling and trying to find ways to win games," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. "We felt that we had a game plan for them, but obviously, we didn't. There was just a lot of inconsistency."

Lonyae Miller also rushed for a score, but Fresno State simply couldn't stop the Wolf Pack, who got Kaepernick's third 100-yard rushing game and Taua's first 200-yard performance of the season. Mike McCoy caught an early touchdown pass, and Taua -- a third-stringer when the season began -- had the sixth-highest rushing total in school history while averaging 9.4 yards per carry.

Kaepernick and Brandstater both grew up in Turlock, Calif., a San Joaquin Valley town about 80 miles north of Fresno, graduating from different high schools two years apart. While Brandstater is a more classic dropback passer, the 6-foot-6 Kaepernick is thriving in the pistol, a shotgun derivative which involves plenty of option rushing and multiple-receiver sets.

"You have to contain a quarterback with such athleticism," Fresno State defensive end Chris Carter said. "We made some adjustments and figured out some of the different things they were trying to do, but we just gave up some really big plays."

Nevada converted a fourth-and-10 on its opening drive, which ended in a 16-yard TD run up the middle by Kaepernick. The quarterback then hit McCoy on the Fresno State sideline on a fourth-and-6 play for a 36-yard score early in the second quarter.

The Wolf Pack racked up 330 yards of offense and made three lengthy scoring drives in the first half, but Nevada also missed a golden opportunity to score more points in the final seconds.

Taua was stopped at the Fresno State 1, and the clock ran out before the Wolf Pack could call a timeout. The officials didn't see Nevada coach Chris Ault, who won his 196th game, frantically signaling to stop the game before the half ended.

The Bulldogs still need another win to clinch bowl eligibility, and they'll get their best shot next Saturday in their home finale against New Mexico State. Fresno State's final two games are on the road against San Jose State and Boise State, the WAC's top two teams.

"I'm 100 percent confident that we will be bowl-eligible," Carter said. "We've got to dominate New Mexico State, because we can't let people go around thinking they can beat us like this."