Nevada Wolf Pack football

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Nevada Wolf Pack football
2016 Nevada Wolf Pack football team
Nevada Wolf Pack Txt.svg
First season 1896
Athletic director Doug Knuth
Head coach Brian Polian
4th year, 20–21 (.488)
Stadium Mackay Stadium
Field Chris Ault Field
Year built 1966
Seating capacity 30,000 (record 33,391)
Field surface FieldTurf (2000–present)
Natural grass (1966–99)
Location Reno, Nevada
NCAA division Division I FBS
Conference Mountain West
Division West
Past conferences
All-time record 536–469–34 (.532)
Bowl record 5–10 (.333)
Conference titles 14
Heisman winners 0 (2 Heisman finalists)
Consensus All-Americans 1 (multiple All-American selections)
Colors Navy Blue and Silver[1]
Fight song Hail to our Sturdy Team
Mascot Alphie and Wolfie Jr.
Marching band Pride of the Sierra
Rivals UNLV Rebels,
Boise State Broncos
Website Nevada Wolf Pack

The Nevada Wolf Pack football program represents the University of Nevada (commonly referred to as "Nevada" in athletics) in college football. The Wolf Pack competes in the Mountain West Conference at the Football Bowl Subdivision level of the NCAA Division I.

The Wolf Pack's home field is Mackay Stadium, located at the north end of its campus in Reno. It opened 50 years ago in October 1966 with a seating capacity of 7,500 and has undergone several renovations. The stadium currently seats 30,000 and has played to crowds in excess (see attendance records), but will be decreasing its capacity to 26,000 by the 2016 season to increase the quality of the experience in the stadium.[2] The elevation of its playing field is 4,610 feet (1,410 m) above sea level.


Nevada's football history began in 1895 or 1896. However, there was no football program from 1906–14 (only rugby), in 1918 (due to World War I), and in 1951.[3]

Nevada has had three individuals inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. They are coach Chris Ault, running back Frank Hawkins (197780), and former coach Buck Shaw. Fullback Marion Motley is the only Nevada player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Three-time Super Bowl champion Charles Mann played for Nevada from 1979 to 1982 and was named Most Valuable Defensive Lineman in 1982.[4] Mann was inducted into the Nevada Athletics Hall of Fame in 1995.[5] Another Nevada alumnus with a long career in the NFL was free safety Brock Marion. He was selected in the seventh round of the 1993 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys where he played most of his career, and won two Super Bowls. Marion was selected to three Pro Bowls, and one All-Pro team.

Nevada has not fielded a Heisman Trophy winner; however, Stan Heath was fifth in Heisman voting in 1948 and Colin Kaepernick (QB) was eighth among 2010 candidates. Nevada football's rich tradition has produced 40 All-Americans and 45 All-American selections. Nevada's only consensus All-American was Matt Clafton (LB) in 1991, which was Nevada's last year in the Division I-AA; the Wolf Pack is awaiting their first FBS consensus All-American. The Wolf Pack has also produced two Academic All-Americans: David Heppe (P, 1982) and Erick Streelman (TE, 2002)[6]

I-AA history[edit]

The Wolf Pack competed in Division I-AA since the formation of that division in 1978, moving up from Division II and were undefeated as in the regular season.[7] Before joining the Big Sky Conference in 1979,[8][9] Nevada competed in the Far West Conference and was an independent in football for a decade. Nevada played in the Division I-AA playoffs in its first two seasons, when just four teams were selected. They returned to the national semi-finals in 1983 and 1985,[10] when the playoffs included 12 teams, and 1986 with a 16-team field. The Wolf Pack reached the national championship game in 1990,[11][12] and the quarterfinals in 1991.

