4:05 PM ET, September 14, 2002
Mackay Stadium, Reno, NV
RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Nevada claimed its biggest victory in a decade, a 31-28 upset of Brigham Young (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today), but may have lost one of its best running backs ever for the rest of the season.
Zack Threadgill passed for 410 yards and four first-half touchdowns then the Wolf Pack defense withstood a late rally to send hundreds of Mackay Stadium fans onto the field celebrating their greatest win since Nevada moved up from Division I-AA to I-A in 1992.
"It's the biggest win since I've been here,'' said coach Chris Tormey, in his third year of rebuilding a Nevada program that hasn't had a winning season since 1998.
"I think we'll look back two or three years from now and we'll look at this game and say to ourselves, 'That was the day that we turned it around. That was the day our players started to believe and know that they could win.' ''
Nate Burleson caught 12 passes for 215 yards, including a 95-yard scoring play early, to help Nevada (1-1) to the win despite the loss of star running back Chance Kretschmer to a knee injury after a late hit out of bounds on his first carry of the game.
Tormey fears it could be the last they see this year of the former calf roper from Tonopah, who led the NCAA in rushing last year with 1,732, the first freshman to do so since Marshall Faulk at San Diego State in 1991.
"Chance is going to be out indefinitely with the knee strain,'' Tormey said.
"It could be serious ... It doesn't look good.''
Freshman quarterback Lance Pendleton moved BYU (2-1) with seven completions on its final drive, but time expired with the Cougars at Nevada's 32.
Threadgill, who was 28-of-37 with one interception, led Nevada to two touchdowns in the last 48 seconds of the second quarter for a 31-14 halftime lead.
"Right at the end of the half was huge, huge,'' said BYU Coach Gary Crowton, who was impressed with Nevada's play.
"They're playing at home. They have a veteran team. They are very poised, very confident. He's a good coach. This is his third year with the team. They're only going to get better.''
Pendleton came off the bench to lead the Cougars to a pair of third quarter touchdowns, a 30-yard TD run by Marcus Whalen and then a 9-yard scoring pass to Gabriel Reid to cut the margin to 31-28 at 4:09 in the third.
But neither team scored in the final quarter and Threadgill teamed up with Burleson on a key drive late that pinned BYU deep in its own territory with 2:18 left after the Wolf Pack was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
"I kept telling the guys we had to work the clock and keep their offense off the field,'' Threadgill said.
"Unfortunately, we didn't get in the end zone, but our defense came up big and did their job,'' he said.
Freshman Matt Milton rushed 21 times for 93 yards for Nevada. Marcus Whalen led BYU with 14 carries for 135 yards. Bret Engemann completed only 6-of-16 attempts for 80 yards, while Pendleton hit 13-of-20 for 112 yards in the second half.
"I told them to keep their heads up, work hard and move forward,'' Crowton said after the game. "I feel like we'll come back and work hard like we do.''
The Wolf Pack opened a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter when Burleson took a swing pass from Threadgill at his own 5 and -- thanks to a key block from Tim Fleming -- ran down the sideline to the end zone.
"I got a great block and I wasn't going to get caught,'' said Burleson, who credited Threadgill with calling an audible to change the draw play that had been planned.
The senior quarterback said he knew Burleson would get free for a first down in that type defensive coverage.
"He ended up doing a whole lot more. That's what's so special about Nate. Any time the ball touches his hands, he's a threat to score a touchdown,'' he said.
Engemann's 31-yard TD pass to Rodney Wilkerson made it 10-7 early in the second quarter, but Threadgill countered with a 16-yard scoring toss to Dan Bythwood to go ahead 17-7.
BYU defensive tackle Brady Poppinga, who had two early quarterback sacks, forced a Matt Milton fumble that Shaun Nua recovered to set up Reno Mahe's 4-yard TD run to make it 17-14 6:59 before the half.
But Threadgill kept a drive alive with an 18-yard pass over the middle to tight end Erick Streelman on fourth down, and hit him with a 13 yard TD for a 24-14 lead at 0:48. Two plays later, Ronnie Hardiman intercepted Engemann's pass at midfield and returned it 20 yards before Threadgill passed 25 yards to Burleson and threw a 9-yard TD to Fleming for the 31-14 halftime advantage.