The battle born spirit and pride of the silver and blue was on full display Saturday night as the Wolf Pack played its most complete 60-minute game all year long, even though its hopes for a bowl game ended last week.
Nevada was on a dreadful five-game losing streak, but it wanted to send its seniors off on a high note with a 38-16 victory against the San Jose State Spartans.
“The way our season’s gone, a lot of guys on this team could have just shut it down and started focusing on next year, but our coaches did a great job of letting us know there’s still a lot to play for and we could still send the seniors out on top,” defensive tackle Jordan Hanson said. “Anytime you get a win, it’s awesome, but just to see the guys play with the kind of passion and energy they did today was a lot of fun.”
The Wolf Pack came out strong and rushed for a season-high 311 yards, and its defense gave fans a glimpse of what the Tampa Cover 2 can become in the near future by racking up five sacks, 11 tackles for loss and a shut out in the second half.
“I think we didn’t learn it as fast as we thought we would have,” Hanson said. “Just the whole trusting, trust the guys to be in their gap and make the plays that they were supposed to make and hold each other accountable.”
Running back Kendall Brock set the tone early by scoring two rushing touchdowns in the first half, which allowed the Wolf Pack to have an array of balanced play calls that helped Cody Fajardo and the Union have a solid day.
Fajardo wasn’t sacked all game, was 20 for 27 for 171 yards and threw a touchdown pass to Brandon Wimberly. The senior extended his record streak of most consecutive games with a reception to 51, the longest in the nation.
But the highlight of the night was Don Jackson’s 39-yard Madden-esque rushing touchdown in the third quarter. Every juke and jump-cut Jackson displayed was worthy of ESPN’s Chris Berman to scream his classic “woop.”
“That team deserves a lot of credit for continuing to swing the axe and keep chopping wood and keep competing,” Polian said. “What I told them tonight is they showed the kind of character and mental and physical toughness that will someday make them champions.”
Senior offensive tackle Joel Bitonio was excited after the game due to the much-needed victory and overall performance of his team.
“We like to celebrate when we win, and it was just a good time in there,” Bitonio said of the mood in the postgame locker room. “We were dancing around, singing and having a good time. It’s been too long.”
Bitonio knows he will be very emotional on senior night, when they go up against BYU in their season finale at Mackay Stadium on Nov. 30, because it will be his last time wearing a Nevada jersey.
“I have so many good memories and played with so many great players,” said an emotional Bitonio. “It’s your brothers out there, and you want to go out with a bang; you want to leave your legacy on the program. Reno’s been my home for five years, and it’s going to be a sad day when I take off my helmet for the last time.”