RENO, Nev. – Grambling State came up on the short end during its 2008 season opener as the Tigers dropped a 49-13 decision to the University of Nevada Wolf Pack before a crowd of 20,078 at Mackay Stadium in Reno.
Grambling fell behind early as the Football Bowl Subdivision member Wolf Pack took advantage of a Greg Dillon interception and had little field to go as quarterback Colin Kaepernick ran it in for a 7-yard run. The Tigers regrouped on their next possession and recorded their first big play of the night when Dillon connected with a wide-open Dante Cheek for a 40-yard pass reception. Unfortunately, the promising drive fell short on fourth down after a blocked field goal.
Both teams traded possessions after the block but Nevada found its scoring touch as Kaepernick led the Wolf Pack on a four-play, 40-yard drive that was capped off by a 19-yard run by Kaepernick. However, Grambling once again began to move the ball as Dillon found Nick Lewis for a 26-yard strike and freshman Van Phillips recorded an 11-yard reverse to the UNR 28. But in similar fashion to the last drive that ended deep in UNR territory, the Tigers were stopped on fourth down and were forced to turn the ball over on downs.
The offensive highlights came to a halt as the second quarter began but midway through the quarter, Nevada’s Vai Taua broke free for a 62-yard scamper to move the Wolf Pack to GSU’s 3. Three plays later on third down, Taua rewarded himself for the run with a 1-yard touchdown rush up the middle of the GSU defense. The PAT was good by Brett Jaekle and the Wolf Pack moved ahead 21-0 with 6:55 left in the first half.
Grambling had its moments as the first half came to an end as a Derrick Johnson sack led to a UNR fumble. Kendall Robinson picked up the ball and scampered 46 yards downfield but the drive once again stalled on the offensive end. Nevada made a big splash towards the end of the half and drove the length of the field but the defense held ground and kept them from attempting a field goal to close out the half.
The second half didn’t begin on a positive note as the Wolf Pack drove 73 yards in nine plays to up their lead to 28-0. GSU was forced to punt on its opening possession but redeemed itself defensively when Desmond Lenard picked off a pass and returned it 61 yards for GSU’s first touchdown of the 2008 season. Luis Leal’s PAT was good and drew the Tigers to within three touchdowns at 28-7 but the momentum didn’t last long as Nevada marched down the field once again behind the strength of its rushing attack. The Wolf Pack needed only five plays to score their fifth touchdown of the night en route to a 35-7 margin midway in the third quarter.
After the score, GSU managed to make things interesting on its next two possessions as Dillon eluded the Wolf Pack rush and connected with redshirt freshman Kenneth Batiste for a 59-yard pass reception on 3rd-and-long that ended at the 2-yard line. Unfortunately, GSU didn’t get the result it was looking for as Nevada held its ground and completed the goalline stand by stopping GSU at the one on fourth-and-goal. Several plays later, UNR fumbled at its own 20 but the Tiger offense couldn’t capitalize as they turned the ball over on downs.
With offense the highlight of the night, the fourth quarter didn’t disappoint as UNR added two touchdowns to GSU’s one. In the final stanza, Dillon drove the Tigers 66 yards in five plays and concluded the drive with his first career touchdown pass as he found Batiste for a successful 21-yard reception.
For the game, UNR finished with 629 (426 R, 206 P) total yards offensively while GSU amassed 230 (225 P, 5 R) yards. In his first-ever start, Dillon passed for 225 yards and one touchdown on 13-of-25 passing. Cornelius Walker led all GSU rushers with 14 yards on eight carries while Batiste caught six passes for 95 yards.
Taua eclipsed the 100-yard mark for UNR as he rushed for 103 yards on 12 carries. Kaepernick passed for 122 yards on 10-of-17 passing while Mike McCoy caught six passes for 67 yards.
* Grambling drops to 6-9 all-time against teams from the FBS ranks.
* The margin of loss was the biggest for the Tigers since a 48-7 defeat to Washington State in 2005.
* Nevada evens the all-time series against GSU at 1-1.
* Desmond Lenard scored GSU’s first touchdown of the year with a 61-yard third quarter interception return. The interception marked the first of Lenard’s career.
* Redshirt freshman Kenneth Batiste scored GSU’s first touchdown of the season on a 21-yard pass from Greg Dillon in the fourth quarter. The Lafayette, La. native caught six receptions for 95 yards in his first career game at Grambling.
* GSU drops its first season opener under head coach Rod Broadway.