In its 14 years in Division I-AA, Nevada made the playoffs seven times, and went undefeated during the regular season three times (1978, 1986, 1991), compiling an overall record of 122–47–1 (.721). Nevada had a record of 9–7 in the I-AA playoffs during their time in the Big Sky and in 13 years of membership, the Wolf Pack won four conference titles (1983, 1986, 1990, 1991). During most of its I-AA era, the school was known as "Nevada-Reno," "UNR," or "Reno." [9][10][13][14][15][16]

In its final season in Division I-AA in 1991, the top-ranked Wolf Pack recorded what still stands as one of the biggest comebacks in Division I NCAA football history when they defeated Weber State 55–49, after trailing by 35 points in the second half at home.[17] Backup sophomore quarterback Chris Vargas led a second half Nevada comeback of 41 unanswered points to win the game.[18] After the game, Vargas was given the nickname, "The Comeback Kid," and would become one of the greatest quarterbacks to play for the Wolf Pack.

I-AA Playoff history[edit]

Nevada played in sixteen I-AA playoff games, with a record of 9–7.

Year Playoff round Opponent Result
1978 Semifinal Massachusetts L 21–44
1979 Semifinal at Eastern Kentucky L 30–33 2OT
1983 1st Round at Idaho State W 27–20
Quarterfinal North Texas W 20–17 2OT
Semifinal at Southern Illinois L 7–23
1985 1st Round Arkansas State W 24–23
Quarterfinal at Furman L 12–35
1986 1st Round Idaho W 27–7
Quarterfinal Tennessee State W 33–6
Semi-Final Georgia Southern L 38–48
1990 1st Round Louisiana-Monroe W 27–14
Quarterfinal Furman W 42–35 3OT
Semifinal Boise State W 59–52 3OT
Championship at Georgia Southern L 13–36
1991 1st Round McNeese State W 22–16
Quarterfinal Youngstown State L 28–30

The Division I-AA playoffs included only four teams in 1978;
the field was expanded to eight in 1981, twelve in 1982, and sixteen in 1986.

Move from I-AA to I-A/FBS[edit]

Nevada moved up to Division I-A in 1992 when it joined the Big West Conference. The change from Division I-AA to Division I-A brought a lot of excitement to Wolf Pack fans. That year, Nevada became the first NCAA football team to win a conference championship in its first Division I-A season. Nevada won the 1992 Big West title after beating Utah State in the final conference game of the season. Led by Vargas again coming off the bench, Nevada came from behind late in the 4th quarter to win, 48–47.

In 2000, Nevada left the Big West and joined the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), hoping to upgrade its athletic program.

In 2007, the Wolf Pack and the Boise State Broncos played in a historic game on October 14, setting a new NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision record for total points scored with 136. Boise State won the game 69–67 in the second half of the fourth overtime period, when Broncos LB Tim Brady stopped Nevada's freshman QB Colin Kaepernick on the mandatory two-point conversion attempt.

In 2010, Nevada would only lose one game against Hawaii on its way to a 13–1 record beating ranked California and Boise State teams, along with beating BYU on the road and Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Led by Colin Kaepernick, Nevada would win a share of its first WAC title since 2005, and would ruin #4 Boise State's certain invitation to a BCS game.

On August 18, 2010, Nevada accepted an invitation to the Mountain West Conference along with Fresno State. Nevada and Fresno State are scheduled to leave the WAC and start play in the Mountain West Conference in 2012. Both programs will join Boise State who is also leaving the WAC for the Mountain West in 2011. The move to the Mountain West will place Nevada in the same conference as in-state rival UNLV for the first time since 1995.

In 2012, Nevada left the WAC and moved to the Mountain West Conference (MW), along with fellow WAC member Fresno State, as part of the 2010–13 Mountain West Conference realignment. This move was influenced by Boise State's entrance, the increased strength of schedule, and the intensity of Nevada's rivalries.



Main article: Fremont Cannon

The Nevada and UNLV Football programs have a strong disdain for each other. The in-state rivalry started in 1969, and has not been played only a few years during the 1980s. Nevada currently maintains an overall 24–17 lead in the series after falling at home 23–17 in the most recent match-up, and holds the series record of 8 consecutive victories. The Fremont Cannon was introduced as the rivalry trophy in 1970 by Bill Ireland, who attended Nevada and was UNLV's first football coach.

