Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns and receiver Rashard Higgins hauled in ten catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams got up early on Nevada and escaped with a narrow 31-24 win.
Neither team scored in the first quarter, aided by stout defense and missed field goals by Wolfpack kicker Brent Zuzo and Rams kicker Jared Roberts. Even though both teams average over 450 offensive yards per game, offense was hard to come by early for each team.
Wolfpack senior dual-threat quarterback Cody Fajardo was bottled up early on. Rams safety Kevin Pierre Louis delivered a huge hit on Fajardo eight minutes into the game that apparently made Fajardo bite his tongue as he was spitting out blood a few plays later.
Although the game entered the second quarter scoreless, the Rams would capitalize on a Wolfpack failed fourth-down conversion when linebacker Max Morgan stood up Fajardo and stopped him.
Grayson and the Rams came out on fire after the defensive stand. Grayson went 4 of 4 and running back Jason Oden Jr. bowled his way to the one-yard line before tight end Steven Walker, who had two big receptions on the drive, brought in the game’s first touchdown on a play action pass from Grayson with 9:00 left in the second quarter.
On their next drive, the Rams were nearly stopped by the Wolfpack on third and long, but wide receiver Joe Hansley picked up an 11-yard reception to keep the drive alive. The effort would pay off on the very next play, a 42 yard bullet to Rashard Higgins for a touchdown that extended the Rams’ lead to 14-0 with 5:03 left in the second quarter.
Following yet another three-and-out by Fajardo and the Wolfpack offense, Nevada’s punt was blocked by Jakob Buys, a redshirt sophomore from Vacaville, California.
Despite starting just outside the red zone, CSU were forced to settle for a 33-yard Jared Roberts field goal to increase their lead to 17-0 with just 2:07 left in the first half.
The Wolfpack offense drove down the field with just over a minute left and almost scored a touchdown, but was forced to settle for a 21-yard Brent Zuzo field goal as the first half ended.
After the half, Nevada received the ball but was forced to punt. When CSU got the ball, Grayson connected with a wide-open Higgins for a 51-yard touchdown to cap a three-play, 63-yard drive that took just over a minute.
After another Nevada three-and-out, CSU scored on a nine-yard scamper by Dee Hart to make the score 31-3 with 4:48 left in the third.
With the game almost all but lost for the Wolfpack, Fajardo led his team on a seven-play, 63-yard drive and ran for a 13-yard touchdown to bring Nevada within 31-10 with 2:13 in the third quarter.
The home crowd at Mackay Stadium began to come alive when Nevada’s defense managed to recover a Dee Hart fumble. Following the turnover, Fajardo led his team down the field and threw a nine-yard touchdown catch to Hasaan Henderson to make the game 31-17 with 10:31 left.
Nevada came within striking distance after an 11-yard touchdown pass from Fajardo to Richy Turner made the score 31-24 with just 6:22 left. Another defensive stop by the Wolfpack gave Fajardo the ball with just under five minutes remaining.
A potential game-tying touchdown was wiped away when referees called pass interference on Nevada’s Jerico Richardson, but the Wolfpack kept coming. Fajardo nearly brought the Wolfpack back, but he threw an interception to DeAndre Elliot on third-and-five and the Rams took over the ball to end the game in a 31-24 victory.
Collegian Sports Reporter Steven Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @steven_jacobs_.