RENO, Nevada — In just two games this year, Washington State's Connor Halliday has completed 78 of 113 pass attempts for 921 yards. However, he doesn't have a win to show for it.
Nevada (2-0) intercepted the senior quarterback twice and held the Cougars (0-2) to one touchdown Friday night as the Wolf Pack came away with a 24-13 victory for just their third win against a Pac-12 team in the last 10 years.
Erik Powell made one field goal, but missed two others before Washington State coach Mike Leach benched him, and Nevada held the Cougars to only 38 yards rushing on 18 attempts for the game.
Leach said his defense played better than in last week's 41-38 loss to Rutgers, but bemoaned the lack of consistency on both sides of the ball as Nevada opened a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter and never trailed.
Halliday passed for 206 of his 389 yards in the second half, completing 38 of 57 attempts on the game but was sacked four times.
"We have plenty of yards, plenty of plays, but we can't put it together," Leach said. "We have an inclination to make a good play, then relax. ... Our offense played reasonable last week and the defense relaxes all day. The defense plays well this week and the offense will get a play or two, then relax. Nobody can beat anybody on one side of the ball."
"We need to coach better," Leach said. "We have to stick together and work hard — we can't go soft."
Don Jackson ran for two touchdowns, and Cody Fajardo passed for 110 yards and ran for another 100 to join Colin Kaepernick as one of only three players in school history to surpass 10,000 career yards of total offense for Nevada.
Senior defensive end Brock Hekking, a first-team all-league pick in the Mountain West Conference last season, said the Wolf Pack team was motivated to be going against a bigger Pac-12 squad. He said there was only one reason their "blue-collar" defense was able to hold the Cougars in check.
"Honestly, because we wanted it more," Hekking said. "You look at a Pac-12 opponent — they've got all the bells and whistles, the nice uniforms and all that. We are just blue-collar guys.
"But our senior class has made it a point to love the game of football and every single chance we have, to leave it out on the field and empty in the tank.
Fajardo, who completed 12 of 21 pass attempts and averaged 6.2 yards rushing on 16 carries, said the Wolf Pack were able to run the ball because of the strong defensive play that kept his offense from feeling pressure to put up points.
"When you hold a team like Washington State to 13 points, the confidence is through the roof. We understand we just have to move the ball. We never felt like we had to score every time we had the ball," Fajardo said.
Nevada never trailed after freshman Kendall Jackson returned an interception 45 yards to set up Don Jackson's 1-yard score late in the first quarter. Jackson also ran 2 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter and finished with 69 yards rushing.
Nevada opened a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter when James Butler scored from the 1 after Fajardo got loose on a keeper up the middle for 55 yards.
"Cody's run was a big shot in the arm," Nevada coach Brian Polian said.
Duran Workman intercepted Halliday on the next series but after that Halliday led the Cougars on their only touchdown drive, going 80 yards on five plays. The drive was capped by Halliday's 13-yard TD pass to Vince Mayle to cut the lead to 14-7 midway through the second quarter.
Powell's 25-yard field goal made it 14-10 with 1:54 left before halftime.
However, Powell missed a 37-yard attempt on WSU's first drive of the second half and was wide right again on a 39-yard try with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
Fajardo then led Nevada on a 14-play, 79-yard drive, capped by Jackson's 2-yard TD run to go ahead 21-10 with 12:15 left in the game.
Jamal Morrow returned the ensuing kickoff 36 yards to WSU's 40 and Halliday passed 19 yards to Vince Mayle before coach Mike Leach turned to Quentin Breshears to kick a 38-yard field goal to cut it to 21-13 with 9:32 remaining.
However, on the next series, Fajardo hit Hasaan Henderson with a 21-yard pass over the middle and Brent Zuzo made a 40-yard field goal to put Nevada ahead 24-13 with 4:25 left.
"We ran it well enough and kept them off the field," Polian said. "I don't care how many yards we gave up but we bowed up in the red zone and forced field goal attempts. Fortunately for us, our guy had a better night than their guy did, but sometimes you make your own luck."
Nevada beat Washington in 2003 but had won only two other games against the Pac-12 since then — both Cal, in 2010 and 2012
Kaepernick, now with the San Francisco 49ers, holds Nevada's career record for total offense with 14,210 yards (2007-10). David Neill is second with 11,145 (1998-01) and Fajardo third with 10,178.