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
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
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
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
"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
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
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.