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Fresno State outlasts Nevada 34-32, hands Pack first MWC loss of season

NCAA Football: Nevada at Fresno State Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Romeo Doubs’ career night wasn’t enough for the Nevada Wolf Pack, who suffered a heartbreaking loss at the hands of the Fresno State Bulldogs, 34-32, on Saturday at Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, Calif.

Doubs hauled in a career-high 19 catches for 203 yards and one touchdown, tying a program record set by Nate Burleson in 2002. It also marked his second career game of 200-plus receiving yards. Fresno State’s Justin Houston, without his head turned towards the ball, pushed Doubs out-of-bounds on the final two-point conversion, preventing the tie.

The nail-biting chaos began with just under three minutes to go with Nevada, trailing 34-26, getting the ball back on its own 47-yard line after a crucial Bulldog three-and-out.

Nevada quarterback Carson Strong completed back-to-back receiver screens to Doubs and Tory Horton for 11 combined yards and a first down. Fresno State defensive lineman David Perales stripped Strong on the following play, rewarding the Bulldogs the possession with 1:53 left. It was Perales’ second sack of the night and Fresno State’s ninth fumble recovery of 2021.

Nevada burned both of its two remaining timeouts left on Fresno’s first two plays. Wolf Pack safety Jordan Lee stopped Bulldog tailback Jordan Mims on third-and-four, though the clock kept ticking. Their final possession began on its own 10-yard line with :53 seconds.

Strong completed back-to-back 21- and 12-yard completions to tight end Cole Turner. He followed suit with a 21-yard completion to Justin Lockhart and a 24-yard completion to Doubs.

Three plays later, Strong connected with Turner for the 12-yard touchdown with two seconds to go. On the two-point conversion try, Strong found Doubs, but he wasn’t able to get one foot in bounds — thus ending the game.

Nevada went for two earlier in the third quarter, but which also failed — becoming the difference of the game evidently.

Fresno State handed the Pack their first conference loss of the season; Nevada drops to 2-1 in Mountain West play and 5-2 overall. Fresno State improves to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in conference play.

The Wolf Pack tallied 523 yards of offense with 30 first downs.

Carson Strong completed 49-of-61 passes for 476 yards — both career highs — with four touchdowns and one interception. His previous career marks of 39 completions and 420 yards were both set in his Nevada’s 2020 season opener against Wyoming on Oct. 24, 2020.

Toa Taua had 62 rushing yards on 12 carries, while Devonte Lee had six yards on three carries.

Aside from Doubs’ night, Cole Turner finished with eight receptions for 105 yards and two scores. Justin Lockhart had eight catches for 83 yards and a score. Tory Horton had six catches for 49 yards.

Fresno State had 461 yards with 24 first downs.

Jake Haener tossed for 256 yards and two touchdowns, completing 26-of-38 passes.

Ronnie Rivers played just one quarter before exiting with a knee injury, rushing for 80 yards — including a 64-yard touchdown — on three attempts. Mims, his backup, rushed for a career-high 134 yards (on 23 carries) with a touchdown, adding four receptions for 20 yards with an additional touchdown.

Jalen Cropper, who led the nation in touchdowns heading into the game, did not score on Saturday,. He finished with team-high seven receptions for 34 yards. Keric Wheatfall had five catches for a team-high 84 yards and a touchdown. Zane Pope added four catches for 59 yards.

Fresno State had a season-high five sacks while. On the other side, it held Nevada — who entered the weekend with an FBS-most 27.0 sacks — to just one sack.

After both teams punted each of its first two possessions, Nevada placekicker Brandon Talton tallied the game’s first score with a 32-yard field goal.

On the third play of the Bulldogs’ ensuing drive, Rivers ran 64 yards to the house — putting the Bulldogs ahead 7-3 with 5:07 left in the opening quarter.

Strong’s lone interception came inside Fresno State’s 10-yard line. With the help of a 42-yard pass to Wheatfall, the Bulldogs drove 91 yards (on 10 plays) — capped-off by Mims’ one-yard run, giving them the 14-3 lead.

Fresno State’s first turnover — a fumble, forced by Pack safety Joran Lee — occurred on the opening play of its ensuing drive, setting Nevada up in the red zone. Strong’s two-yard touchdown to Cole Turner cut the Bulldog advantage to 14-10.

Neither team would score again before halftime.

Nevada had three possessions end in plus territory with no points; Fresno State had just one. Fresno tallied one more yard (212 to 211) of offense with three fewer first downs (13 to 10) in the first half.

The Bulldogs opened the second half with an impressive 65-yard drive, capped-off by Wheatfall’s impressive 11-yard touchdown grab.

With the help of two timely third-and-long conversions, Nevada countered with Strong’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Lockhart — their second touchdown connection of the season. Though Nevada failed to convert on the two-point conversion, making it 21-16 with 8:46 left in the third quarter.

The two foes continued trading blows. Both teams exited halftime with seven combined scoring drives on their first eight combined drives.

With the assistance of a bevy of red jerseys, Mims was pushed three yards into the end zone for his second score of the night. It capped-off a nine-play, 88-yard drive that lasted 3:52. Fresno State faced just one third down on its first three drives of the second half.

Nevada cut the deficit to one score once again with Strong’s 11-yard touchdown to Doubs. Two consecutive field goals by Fresno State’s Cesar Silva — from 47 and 43 yards out — made it 34-23 with 5:48 remaining.

Talton’s 38-yard field goal re-trimmed it to eight with 4:21 to go. Strong nearly tied it with late-game heroics, the but the length of a shoe (or two) prevented the Wolf Pack from a comeback victory.

Next up: Nevada travels home to host the intrastate rival UNLV on Friday, Oct. 29, at 7:00 p.m. PT on CBS Sports Network.