Nevada holds off Oregon State comeback, 37-35

Nevada running back Toa Taua (35) celebrates his first collegiate rushing touchdown against Oregon State during the Sept. 15, 2018 game in Reno. Taua, a graduate of Lompoc High School, had 81 yards on 12 carries as the Wolf Pack won 37-35, then racked up 170 yards and three scores in the loss to Toledo the following game.

RENO, Nev. — When Nevada's offense needed a lift, the Wolf Pack called on a new face with a familiar name. 

Toa Taua answered that call.

Taua, a true freshman from Lompoc and the younger brother of Nevada's former record-setting running back Vai Taua, provided key yards on the ground in Saturday's game against Oregon State, an opponent from the Pac-12. 

As it turned out, the Wolf Pack needed all of Taua's 81 rushing yards.

The Beavers' Jordan Choukair missed a 33-yard field goal as time expired and Nevada held off an Oregon State comeback to win 37-35 at Mackay Stadium in Reno.

Taua led the Wolf Pack in rushing with 81 yards on 12 carries while he also scored his first career touchdown. Taua, a true freshman, has led Nevada in rushing in all three of its games.

Taua has 24 carries for 181 yards on the year. He also threw a 6-yard pass, making him 2-for-2 on passing attempts, which have consisted of shovel passes out of the 'Wildcat' formation.

Taua got the scoring started for Nevada on a 5-yard run with 12 minutes left in the first quarter, capping an eight-play, 75-yard drive. 

Taua set the tone early on that drive. He carried the ball three times for 19 yards on the opening series. 

On Nevada's second drive, with the Wolf Pack facing a third-and-4, Taua ripped off a 19-yard run down to Oregon State's 24 to set up a short field goal to give Nevada an early 10-7 lead.  

Nevada then got away from the run in the second half, but returned to relying on Taua during a late drive in the fourth quarter. Taua gained seven yards on the first play of the drive, then was stuffed for no gain before ripping off a 30-yard chunk on third-and-3. 

"Tonight, we had a whole bunch of guys pouring their heart and soul into that game," Nevada coach Jay Norvell told the Associated Press. "For the coaches, it was like four hours of root canal."

Nevada (2-1) led 30-7 lead with 10:16 left in the second quarter after Asauni Rufus forced Conor Blount to fumble the ball, and Malik Reed picked it up and ran 48 yards for a touchdown. Nevada scored on its first four possessions before the defensive touchdown gave the Wolf Pack a 23-point lead.

After the defensive touchdown, Oregon State (1-2) replaced Blount at quarterback with Jake Luton, who left the season opener two weeks ago with a concussion against No. 4 Ohio State.

Oregon State outscored Nevada 28-7 the rest of the way.

Luton finished 23 of 35 for 284 yards passing with one touchdown and one interception.

"We had a chance," first-year Beavers coach Jonathan Smith, who was the starting quarterback at Oregon State last time it played Nevada in 1999. "That's a good football team and that's a good offense. We had our chance and we just couldn't take advantage of it."

Nevada's Ty Gangi was 17-of-35 passing for 195 yards and threw two touchdown passes.

Taua also had an 8-yard reception.

The Beavers dominated Nevada through the air, passing for 459 yards compared to Nevada's 201. But the Wolf Pack's defensive front frustrated the Beavers' offense. Nevada recorded five sacks to Oregon State's one and held the Beavers to two yards rushing per carry.

"I couldn't tell you one stat from this game," Norvell said, according to the AP. "I don't really care. The only thing I care about is the score."

Luton was sidelined with an ankle injury halfway through the fourth quarter, Smith said. Blount re-entered at quarterback and led the final drive of the game to the Nevada 16-yard line before Choukair pulled the last second field-goal attempt wide left. Blount finished the game 12-of-20 with one touchdown and one interception.

Oregon State's Jermar Jefferson led all rushers with 106 yards on 25 carries.

Nevada wide receiver Brendan O'Leary-Orange was carted off the field on a stretcher in the second half.

"I was very concerned about Brendan O'Leary Orange . I don't have a lot of information on him. He is alert and he is moving, and we are hoping that he has a full recovery and that he is back with us soon," Norvell said.


Oregon State: The Beavers' extended their road losing streak to 21 games in a heartbreaking loss at Nevada.

Nevada: The Wolf Pack grabbed a rare win against a Power Five team and held on late against Oregon State.


Oregon State: The Beavers open Pac-12 Conference play Saturday hosting Arizona. OSU is 8-9-1 in Corvallis against Arizona.

Nevada: The Wolf Pack travels to Toledo on Saturday. Nevada lost to Toledo in Reno last year, 37-24.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.