Unlike the Rivalry with Boise State, the Fremont Cannon rivalry has lacked many games of importance. Nevada and UNLV have spent many years in different conferences. The mid-90's being the exception when both schools were in the Big West. This time period also marks where a lot of the bitterness between the two schools came from. Nevada had just moved to the Big West from Division I-AA, and had enjoyed success after winning a conference title in 1992. After his first coaching retirement, Chris Ault was replaced by Jeff Horton as the head coach in 1993. After one season Horton left for the same position at rival UNLV. Chris Ault would return to the Nevada sideline to coach Nevada in 1994 and 1995 until he could find another coach. In 1994 UNLV and Nevada would go on to become co-champions of the Big West, but UNLV won the head to head game against Nevada sending them to the post season bowl game. The next season the game was marred by pre and post game fights between both teams, and with many fights between fans in the stands. Nevada would go on to win the game and the conference title outright. Since then the rivalry has lost some of its luster, but as of 2012 Nevada and UNLV became members of the same conference once again.

The Fremont Cannon is the largest and most expensive trophy in the all of college football. Nevada had kept the Cannon for 8 straight years, 2005–2012, until UNLV beat the Wolf Pack in Mackay Stadium in 2013. Nevada would go on to reclaim the Cannon in Sam Boyd Stadium on November 29, 2014, beating the Rebels 49–27. In October 2015 the Rebels reclaimed the Cannon by defeating UNR at Mackay Stadium 23-17. The Cannon has once again been painted UNLV Rebels crimson.

Boise State[edit]

Nevada has a long-standing rivalry with Boise State; the teams first met in 1971. The rivalry with Boise State does not seem to contain the same amount of bitterness as Nevada's intrastate rivalry against UNLV. However, many feel that this has become a more meaningful, and more important rivalry for the Wolf Pack since UNLV has become somewhat irrelevant in football over the past few years.

Some of the most important games in the history of both programs have been played against each other. In 1990, Nevada won the Big Sky Championship with an overall season record of 13–2. Nevada's only regular season loss was a 30–14 conference loss to the Broncos in Boise. Nevada and Boise State would both go on to the Division I-AA playoffs. The two teams met in the 1990 Division I-AA semifinals in Reno for a rematch of their earlier battle that year. With the winner going to the championship, the game took 3 overtime sessions. Nevada fullback Ray Whalen scored the decisive touchdown in the third overtime with an 8-yard run into the end zone. Nevada's defense held Boise State after the score on their turn during the alternating overtime sessions. This game was the second game in a row that Nevada needed 3 overtime periods to finish the game. (Nevada had defeated Furman the week prior in a triple overtime game.) There have been no other games postseason games played between the two teams to date. Nevada went to lose in the finals to Georgia Southern by a score of 36–13 in Statesboro, Georgia.[12]

In 2006, Nevada and Boise State would meet in Reno in Boise State's final regular season game. Boise State won the game, giving the Broncos a berth into the Fiesta Bowl. This would be Boise State's first BCS bowl game, where they would go on to beat Oklahoma in dramatic fashion. In 2010, the two teams met for another meaningful game near the end of the season. Nevada beat Boise State in another dramatic overtime game, ending the Broncos' chances of playing in the Rose Bowl.

Retired numbers[edit]

  • 27 -- Frank Hawkins played four seasons with the Wolf Pack (1977–80) as a running back, was a three-time All-American (Division I-AA), and led Division I-AA in rushing twice. Selected in the tenth round of the 1981 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders, he played seven seasons with the Raiders and was a member of the 1984 team that won Super Bowl XVIII. He rushed for 5,333 yards at Nevada and also had 11 consecutive games in a season with at least 100 rushing yards per game. He would be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
  • 41 -- Marion Motley played three seasons with the Wolf Pack (1940–42) [19] and has been considered by many as "The Jackie Robinson of Football." Motley was one of four black players to break professional football's color barrier when he signed with the Cleveland Browns in 1946, and helped lead the Browns to four straight AAFC titles and the 1950 NFL title in their first year in the league. Motley was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968 and was selected to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1994.

