This item originally appeared in the Oct. 30, 2003, issue of The Tech Talk.
By BRET H. MCCORMICK
Associate Sports Editor
For the second week in a row, Bulldog running back Ryan Moats exploded in the second half. However, unlike last week's game with Hawaii, Moats led Tech to a 42-34 victory over Nevada (5-4, 3-1 in the Western Athletic Conference).
During the second half of Saturday's contest, Moats gained 144 of his 199 yards and scored two of his three touchdowns. For his efforts, which included a third straight 100-yard performance, Moats was named WAC Player of the Week.
"He's special," head coach Jack Bicknell said of the 5-foot 8-inch, 205-pound sophomore. "He's just one of those guys you have to keep giving the ball to because he can make big plays."
Also like in the Hawaii game, Tech (4-4, 2-3) fell behind early, trailing 14-0 at the end of the first quarter and 21-3 in the second.
"Our opponents seem to be making big plays in the first quarter right in a row," Bicknell said. "It's just been very critical."
Tech's defense came out sluggish and could not stop Nevada's running game. The Wolf Pack scored on its first two possessions of the game, including a 99-yard drive that took 8:31 off the clock on the second series. Running back Chance Kretschmer dove in from one yard out to give the Pack a 14-0 lead.
"We just came out and started slow," senior cornerback Corey Brazil said. "Nevada had a totally different game plan than what we expected and we just had to adjust."
Talib Wise scored on a 22-yard run early in the second quarter, and Nevada went on top 21-3.
"We were down 21-3, and it didn't look like we could stop them," Bicknell said. "It's the [third] week in a row this has happened."
However, the Bulldogs fought back. They scored the final 10 points of the half to cut the lead to 21-13.
Moats scored first on a one-yard run that capped a 12-play, 87-yard drive, and kicker Josh Scobee added his second field goal of the quarter, from 39 yards out.
The Bulldogs, who have put added emphasis on winning the third quarter over the past few weeks, did just that against Nevada.
Tech marched its opening possession of the second half 80 yards for a score, culminating with D.J. Curry's four-yard touchdown reception from Luke McCown -- who finished 23-34 for 283 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions -- that tied the game at 21.
The sluggish defensive effort of the first half changed after the break as the Bulldogs began to make plays. As Nevada drove into Bulldog territory, John Nash recovered a fumble by Nevada quarterback Andy Heiser that might have changed the game.
Six plays later, Moats punched in his second touchdown run of the game, and the Bulldogs led 28-21.
However, Nevada did not die easily on its Homecoming day. Touchdown runs by B.J. Mitchell and Kretschmer gave the Pack a 34-28 lead early in the fourth quarter.
That's when McCown and Moats, along with Tech's defense, took over.
McCown hit junior receiver Tramissian Davis with a 30-yard touchdown score to put the Bulldogs up one. Moats broke free for 69-yard touchdown run with 6:13 left to play in the game that put Tech up 42-34.
"I'll tell you right now, he's going to be one of the best running backs in the country his senior year," McCown said of Moats. "He is a hard runner, a smart runner and the more mature he gets, the better he'll get."
Then the Bulldogs' defense took over, holding the Pack scoreless the rest of the way. After giving up nearly 350 yards in the first half, the Bulldogs held Nevada to just 193 yards and 13 points after the break.
Kretschmer, the WAC's leading rusher coming into the game, was held to just 98 yards by the Bulldogs' defense. Brazil came up with one of the biggest plays when he intercepted Heiser on the Wolf Pack 24-yard line with just under two minutes to play in the game and returned it to the 16.
However, the Bulldogs could not even run out the clock without a glitch. Moats picked up 11 yards on two carries, and the Bulldogs sat first-and-goal at the five.
Moats needed just one yard to break the 200-yard barrier, but the Bulldogs called their "victory" play -- the quarterback kneel.
However, the exchange between McCown and center Marcus Stewart was not clean. McCown fumbled, and Nevada's Keone Kauo recovered at the seven-yard line with 32 seconds to play.
Tech's defense once again came up with a big stop, as Michael Johnson broke up Heiser's pass on fourth down. The Bulldogs ran out the clock and held on for the win.
"We've had so much adversity," Bicknell said. "We've been playing tough and coming up short. Then to come in here and get down like we didÉit's just unbelievable. It showed great character by our team [to come back]."