8:00 PM ET, September 1, 2006
Bulldog Stadium, FRESNO, CA
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- Dwayne Wright broke every tackle with two years of frustrated energy during the touchdown run that clinched Fresno State's season-opening victory.
Wright rushed for 158 yards and three scores in his first game since early in the 2004 season, getting the final TD on an outstanding 9-yard run with 6:55 left in a 28-19 win over Nevada on Friday night.
Tom Brandstater passed for 124 yards and a score in his first start for the Bulldogs, who played with all the efficiency and smarts that coach Pat Hill desired in a Western Athletic Conference victory that snapped Nevada's five-game winning streak from last season.
The Bulldogs relied heavily on Wright, who had a 1,000-yard campaign in 2003 before missing most of the last two seasons with a knee injury that repeatedly forced him to consider quitting football. He hadn't played since Sept. 11, 2004, but his final punishing charge through the Nevada defense erased months of frustration.
Fresno State's young offense relied on him heavily, with 26 carries. With roughly 7 minutes to play, Wright got the ball on a simple play -- but he broke five tackles and lunged across the goal line as the Bulldog Stadium crowd roared to its feet.
"I was so hungry on that play," Wright said. "I got good blocks, and I just kept my legs moving until got the ball over the line. I was just doing my job."
The junior made several thrilling runs -- including a 40-yard TD sprint -- in his first game as the one-man replacement for last season's tailback tandem of Wendell Mathis and Bryson Sumlin.
"I feel great, and I'm not tired," Wright said. "I had two years to rest up."
The meeting of two WAC powers was a high-stakes way to open the year, but Fresno State had just enough offensive consistency to hold on after Nevada trimmed a 15-point lead to 21-19 early in the fourth quarter.
"That's our horse," Hill said of Wright. "We're using our strength and running behind our offensive line. That's the best chance we have. ... That was a great team effort, [but] that game took its toll on both teams."
Mike McCoy caught two TD passes from Jeff Rowe for the Wolf Pack, who won their final four WAC games and the Hawaii Bowl last season while sharing the conference title with Boise State. Rowe passed for 183 yards, and Robert Hubbard rushed for 103 -- but Nevada's defense never quite stopped Wright, allowing 100 yards rushing to a WAC running back for the first time since 2004.
Fresno State converted three third downs and a fourth down at the Nevada 15 on its final drive.
"If we make one of those third-down stops, we give the ball back to our offense and we have a great shot at winning this game," Nevada cornerback Joe Garcia said.
Last season, Nevada snapped a six-game losing streak in this 83-year-old rivalry with an upset victory over the 16th-ranked Bulldogs, who nearly upset top-ranked USC one week earlier. The loss plunged the Bulldogs into a season-ending slide of four straight defeats, while the Wolf Pack went on to a WAC title and a bowl win.
Brandstater, a strong-armed redshirt sophomore, was every Fresno State fan's favorite quarterback last season when four-year starter Paul Pinegar struggled, but he played only mop-up minutes before winning the quarterback competition in training camp last month.
Brandstater hit receivers with precision and poise in his starting debut, going 16-of-24 and leading a scoring drive in every quarter. His 6-yard TD fade to Joe Fernandez in the first quarter was perfectly placed.
Rowe missed several open receivers in the first half, but still pulled Nevada within 14-6 on a 23-yard TD pass to McCoy 37 seconds before halftime.
Nevada then fumbled a simple handoff when backup running back Kyle Eklund misunderstood the play on its opening drive of the second half. Wright broke through the line for a 40-yard score on the Bulldogs' next play.
"The fumble by us in the third quarter is a 14-point turnaround," Nevada coach Chris Ault said. "That's the stuff you can't have. There's no excuse for that, but they shouldn't have scored on the first play [after that], either."
Fresno State got just four offensive snaps in the third quarter. McCoy caught a 21-yard scoring pass late in the third quarter, and Nevada pulled within 21-19 on Luke Lippincott's 1-yard TD plunge early in the fourth.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||9-15||9-15|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||2-2|
|TD||4:54||JOE FERNANDEZ 6 YD PASS FROM TOM BRANDSTATER (CLINT STITSER KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 50 yards.
|TD||7:17||DWAYNE WRIGHT 1 YD RUN (CLINT STITSER KICK)|
Drive info: 14 plays, 56 yards.
|TD||0:37||MIKE MCCOY 23 YD PASS FROM JEFF ROWE (BLOCKED XP)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 56 yards.
|TD||12:58||DWAYNE WRIGHT 40 YD RUN (CLINT STITSER KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 40 yards.
|TD||5:24||MIKE MCCOY 21 YD PASS FROM JEFF ROWE (FAILED 2PT PASS)|
Drive info: 15 plays, 89 yards.
|TD||14:15||LUKE LIPPINCOTT 1 YD RUN (BRETT JAEKLE KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 59 yards.
|TD||6:55||DWAYNE WRIGHT 9 YD RUN (CLINT STITSER KICK)|
Drive info: 15 plays, 76 yards.