FRESNO, Calif. -- Fresno State never recruited Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The Bulldogs have been paying for it ever since.
Playing in front of 200 family and friends from his nearby hometown of Turlock, Kaepernick continued to punish Fresno State for its oversight by leading No. 21 Nevada to a 35-34 victory Saturday night.
Kaepernick set a school record with two more rushing touchdowns, and Vai Taua's third touchdown of the night helped the Wolf Pack defeat the Bulldogs for the third straight year.
"It's always motivation when you see a team that really didn't want you and you get to play against them," Kaepernick said. "You kind of want to show them what they missed out on."
Kaepernick rushed for 153 yards and scored the 54th touchdown of his career for the Nevada record.
Taua's 24-yard scamper up the middle with 4:51 remaining gave the Wolf Pack (9-1, 4-1 WAC) its first lead since midway through the third quarter.
Robbie Rouse rushed for 217 yards and scored three touchdowns for Fresno State (6-3, 4-2) in a game that featured seven lead changes.
The Bulldogs drove to midfield following Taua's final touchdown before turning the ball over on downs with 1:26 left.
"We won't play at another place with this kind of crowd, so I think it tells the guys in the fourth quarter they've got to find a way to win," Nevada coach Chris Ault said. "Of course every coach talks that way. But until you do it it's just talk."
Nevada began its final scoring drive on the 46 after the Bulldogs failed to move the ball from inside their 10 after stopping Taua for no gain on fourth-and-1.
Kaepernick converted two third downs on the go-ahead drive, including a 16-yard completion to Rishard Matthews on third-and-7. The 6-foot-6, 225-pounder finished 16 of 26 for 171 yards and an interception.
Fresno State scored 10 straight points spanning the third and fourth quarters to take a 34-28 lead. The touchdown came on a spectacular 44-yard touchdown run by Rouse, and Kevin Goessling added a 34-yard field goal with 14:55 remaining.
The Bulldogs racked up 444 yards of total offense but managed just one first down on their final two possessions.
"The effort was excellent, but when you're playing a team like Nevada you have to make a play almost every play," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said.
Nevada scored two touchdowns in a 27-second span late in the second quarter to grab a 21-17 halftime lead.
The Wolf Pack trailed by as many as 10 points before two Taua touchdowns swung the momentum. One was set up by a fumble by Fresno State quarterback Ryan Colburn, who completed 16 of 26 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns.
Kaepernick shook off a sluggish start by leading Nevada on a 10-play, 73-yard drive, capped by a 4-yard Taua touchdown run with 1:01 left before halftime. He converted two third downs on pass completions during the march, which trimmed Fresno State's lead to 17-14.
On the ensuing possession, Colburn dropped back to pass and had the ball slip from his hand without being touched. Ryan Coulson made the recovery for Nevada on the Bulldogs 20.
Following a 19-yard pass to Brandon Wimberly, the Wolf Pack was in the end zone again when Taua plunged in from 1 yard with 34 seconds left.
"It was huge to keep winning," Kaepernick said. "Being No. 21, we want to keep moving up. The character of this team really showed up in the end."
Rouse, who had 88 rushing yards in the first half, scored the Bulldogs' first two touchdowns on a 12-yard catch and a 2-yard run on Fresno States opening drive.
Kaepernick passed for 114 yards and ran for 95 in the first half. His only mistake was an interception by safety Lorne Bell that went right through the hands of receiver Malcolm Shepherd in the end zone.
The victory keeps Nevada's hopes alive in the WAC title race heading toward the Nov. 26 showdown against No. 4 Boise State.
"You have to win everything just to have a chance to go against (Boise State), so obviously this was a huge win" Ault said. "Not only for what it means for the conference title, but we recruit against Fresno State a lot."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Nevada's defense allowed Fresno State to gain just 17 yards on its final drive.
Gameball goes to... Vai Taua, who carried the ball 21 times for three touchdowns and 89 yards.
Stat of the game... 3. This is the first time since 1945-49 that Nevada's won three straight against Fresno.