Chris Ault[edit]

The winningest coach in school history is Chris Ault. He was the head coach for Nevada for 28 seasons and was involved with Nevada football for 40 years before stepping down as head coach after the 2012 season. He coached for 3 stints (1976–92, 1994–95, and 2004–12). His record as Nevada head coach ended at 233 wins, 109 losses, and 1 tie. Ault won 10 conference titles in the Big Sky, Big West and Western Athletic Conference. Perhaps his only negative flaw was his 2–8 bowl record. Ault brought popularity to the is Pistol Offense when he implemented it after returning to the sideline during the 2004 season. Since then, the Pistol Offense has been used by multiple teams at every level of football including the NFL. Ault also served as the Nevada Athletics Director from 1986–2004, and played quarterback for Nevada from 1965 to 1967. In 2002, Ault was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. The field at Mackay Stadium was named Chris Ault Field in 2013 in appreciation for his numerous accomplishments.

Notable games[edit]

Nevada-0 California-0 on November 3, 1923: A game that will always be remembered in Nevada football history was the improbable 0–0 tie against California in 1923. Cal entered the game in the midst of a 50-game undefeated streak, 3 consecutive national championships, 3 consecutive conference championships, and two consecutive Rose Bowl appearances in 1920, and 1921 that ended in a victory and a tie respectively. The team was so dominant it was known as the "Wonder Team." [20] The fact that the Wolf Pack, a much smaller program from a lower division, held powerhouse Cal scoreless in Berkeley makes this final score one of the most interesting in college football history. Cal would go on to finish the season with a 9–0–1 record, and would claim 1923 as their 4th consecutive national championship. The tie was the only regular season game for California that did not end in a victory in the 4 year time frame.

Nevada-23 UNLV-14 on September 16, 1978: Nevada had not beaten UNLV in 4 straight tries, and was a 20-point underdog with the game being played in Las Vegas in 1978. Nevada would outplay the Rebels however, and go on to win 23–14. The story that came after the game is what makes the victory remembered by Wolf Pack alumni and fans. Chris Ault convinced the airport security to let the team disassemble the Fremont Cannon so that the team could bring it back to Reno on the plane. Nevada running back Frank Hawkins carried the barrel of the cannon onto the plane. Chris Ault would tell this story during the week of the UNLV game to get his players fired up.

Nevada-59 Boise State-52 (F/3OT) on December 8, 1990: Nevada and Boise State met for the second time in 1990 for the semi-final of the 1990 NCAA Division 1-AA National Championship. Nevada had lost to Boise State earlier that year in a conference game 30–14. The Wolf Pack would play 3 overtimes periods for the second playoff game in a row, and would win 59–52 after running back Ray Whalen scored a touchdown. Nevada would go on to lose to Georgia Southern in the National Championship game the following week. This is still the only postseason game ever played between these two schools.

Nevada-55 Weber State-49 on November 2, 1991: Nevada recorded the largest come from behind victory in Division 1 NCAA history when it beat Weber State 55–49 in 1991. Nevada was down by 35 points at halftime when QB Fred Gatlin was replaced by Chris Vargas. Nevada would go on the score at will and only allow one touchdown by Weber State the entire second half. Nevada would go on to win the 1991 Big Sky Championship. Michigan State tied the record 35 point comeback when they beat Northwestern in 2006, and became the first school to do so in the FBS subdivision.

Nevada-48 Utah State-47 on November 14, 1992: Nevada would beat Utah State after a late 4th quarter comeback. Nevada was losing by 23 points with just over 5 minutes left when QB Chris Vargas would lead them to a one-point, 48–47 victory. The win clinched the Big West Conference title for Nevada in their first season after joining Division 1-A. Nevada was the first program to win a conference title during their first year in the FBS (Division 1-A), after entering the subdivision from a lower subdivision.

