Nevada tops La. Tech 35-17, wins share of WACBy BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer Sunday, Dec 5, 2010
RUSTON, La. (AP)—Leave it to Colin Kaepernick to tie the NCAA record for touchdowns rushing by a quarterback on a designed pass play, all while leading Nevada to a conference title and its sixth consecutive bowl game.
Kaepernick ran for three scores, including a dazzling 28-yard scramble on fourth-and-9, and the No. 14 Wolf Pack earned a share of the Western Athletic Conference championship with a 35-17 victory over Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
Nevada athletic director Cary Groth said afterward the Wolf Pack have accepted an invitation to play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Jan. 9 against a team to be determined from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
With the bowl game still to play, Kaepernick now has 59 career TDs on the ground, tying the mark held by Nebraska’s Eric Crouch.
“He is the leader of our team; there is no question about it,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “That last touchdown run he made when he scrambled on fourth down was unbelievable. That is what he does for us. He makes plays. That’s what his legs do for us. He has done that throughout his career here. He is a pretty special guy.”
On Kaepernick’s fourth-down score, Ault called for a screen pass to Vai Taua, who tripped over a defender. Kaepernick, whose elusiveness gave the Bulldogs fits all afternoon, rolled away from pressure and sprinted into the open along the sideline. Just when it looked like he’d dart out of bounds, he cut inside and outran the pursuit to make it 28-17 in the fourth quarter.
“I had to scramble around and make a play. After scrambling around for a couple of seconds, it was amazing, the play just opened up and the hole was there,” Kaepernick said.
“I actually didn’t know that I had tied the record,” he continued. “To accomplish something like that is a great accolade but I have had great teammates and in particular great offensive lineman my entire time here at Nevada.”
Kaepernick wound up with 155 yards rushing, the 16th time he’d surpassed the 100-yard mark in his career. He also became the third QB in NCAA history to eclipse 4,000 yards rushing. He has 4,090, trailing only West Virginia’s Pat White (4,480) and Missouri’s Brad Smith (4,289).
“Coming out of high school I had only one scholarship offer and I just wanted to come in here and work hard,” Kaepernick said. “When I came in originally, I was not even a running quarterback, so a lot of the rushing stuff actually came as a surprise to me.”
Taua rushed for 162 yards and two scores in a victory that assured the Wolf Pack (12-1, 7-1) its first share of a WAC title since 2005, as well as its best regular season since moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1992.
Ross Jenkins threw for 188 yards and one TD and also rushed for a short score for Louisiana Tech (5-7, 4-4), which saw its hopes of a bowl bid end with the loss.
Phillip Livas had 230 all-purpose yards, including 162 yards on kickoff returns. He nearly had his ninth return for a score, which would have set a new NCAA record, but was pushed out of bounds on a 60-yard run back by Nevada kicker Ricky Drake in the fourth quarter.
“Funny how me and Phillip talked Monday about how Livas hasn’t gotten tackled by a kicker and there it happens,” Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes said.
Livas joked that he’d jinxed himself, adding “I wish I could have that one back.”
The Bulldogs never trailed in the first half, taking a 7-0 lead on the first possession of the game when Jenkins hit Eric Harper with a 20-yard scoring strike along the sideline.
Nevada needed three possessions to tie it on Taua’s 1-yard plunge in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs surged back in front on Jenkins’ keeper, set up by a 36-yard pass over the middle to Taulib Ikharo to the Nevada 2.
The Wolf Pack tied it shortly before halftime on Kaepernick’s first rushing TD of the game, and option keeper to the left side on which he scored easily from 5 yards.
Nevada then received the ball to open the second half and drove 83 plays in 12 plays to take the lead for good on Kaepernick’s second TD run, which came from a yard out.
“We did some good things in the first half but in the second half they just lined up and whipped us,” Dykes said. Kaepernick “is hard to tackle and he just made plays. He is a good football player.”