4:05 PM ET, September 28, 2002
Mackay Stadium, Reno, NV
RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Trailing 21-7 in the third quarter, Colorado State quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt said he never worried about the possibility of being upset by Nevada.
"I think we've proven that we don't really panic when we get down,'' said Van Pelt, who used the option to lead a pair of late scoring drives and threw a 34-yard touchdown to Joel Dreessen with 2:43 remaining to rally the Rams (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 25 AP) past the Wolf Pack 32-28.
"The going got tough and we got going,'' said Van Pelt, who also ran for 128 yards and a touchdown.
"The option was not really in the game plan, but they really had no answer for it,'' he said.
Cecil Sapp added 125 yards rushing and a touchdown and Rhett Nelson had a key interception for the Rams (4-1), who also have beaten Virginia, Colorado and Louisville while suffering their only loss at UCLA.
Rams defensive end Peter Hogan sealed the win with 1:39 remaining when he intercepted Zack Threadgill, who completed 26 of 43 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns for the Wolf Pack (2-2).
"We had a chance to win it in the middle of the fourth quarter, but they out-executed us in their last two drives,'' Nevada Coach Chris Tormey said.
"That's why they're champions. They battled back and they deserve all the credit,'' he said.
Colorado State took its first lead early in the fourth quarter when Van Pelt ran 8 yards for a score on third-and-goal to make it 25-21, after Nelson intercepted Threadgill near midfield.
"Rhett Nelson's interception was huge because every time they (Nevada) get the ball they have the potential to score,'' Colorado State Coach Sonny Lubick said.
"We're damn fortunate to come out of here with a victory,'' he said.
Threadgill teamed up with Nate Burleson for passes of 8, 21, 11 and 18 yards to set up freshman Matt Milton's 20-yard touchdown run to put Nevada ahead 28-25 with 6:26 left in the game.
Van Pelt had runs of 13, 7 and 10 yards on the next series before throwing over the middle to Dreessen, who was interfered with but still hung on for the game-winning touchdown.
Tormey said he was especially impressed with the junior quarterback Van Pelt.
"At the end of the game, it's obvious he's the guy they want to have the ball in his hands. He was able to run the option successfully and we weren't able to stop him,'' Tormey said.
Lubick said Van Pelt was "a real warrior.
"He was ducking in there and getting four and five (yards) and then he broke a couple,'' he said.
Van Pelt also completed 9 of 17 passes for 163 yards. Freshman Justin Holland came off the bench to complete 7 of 12 passes for 108 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown to Chris Pittman, who had 10 catches for 151 yards. Burleson caught 12 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown.
Nevada opened a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter on Threadgill's 9-yard TD pass to Erick Streelman after taking possession on Colorado State's 42 when Keenan Curtis tackled Holland short of the first down on fourth-and-1.
Colorado State moved to Nevada's 1-yard line on Henri Childs' 16-yard reverse, but Logan Carter sacked Holland for a 10-yard loss and the Rams settled for Jeff Babcock's 29-yard field goal to make it 21-10 midway through the third.
Van Pelt and Sapp each had runs of 32 yards to set up Sapp's 2-yard touchdown run, followed by Van Pelt's pass to Joey Cuppari for a 2-point conversion to pull within 21-18 with 4:40 left in the third quarter.
Threadgill completed 11 in a row in the first half, going 4-of-4 on consecutive scoring drives capped by TD throws of 23 yards to Tim Fleming and 21 yards to Burleson to put Nevada ahead 14-0 early in the second quarter.
Holland threw the 34-yard touchdown pass to Pittman, which made it 14-7 with 8:12 remaining in the half.
"In the first half, they were moving the ball. We were lucky to be down 14-7,'' Lubick said.
"We kind of figured out a few things on defense and rushed them a little more in the second half than we did in the first,'' he said.
"Our coaches know how good Nevada is. I'm sure they are going to win quite a few games this season.''