RENO, Nev. – With Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua powering Nevada's pistol, the Wolf Pack are off to their best start since becoming a I-A team in 1992.
Kaepernick passed for 273 yards, Taua ran for 196 and three touchdowns and No. 21 Nevada rolled up a season-best 640 yards total offense in a 35-13 victory against San Jose State on Saturday night.
The Wolf Pack is 6-0 for the first time since 1991, the year before the program moved up from I-AA to I-A.
Despite all the yards, the Wolf Pack let the Spartans (1-5) hang around in the Western Athletic Conference opener with sloppy play.
"The penalties (8 for 89 yards) were just overwhelming," Ault said. "Some were suspect and some were uncalled for. The penalties I'm concerned about are the dumb ones. Those are the ones we cannot have."
Jordan La Secla passed for 145 yards and Lamon Muldrow ran for 77 for the Spartans, who were shut out in the second half while losing their 11th straight on the road. But SJS' 372 total yards on offense also was a season high and first-year coach Mike MacIntyre said he's seeing improvement.
"It was a hard fought game and we never said die and that is a trademark of these guys," said MacIntyre, whose squad has lost nine starters to injuries already this year.
"We knew that Kaepernick was fast and we just couldn't touch him. Once we figured out his speed we were able to slow him down and take better angles."
Nevada defensive end Dontay Moch had five tackles for losses to become the WAC's all-time career leader with 52, surpassing former teammate Ezra Butler, who totaled 50 from 2003-07.
"It was a slow game at first but we came out with the victory. That's all we wanted," said Moch, the league's defensive player of the year in 2009. "We beat ourselves on defense in that first half."
Taua's 73-yard scoring burst put Nevada ahead 28-13 early in the third quarter.
"As soon as Kap gave me the ball, the O-line opened the hole," said Taua, a senior who started the night ranked ninth in the NCAA averaging 128 yards rushing per game. It was the fifth game in a row that he has topped the 100-yard mark. He's now done that 22 times in his career, the most of any active player in the NCAA.
Nevada won 62-7 at San Jose last year and was favored by 39 points Saturday night.
"It was a little tough to get up for them but all week we told ourselves not to underestimate this team," Taua said.
Nevada linebacker Brandon Marshall sealed the victory with an interception near the goal line with 3:12 remaining. Duke Williams also had a key interception at the goal line early in the third quarter for Nevada, which has not trailed all season.
Kaepernick completed 20-of-27 passes and ran for 91 yards and two TDs. His touchdown runs of 13 and 20 helped Nevada lead 14-7 early in the second quarter and 21-13 at the half.
He would have had more but penalties wiped out what would have been a 39-yard scoring run and 55-yard TD pass .
The Spartans moved as far as Nevada's 18 on their opening drive of the second half kept alive by Williams' late hit on third down near midfield. But three plays later Williams turned the tables with his pick at the goal line and four plays after that Taua broke through for his long run and a 28-14 lead at 9:36 in the third.
Nevada threatened to score again but James Orth, who plays both safety and wide receiver, intercepted Kaepernick's 38-yard pass in the end zone 2 minutes later.
The Wolf Pack went ahead 21-10 on Taua's 1-yard run early in the second quarter. La Secla threw 27 yards to Chandler Jones and Brandon Rutley — who finished with 70 yards rushing — busted up the middle for 13 to set up Harrison Waid's 42-yard field goal with 12 seconds on the clock to cut Nevada's lead to 21-13 at the half.
Waid, a redshirt freshman, averaged 49.7 yards on six punts, including consecutive kicks of 67 and 64 yards in the first half.
Nevada kept alive its streak of scoring on the opening drive of every game this year. Kaepernick completed all three pass attempts, including a 38-yarder to Chris Wellington before he took it in himself from 13 yards out, rolling right then reversing field as he outran two defenders to the left corner of the end zone just 2 minutes into the game.