Nevada Wins Thriller Over Colorado State in Arizona Bowl, 28-23

 

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TUCSON, Arizona - Sophomore James Butler scored the game-winning touchdown with just 66 seconds remaining and Nevada won the inaugural NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl with a 28-23 victory over Colorado State on Tuesday evening at Arizona Stadium.

The Wolf Pack led for the majority of the game before Colorado State connected on a 39-yard field goal to lead by one with just over three minutes remaining. Nevada then drove 72 yards in just eight plays to tally the go-ahead score before holding on late for a thrilling victory.

Butler rushed 24 times for 189 yards and two touchdowns, being named Arizona Bowl Offensive Most Valuable Player while setting a program bowl record in total rushing yards. Senior DE Ian Seau posted five tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble to be named Arizona Bowl Defensive Most Valuable Player.

Nevada tallies its fifth bowl victory in program history and its first since the 2010 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The Pack closes the season with a 7-6 overall record, marking the sixth winning campaign in the past seven seasons. Colorado State also closes the year with a 7-6 record.

How It Happened: The Wolf Pack scored the bowl game's first points after Seau tallied his fifth forced fumble of the season, leading to a 19-yard Zuzo field goal. Nevada then took a 6-0 lead early in the second quarter on a Zuzo's 39-yard field goal.

The rest of the first half consisted of fireworks as the teams combined to score on their last five possessions of the second quarter. A 39-yard pass down to the one-yard line set up a touchdown rush as Colorado State took the lead, 7-6. On the second play of Nevada's ensuing drive, the line opened a big hole for Butler, who sprinted 77 yards to the end zone to make it 13-7 with 6:38 to play.

The Rams pulled within three points with a 20-yard field goal on their next drive. Junior CB Elijah Mitchell then brought the crowd to their feet with an electric 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, making it 19-10 with 1:33 left in the quarter.

Colorado State drove down for a late field to make it 19-13 at halftime. The Rams held a 302-169 advantage in total yards, but Nevada led in yards per play (7.3) while averaging over 10 yards per rush in the half.

Nevada drove 12 plays and 53 yards in its opening drive of the second half before Zuzo drilled a 40-yard field goal. Colorado State then pulled within two points, as Jasen Oden scored a nine-yard touchdown rush to make it 22-20 with 3:55 left in the third. The Rams then took the lead late in the fourth quarter with a 38-yard field goal, pulling in front by a 23-22 margin with just 3:40 left to play.

With the game on the line and all the chips on the table, Nevada came up clutch with a historic scoring drive. Eight plays, 73 yards in just under two-and-a-half minutes. Butler opened with a 15-yard rush before Stewart added a 14-yard rush on the next play to enter Ram territory. After a one-yard rush, Stewart hit Hasaan Henderson for a 22-yard gain and Butler added another 13-yard rush, and just like that, Nevada was down to the seven-yard line.

After a no-yard gain and three-yard rush followed by Colorado State timeouts, Butler rushed up the middle and found pay dirt for the winning score - a four-yard rush with 66 seconds remaining to make it 28-23.

Colorado State wouldn't go down without a fight, driving down to the 21-yard line with 16 seconds remaining. The Rams then completed a pass down to the 12-yard line near the sideline, but the Wolf Pack defense kept the runner in bounce to run out the clock and clinch the victory.