RENO, Nev. — Colin Kaepernick and Nevada shot up Idaho today, as the Vandals simply couldn’t find an answer to the Wolf Pack’s potent Pistol offense.
Idaho was routed, 70-45, by a Nevada squad that put on a 662-yard offensive show for its Homecoming crowd in Mackay Stadium.
The Wolf Pack (4-3, 3-0 WAC) scored early and often, jumping out to a 21-0 lead with nearly 14 minutes left in the first half. Nevada took it to the house four times on plays of 35 yards or longer, including an 89-yard dash by running back Vai Taua.
“Speaking for the defense, we just got outplayed,” defensive end Aaron Lavarias admitted. “We can’t give up 70 points and expect our offense to take care of it.”
Idaho (6-2, 3-1 WAC) tried mightily to make a game of it, racking up 24 points in the second quarter. Quarterback Nathan Enderle tossed a pair of 73-yard touchdown passes to Maurice Shaw, bookending a 59-yard touchdown run by Deonte Jackson.
The period was capped off by a career-long 54-yard field goal from Trey Farquhar. That kick put Farquhar third on the Vandals’ all-time longest FG list and left Idaho trailing Nevada by just four points, 28-24, at halftime.
Vandal wide receiver Max Komar, who pulled down a career-high three touchdown passes to go with 136 yards, said Enderle went to a no-huddle offense that picked apart the Wolf Pack’s porous secondary.
“Just like what we did to Colorado State, our two-minute drill caught them off-guard,” Komar said.
Idaho’s onside kick attempt to open the second half went awry, giving the Wolf Pack a short field. Even then, the Vandal defense appeared to have made a crucial stand in holding Nevada to a fourth-and-7 at the Idaho 35.
But in a city of casinos, coach Chris Ault went all-in. Instead of settling for a field goal, Kaepernick kept the ball and scampered through a shattered Idaho defense into the end zone. His 35-yard touchdown run put the Wolf Pack up by 11 and Idaho would never threaten again.
“We had some momentum and (the onside kick) was something I felt would give us the chance to win,” Idaho coach Robb Akey said. “We were being aggressive. If I want the players to attack, I have to be just as aggressive.”
That score by Kaepernick was the first of seven consecutive touchdowns Nevada would score on a demoralized Vandal defense. The Pack’s speedy quarterback finished the game with 230 yards and four touchdowns on the ground and 178 yards and two more scores through the air.
“As a defense, we needed to take care of No. 10 (Kaepernick),” Akey said. “It looked to me like No. 10 could have been a Heisman Trophy winner today, he played his tail off and my hat’s off to him. He outplayed us.”
The Vandals’ defensive weaknesses were ruthlessly exposed throughout the game. Kaepernick and Taua were routinely able to pick up five or more yards on first down, as the Pistol’s misdirection befuddled Idaho’s front line. A flurry of missed tackles only compounded the misery for a Vandal defensive unit that had been ranked second in the Western Athletic Conference against the run.
“We didn’t tackle (Kaepernick), we didn’t tackle Taua, we had Nevada backed up and they run an iso play 900 yards for a touchdown,” Akey said.
Though the loss dropped Idaho out of the WAC lead, Akey was unbowed and even defiant. He reminded the assembled press of how far the Vandals have already come this season, in a turnaround that has sportswriters across the nation talking about the third-year coach as a Coach of the Year candidate.
“There is everything still to play for and this football team can still accomplish everything we want to,” Akey said. “If we win the rest of our football games we still have a chance to be WAC champions. Everyone out there, you all told us we didn’t have a chance to do that. You all didn’t give us a chance to win any of these games.”
Komar echoed Akey’s words.
“We can’t let this ruin our season,” Komar said. “We’re still 6-2, Vandal Nation hasn’t seen a 6-2 team in so long and we’re not going to give up. Tomorrow we’ll watch film, see what we did wrong and put this game behind us.”
Cornerback Isaac Butts went down clutching his leg while trying to chase down Taua’s first-quarter touchdown run, and did not return to the game. Akey said he suffered a hamstring injury that may keep him out for an extended period.
“It doesn’t look good,” Akey said. “I’m concerned about next week.”
The Vandals return to Moscow tonight, where they’ll play three of their final four games. On Saturday, Louisiana Tech will visit the Kibbie Dome for Idaho’s Homecoming. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.