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Nevada Toledo Football

Nevada's Toa Taua (35) attempts to fend off Toledo's DeDarallo Blue (21) during the first half of a game in Toledo, Ohio, on Sept. 22. Taua will be a sophomore this fall 2019 season after a stellar freshman campaign that saw the Lompoc High 2018 grad end the year as Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year. 

Heading into Saturday's game, Lompoc High grad Toa Taua had shown he was ready to compete at the college level.

After Saturday's game, the star tailback proved he was ready to shine at that level, too. 

Taua broke out in the Wolf Pack's contest at Toledo, rushing for 170 yards and three touchdowns on only 15 carries. Miscues on special teams and a porous defense doomed the Wolf Pack, though, in a 63-44 loss to the Rockets. 

Taua came into that game, his fourth with Nevada, leading the team in rushing, though the Wolf Pack had relied more on its air attack. Taua started his career by rushing for 56 yards on eight carries in the win over Portland State on Aug. 31. The Wolf Pack then ran into a bigger, better team in Vanderbilt, of the Southeastern Conference, where Taua had 24 yards on six carries. Then against Oregon State, Taua rushed 12 times for 81 yards as the Wolf Pack defeated the Pac-12 Beavers.

Then came Saturday's game. 

Taua appeared to score on an 18-yard run with the Wolf Pack down 7-0 in the first quarter, but the play was reviewed and Taua was ruled down at the 1-yard line. A few plays later, Wolf Pack quarterback Ty Gangi punched in a 1-yard touchdown run.

Early in the second quarter, Taua scored his first touchdown of the day, and second of his career, with a 31-yard burst to tie the game at 21. 

With 10:11 left in the third quarter, and Nevada trailing 42-31, Taua ripped off a 66-yard touchdown run to bring the Wolf Pack to within four points. 

But Toledo's offense took over, with Cody Thompson catching a pair of touchdown passes for back-to-back scores, giving the Rockets a 56-38 lead. 

Taua then scored on a 2-yard run, capping an 11-play, 75-yard drive to make the score 56-44. But Toledo answered with another touchdown to pull away late.

Taua wasn't the only local to shine in the game. Elijah Cooks, a former St. Joseph and Atascadero standout, caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Gangi in the first half. 

The Wolf Pack rushed for 262 yards in the game on only 35 attempts. Nevada outgained Toledo 582-460.

Taua spoke at a school-hosted press conference on Monday morning in Reno.

"It felt great," Taua said, according to the school. "I'm still getting used to college football but it was a really cool experience. One of the things I wanted to get used to was the tempo, and I think I've adjusted well to it."

Taua will get his first taste of Mountain West Conference football Saturday in Colorado. Nevada plays at Air Force in Colorado Springs. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. Pacific time and the game will be broadcast on ESPNEWS. The Wolf Pack then host Fresno State on Oct. 6 at 7:30 p.m.

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Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at jbailey@leecentralcoastnews.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jbaileysmsports

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