Nevada’s comeback falls short to rival UNLV in overtime loss

Elijah Cooks’ season-high 151 receiving yards weren’t enough for Nevada to secure the Fremont Cannon on Saturday. Shaun Astor/ Tahoe Onstage photos

Nevada’s valiant effort fell just short in a 33-30 overtime loss to UNLV on a subfreezing Saturday at Mackay Stadium in Reno.

Trailing 27-13, Nevada scored back-to-back touchdowns over the final 9:08 in the fourth quarter to tie the game. Nevada opened overtime with a 42-yard field goal. UNLV went for the win with a 14-yard touchdown pass.

Following three-straight victories, The Wolf Pack couldn’t take back the Fremont Cannon against its in-state rival for the regular season finale. Nevada finished 7-5 for the regular season and is eligible for a bowl game.

Head coach Jay Norvell had parting words for the departing seniors following the tough loss.

“Obviously, I’m just disappointed for our seniors,” he said. “We really wanted to play well in this game for them. We just didn’t do enough to win. … We did a lot of things good tonight, but we didn’t score enough at the end of the day. … We have to live with what happened today until we can change it.”

After the game, a brawl ensued between both teams. UNLV and Nevada players swarmed the end zone as they piled atop one another.

“Everybody is an adult,” Norvell said. “Everybody is responsible for their own actions and I’m not sure what happened. I just know that the whole team ran over to us after the game, I know that. I was standing there when they did it. I’m not making excuses for everybody’s actions, it just happens.”

The Wolf Pack had 459 yards of total offense. Carson Strong completed 33-of-54 passes for 351 yards and one touchdown.

Strong helped Nevada lead a ferocious comeback down the stretch, but UNLV sealed the win in overtime. The Wolf Pack at one point trailed 17-0 in the first quarter.

“It’s just really disappointing, heartbreaking,” Strong said. “We know this community really cares about this game and all my teammates and coaches care about this game. Not being able to come away with the win hurts.”

Elijah Cooks and Dominic Christian served as a safety valves for Strong. Cooks hauled in a season-high 12 catches for 151 yards. Christian had a season-high 98 receiving yards on 11 catches and one touchdown.

Wide receivers Romeo Doubs and Kaleb Fossum missed the contest with shoulder injuries. Fossum announced his season-ending injury on Nov. 12.

Nevada missed their presence on the field offensively against the Rebels.

“Romeo is a really good player, so not having him and Fossum hurt,” Norvell said. “We’ve overcome some late in the year, but overcoming those injuries are tough.”

To combat the 29-degree weather with wind speeds up to 13 mph, Nevada relied on the ground game. Running back Devonte Lee had 45 rushing yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns. Toa Taua added 50 rushing yards on 15 carries.

Nevada’s balanced attack couldn’t combat UNLV’s explosive offense. The Rebels had 426 total yards of offense. Kenyon Oblad completed 16-of-22 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns. He connected with wide receiver Steve Jenkins for a 75-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

UNLV running back Charles Williams had a game-high 140 rushing yards and one touchdown. He gashed Nevada’s defensive front for an 80-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

“Besides those two big plays we really held our own defensively,” Norvell said. “We didn’t make those breakthrough plays in any of our phases. It’s difficult to play a game like that and not make those plays.”

The Wolf Pack featured all-black uniforms with silver trim for the first time this season. UNLV donned all-white uniforms with red trim.

UNLV jumped out first with a 40-yard field goal on its first drive of the game. Nevada couldn’t tie the contest when kicker Brandon Talton missed a 29-yard field goal attempt.

The Rebels took advantage with Williams’ 80-yard rushing touchdown up the middle on the very next play. UNLV struck once again on its next drive with a 32-yard touchdown reception by Mehki Stevenson.

Nevada trailed 17-0 after the first quarter.

Lee’s 2-yard touchdown helped the Pack chip into the deficit 17-7 to open the second quarter. Nevada responded on its next drive with a 27-yard Talton field goal. Talton nailed another 31-yard field goal to make the score 17-13.

UNLV answered once again with a 75-yard touchdown to Jenkins on the first play of the drive. The Rebels led 24-13 at the half.

Nevada’s defense opened the second half with a fourth down stop on its own 29 yard line. The Pack couldn’t take advantage and were forced to punt. The two teams were held scoreless in the third quarter, keeping UNLV’s lead intact.

The Rebels extended their lead to 27-13. Strong and the Nevada offense responded with a 24-yard touchdown to Christian with 6:47 left in the fourth quarter.

Lee’s second score of the game tied the game 27-27.

In overtime, Nevada settled for a 42-yard field goal off the leg of Talton for its first lead of the game. UNLV answered with a touchdown to retain the Fremont Cannon.

Following the loss, Nevada is waiting on a potential bowl game appearance.

Knuth, Reed-Francois release joint statement on post-game brawl

Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth and UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois released a joint statement concerning the post-game fight between the two teams and the fans in attendance.


“The events that occurred following today’s football game have no place in college athletics and we are deeply disappointed by this incident, which detracts from what was a hard-fought and emotional football game between our state’s only two NCAA programs.

“We are examining all available video from the incident and working with the Mountain West office in a full review. Additionally, we are working with the University of Nevada, Reno Police Department to review the actions on the field and in the stands after the game.

“Rivalry games are at the heart of what should be great about intercollegiate athletics. We will continue to prioritize sportsmanship at all of our events, especially those between our two great institutions.”

— Isaiah Burrows

Nevada punter Quinton Conaway proposed to his girlfriend, Miranda, at midfield during a pre-game ceremony. She said yes.
The Fremont Cannon will remain red.
Dominic Christian meets a Rebel defender head on.
Senior wide receiver Ben Putman had five catches for 69 yards.
Devonte Lee had two rushing touchdowns on the day.

About Isaiah Burrows

Tahoe Onstage sportswriter Isaiah Burrows also is a general assignment reporter for CarsonNow.org, an online news source in Carson City. He is a journalism major at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he writes sports for the Sagebrush student newspaper. He is the Reno Aces beat writer for Tahoe Onstage.

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