No. 19 Nevada 52, New Mexico St. 6
Colin Kaepernick, Vai Taua and the rest of the 19th-ranked Nevada Wolf Pack are finally getting what they wanted: a chance to play No. 3 Boise State for a share of the Western Athletic Conference title.
Kaepernick threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns and Taua ran for 111 yards and scored three times Saturday to lead Nevada past New Mexico State 52-6 and set up Friday night's game in Reno against the undefeated defending champions.
''It is going to be a great opportunity for us,'' Nevada coach Chris Ault said. ''And they are coming to Mackay. That's pretty special.''
''Boise's defense is as good as there is. And their offense is the best they've ever had. We have our work cut out for us,'' he said.
Kaepernick and Taua hooked up on a 79-yard pass play for a 31-3 lead just before the half as the Wolf Pack (10-1, 4-1 WAC) claimed their 11th straight victory at home and ensured their first 10-win season since 1991.
Freshman Andrew Manley completed 19 of 39 passes for 220 yards for the Aggies (2-9, 1-6 WAC). But Nevada's defense held New Mexico State to 89 yards rushing, sacked Manley six times and had two interceptions. The last one was returned 90 yards for a touchdown by Khalid Wooten with 5:17 left in the game.
''Our defensive effort was outstanding,'' Ault said. ''We had 11 tackles for a loss. That's pretty doggone good.''
Nevada defensive end Dontay Moch had eight tackles, three sacks and 3 1/2 tackles for a loss. He entered the game ranked 13th in NCAA history in that category with 57 - the active career leader.
Nevada's loss at Hawaii 27-21 on Oct. 16 eliminated the possibility of Nevada and Boise State both bringing undefeated records to the nationally televised game set for Friday night.
But both teams have had the game circled on their calendars from the beginning of the season and Ault said he spent much of the week making sure the Wolf Pack didn't have a letdown like they did two years when New Mexico State upset them 48-45 in Reno.
''I was real proud of the way the kids responded,'' Ault said. ''We didn't look past New Mexico State. We're not that good to look past anybody. We're not Boise State.''
The victory was the 500th in school history for the Wolf Pack.
''A lot of players play college football, but very few of them get a chance to make history,'' said Ault, who is the winningest coach in school history with a record of 216-97-1 over 26 years.
''Getting the 500th victory for this program is special. And to be the first major college football team in this school to get 10 wins is also very special. They deserve it.''
Taua, the NCAA's active career leader with 24 games over 100 yards rushing, scored his third touchdown of the day Saturday on a 7-yard run to give Nevada a 38-6 lead with 4:44 left in the third quarter. It grew to 45-6 when Lampford Mark went untouched up the middle for a 57-yard touchdown with 10 minutes left in the game.
''I think after a while they probably wanted to get the throws in, the score was never really that close,'' New Mexico State coach DeWayne Walker said. ''I don't have to get these guys up, I know they are not going to quit. We're going to go back to the drawing board and get ready for Hawaii.''
Nevada went ahead 17-0 early in the second quarter when Kaepernick got loose for 26 yards then three plays later threw a 22-yard scoring pass to tight end Virgil Green alone in the middle of the end zone.
Kaepernick, who became Nevada's all-time leader with 79 career TD passes, added a 9-yard TD run to push the lead to 24-0 with 3:40 left in the half.
Tyler Stampler's 47-yard field goal cut it to 24-3 with 52 seconds on the clock. But two plays later Kaepernick tossed a pass down the sideline into the outstretched arms of Taua who turned it into a 79-yard touchdown and a 31-3 lead at the half.
''They were in man coverage and Kap threw a perfect ball,'' Taua said. ''If I would have dropped it they probably would have taken me out of the game.''
''We are 100 percent focused on Boise now,'' he added.