RENO, Nevada – Nevada answered Cal Poly's 37-yard field goal with a five-yard touchdown run by James Butler as the Wolf Pack escaped an upset with a 30-27 overtime victory over Cal Poly in the 2016 season opener for both football teams Friday night in Mackay Stadium.
With a stalwart second-half defense, Cal Poly rallied from a 24-10 halftime deficit to catch Nevada with 1:20 to play in regulation. Senior quarterback Dano Graves marched the Mustangs 68 and 79 yards for the pair of touchdowns, scoring both by himself on runs of 10 and one yards.
Cal Poly had the ball first in the overtime period and was held to Casey Sublette's 37-yard field goal. Nevada scored the game-winner on four plays from the 25-yard line.
After falling behind 24-10 in the first half, Cal Poly allowed just 69 yards and two first downs to the Wolf Pack in the third and fourth quarters. In the third quarter alone, Nevada did not get a first down and was held to seven yards.
Fourth-year Nevada head coach Brian Polian praised Cal Poly's performance.
"I want to go on record by saying I don't ever want to schedule them again," Polian said. "Let's schedule someone else.
"People might say after this, 'Why does it take you to go to overtime to beat a FCS team?' " Polian added. "Well, if you say that you don't know football. Everybody has good football players. That quarterback (Graves) is a good football player. Their scheme is really good.
"We got physically worn down in the second half," Polian said.
Cal Poly produced a pair of 100-yard rushers against the Football Bowl Subdivision Wolf Pack.
Graves set a career high with 140 yards on 26 carries and junior fullback Joe Protheroe added 119 yards on 27 trips, scoring Cal Poly's lone first-half touchdown on a 28-yard run with 2:52 to go in the first quarter.
Graves completed five of 12 passes for 62 yards and senior Carson McMurtrey caught a pair of passes from his Folsom High School teammate.
Butler netted 123 yards on 21 carries and a pair of touchdowns on runs of 50 and five yards while quarterback Tyler Stewart completed 17 of 23 passes for 189 yards and the other two Nevada touchdowns – a six-yarder to Wyatt Demps in the first quarter and a nine-yarder to Jerico Richardson late in the opening period.
Despite the loss, Cal Poly compiled advantages of 23-18 in first downs, 445-363 in total offense and 36:09 to 23:51 in time of possession.
Senior linebacker Joseph Gigantino notched nine tackles and redshirt freshman safety Kitu Humphrey added seven stops. Sacks were earned by Josh Letuligasenoa and B.J. Nard and Cal Poly's defense earned eight tackles for lost yardage.
Alex Bertrando totaled 10 tackles for Nevada.
The Mustangs are 1-8 in overtime games.
Cal Poly opens the home portion of its 2016 schedule next Saturday against San Diego at 4:05 p.m. in Alex G. Spanos Stadium. The Toreros host Western New Mexico on Saturday.
Photo above of Dano Graves courtesy of Associated Press