Nevada-18 Ball State-15 on December 18, 1996: Nevada and Ball State were expected to bring offensive fireworks for the 1996 Las Vegas Bowl. What ensued however was a hard nosed defensive display from both sides. After Nevada scored a touchdown on their opening possession, offenses found it a lot tougher to get points on the board. Nevada's starting QB John Dutton was substituted for proven backup Eric Bennett to try to spark the offense. Nevada LB Mike Crawford became the game's MVP with 14 tackles, a forced fumble, and a game sealing interception late in the 4th quarter. With the play of Crawford, plus the energy Bennett was able to give the offense off the bench in the second half, Nevada was able to win their first bowl game in 48 years.

Nevada-38 Fresno State-35 on November 26, 2005: Fresno State was ranked number 16 in the nation, and just came off a narrow defeat at the hands of the eventual National Champion USC Trojans. Nevada would take and early lead that it would only relinquish for a very short time in the 3rd quarter. Nevada QB Jeff Rowe passed for a touchdown, and ran for another while passing for 189 yards. Back-up running back Robert Hubbard would have a standout game as he rushed for 146 yards on 16 carries, with 3 rushing touchdowns, and a 16-yard catch. Nevada would recover a late Fresno State on-sides kick attempt to seal the 38–35 victory, and Nevada's first WAC Championship. This was also Nevada's first conference championship in 8 years.

Nevada-34 Boise State-31 (F/OT) on November 26, 2010 "Blue Friday": #19 ranked Nevada faced #3 AP (#4 BCS) ranked Boise State in Reno, a matchup hyped as the biggest sporting event in Reno for the last 100 years. Boise State had the nation's longest winning streak at 24 games, and were trying to jump Oregon in the BCS poll to have a shot at the national title with a win against Nevada. At the start of the 2nd half, Nevada was trailing 24–7, but mounted a comeback when Nevada senior quarterback Colin Kaepernick scored an 18-yard rushing touchdown in the 3rd quarter, cutting the margin to 24–14. In the fourth quarter, the Wolf Pack scored a rushing touchdown when receiver Rishard Matthews broke through the defense on a reverse to cut the deficit to three at 24–21. On the next Wolf Pack possession, Nevada kicker Anthony Martinez tied the game 24–24 with a 23-yard field goal. Boise State answered with a quick touchdown, when Kellen Moore hit Doug Martin on a screen for a 79-yard touchdown pass to go up 31–24. With 4:53 remaining in the game, Kaepernick led the Wolf Pack on a 14-play drive, capping off with a touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews to tie the game at 31–31 with 13 seconds remaining. BSU's Moore then completed a Hail Mary pass downfield to the Nevada 9-yard line with 2 seconds left, but Bronco kicker Kyle Brotzman missed a 26-yard field goal as time expired in regulation. In overtime, Brotzman missed a 29-yard field goal during the Broncos' turn on offense during the first overtime. When Nevada got its turn on offense, Anthony Martinez kicked a 34-yard field goal to give Nevada the biggest win in the history of the program, and knocking Boise State out of BCS title and Rose Bowl contention. Nevada would go on to win a share of the 2010 WAC title 8 days later after beating Louisiana Tech 35–17.

Nevada-20 Boston College-13 on January 9, 2011: After beating #3 Boise State and Louisiana Tech to claim a share of the WAC title, Nevada entered the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl ranked #15 nationally. Defenses dominated most of the game, as even Nevada's high-powered offense only scored one touchdown, on a 27-yard pass from Colin Kaepernick to a wide open Rishard Matthews in the first quarter. The last touchdown of the game was a 72-yard punt return by Matthews later in that first quarter. Both teams scored two field goals each to finish off the game, as Nevada won by seven points. This was Nevada's first, and still only bowl victory against a power 5 conference school, and ended the season ranked #11, their highest ranking to date playing in the modern FBS/1-AA subdivision. Matthews was named the game's offensive MVP.

Bowl games[edit]

Date Bowl Opponent Result
January 1, 1948 Salad Bowl North Texas Won, 13–6
January 1, 1949 Harbor Bowl Villanova Loss, 7–27
December 18, 1992 Las Vegas Bowl Bowling Green Loss, 34–35
December 14, 1995 Las Vegas Bowl Toledo Loss, 37–40 OT
December 18, 1996 Las Vegas Bowl Ball State Won, 18–15
December 24, 2005 Sheraton Hawaiʻi Bowl Central Florida Won, 49–48 OT
December 31, 2006 MPC Computers Bowl Miami (FL) Loss, 20–21
December 22, 2007 New Mexico Bowl New Mexico Loss, 0–23
December 30, 2008 Roady's Humanitarian Bowl Maryland Loss, 35–42
December 24, 2009 Sheraton Hawaiʻi Bowl SMU Loss, 10–45
January 9, 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Boston College Won, 20–13
December 24, 2011 Sheraton Hawaiʻi Bowl Southern Miss Loss, 17–24
December 15, 2012 Gildan New Mexico Bowl Arizona Loss, 48–49
December 20, 2014 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Louisiana–Lafayette Loss, 3–16
December 29, 2015 Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl Colorado State Won, 28–23

Conference championships[edit]

Season Conference Record Conference Record
1932[21] Far West 3–3–2 2–0–1 (Co–Champions with San José State)
1933[21] 4–4–0 3–0–0
1939[21] 5–4–0 3–0–0
1983[21][22] Big Sky 9–5–0 6–1
1986[21][22] 13–1–0 7–0
1990[21][22] 13–2–0 7–1
1991[21][22] 12–1–0 8–0
1992[21] Big West 7–5–0 5–1–0
1994[21] 9–2–0 5–1–0 (tri–champions with SW Louisiana, UNLV)
1995[21] 9–3–0 6–0–0
1996[21] 9–3 4–1 (co–champions with Utah State)
1997[21] 5–6 4–1 (co–champions with Utah State)
2005[21][23] WAC 9–3 7–1 (co–champions with Boise State)
2010[21][23] 13–1 7–1 (tri–champions with Boise State, Hawaiʻi)

Records vs. MWC teams[edit]

School All-Time Record Percentage Streak
Air Force 1–2 .333 Lost 1
Boise State 13–28 .317 Lost 4
Colorado State 3–11 .214 Won 1
Fresno State 19–27–1 .415 Won 1
Hawaiʻi 12–8 .600 Won 5
New Mexico 3–2–1 .583 Won 3
San Diego State 3–5 .375 Lost 1
San José State 19–8–2 .690 Won 6
UNLV 24–17 .585 Lost 1
Utah State 17–6 .739 Lost 2
Wyoming 3–3 .500 Lost 1

Future non-conference opponents[edit]

Announced schedules as of June 5, 2014

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 or 2022
Sept. 3 vs Cal Poly Sept. 2 at Washington State Sept. 1 vs TBD Aug. 31 vs Purdue Sept. 19 vs South Florida TBD at Idaho
Sept. 10 at Notre Dame Sept. 9 vs Toledo Sept. 8 at Washington Sept. 7 at Oregon
Sept. 17 vs Buffalo Sept. 16 at TBA Sept. 15 vs Oregon State
Sept. 24 at Purdue Sept. 30 vs Idaho Sept. 22 at Toledo



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  13. ^ "Division I-AA playoffs". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. December 16, 1986. p. 2B. 
  14. ^ "Enthusiasm abundant as Big Sky football coaches meet the press". Idahonian. (Moscow). Associated Press. July 25, 1987. p. 16. 
  15. ^ Stalwick, Howie (September 30, 1990). "Vandals don't get kick out of Reno". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Wasington). p. C1. 
  16. ^ "You can bet on Reno name change". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). staff and wire reports. August 3, 1991. p. B4. 
  17. ^ "Nevada stages miracle rally, beats Weber". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. November 3, 1991. p. 1B. 
  18. ^ "For the record". Idahonian. (Moscow). November 4, 1991. p. 1B. 
  19. ^ Nevada Wolf - Nevada to Honor Anniversary of Marion Motley's Hall of Fame Induction This Season - 2008-08-29 - accessed 2011-11-02
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External links[edit]