It should be difficult for Nevada Wolf Pack football fans to stay away from Mackay Stadium in the fall in the coming seasons.
Gone are the days of Eastern Washington, Nicholls State, Buffalo, Sacramento State and Southern Utah filling the Pack’s non-league schedule, as they have in recent years. The Wolf Pack football team has some very interesting non-conference matchups at the stadium on north Virginia Street over the next seven seasons.
The Wolf Pack, which signed new head coach Brian Polian to a five-year contract in January, will invite four Pac-12 teams and one team from the Big Ten Conference to northern Nevada in the coming seasons.
The Big Ten team will be making its first trip ever to Mackay Stadium as will one of the Pac-12 teams.
The Pack’s non-league home schedule, starting this fall, is the most intriguing since Northwestern, Texas Tech, Missouri, California and BYU came to Reno from 2006-10. The schedule is filled with BCS teams.
A look at the top six non-conference home games at Mackay Stadium through the 1019 season . . .
6. Washington State Cougars
The Washington State Cougars will return to Mackay Stadium on Sept. 6, 2014. The Cougars will likely have more former Chris Ault assistant coaches than the Pack that day. Former Pack assistant Ken Wilson and Jim Mastro are current Cougar assistants under head coach Mike Leach. Washington State and the Wolf Pack have met twice before with the Cougars winning both meetings, 31-7 in 2002 in Seattle and 55-21 in Reno in 2005. That Sept. 9, 2005 loss to open the 2005 season was the debut of Ault’s pistol offense. Pack quarterback Jeff Rowe passed for 219 yards in the game. Washington State’s Eric Frampton intercepted a Rowe pass and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown for a 7-0 lead. Frampton’s play was the second consecutive touchdown scored by the Cougars in the rivalry on interception returns. The Cougars’ Will Derting returned an interception of a Zac Threadgill pass 98 yards to close out the 31-7 Washington State victory over Nevada in 2002 in Seattle.
5. BYU Cougars
Nevada Wolf Pack fans are not strangers to the BYU Cougars. BYU, which will come to Mackay Stadium this Nov. 30, lost to the Wolf Pack 27-13 in Provo, Utah on Sept. 25, 2010 as Colin Kaepernick ran for a touchdown and passed for one. The Pack had a game-changing drive of just under nine minutes that overlapped the third and fourth quarters that ended in a field goal and a 27-10 Pack lead. The last time BYU came to Mackay Stadium the Cougars also went home with a loss. The Wolf Pack beat the Cougars 31-28 on Sept. 14, 2002 in front of 23,109 fans. Zac Threadgill connected with wide receiver Nate Burleson on a 95-yard touchdown pass as the Pack took a quick 10-0 lead. Burleson, now a member of the Nevada Hall of Fame, caught 12 passes in the game for 213 yards and Threadgill passed for 410 yards and four touchdowns. The Pack has won its last two games with BYU and trails in the series 2-4-2.
4. Oregon State Beavers
The Oregon State Beavers of the Pac-12 will come to Mackay Stadium on Sept. 15, 2018. The two schools have met just three times with the Beavers winning all three. Oregon State has made one previous trip to Reno, beating the Pack 28-13 in 1999 in front of one of the biggest crowds (29,167) in Mackay Stadium history. The game was the debut of coach Dennis Erickson’s tenure at Oregon State. Erickson was coming off four seasons as head coach with the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL and had won two national titles in 1989 and 1991 at Miami. The Pack jumped out to a 13-7 against Oregon State in 1999 before two touchdowns by Ken Simonton (199 yards) led Oregon State to the victory in the fourth quarter. Trevor Insley caught 12 passes for the Pack in the game and David Neill passed for 287 yards. Mike Phillips also kicked two field goals for Nevada. His 44-yarder gave the Pack a 13-7 lead late in the third quarter.
3. Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue will make its first visit to Mackay Stadium on Aug. 31, 2019. The two schools have never met before. The Wolf Pack has only met a school from the state of Indiana twice before. The Pack lost at Notre Dame 35-0 in 2009 and beat Ball State 18-15 in the 1996 Las Vegas Bowl. Purdue went 6-7 last year, winning its final three games against Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. The Pack is 1-2 in its long history against teams from the Big Ten. The Wolf Pack lost to Wisconsin in Madison, Wisc., 35-17, in 1993. The Wolf Pack also played Northwestern twice, beating the Wildcats 31-21 in Reno in 2006 and losing at Evanston, Ill., 36-31 the following season in 2007. The Wolf Pack will play at Purdue in 2016 to kick off the new rivalry.
2. Arizona Wildcats
The Arizona Wildcats will be making their first football trip to northern Nevada in 91 years when they visit Mackay Stadium on Sept. 12, 2015.
The last time the Wildcats came to Reno, on Nov. 1, 1924, they went back home to Tucson with a 23-14 loss to the Wolf Pack. The Wolf Pack took a 14-7 lead at halftime in that 1924 game as Lem Allen passed to Bill Gutterson for a touchdown and Al Lowry scored on a touchdown run for Charlie Erb’s Pack. It is the only time the Wolf Pack has beaten Arizona in four games. The teams battled to a 0-0 tie in 1925 in Tucson and Arizona beat the Pack in 1941, 26-7, also in Tucson. The game in 1924 was the final home game of the year for the Pack that season at “Mackay Field” and it was homecoming. The Pack had a very difficult schedule that year, with Fresno State, Pacific, USC, Arizona, Santa Clara, Cal, St. Mary’s and Idaho, and finished 3-4-1. The Wolf Pack will looking for revenge in the 2015 game at Mackay Stadium. The last time the two teams met, of course, Arizona scored two touchdowns in the final 46 seconds in the New Mexico Bowl last December in Albuquerque to hand the Wolf Pack a stunning 49-48 loss in coach Chris Ault’s final game.
1. UCLA Bruins
The UCLA Bruins will invade Mackay Stadium on Sept. 17, 2016 in one of the most anticipated games in Wolf Pack history in northern Nevada. It will be the first meeting ever between the two schools. The Wolf Pack, in fact, has only hosted two teams from the city of Los Angeles at Mackay Stadium (old and new) in its entire history. The Pack beat the Los Angeles State Devils in a thriller, 13-12, on Nov. 5, 1955 for coach Gordon McEachron. Bill Bowser scored two touchdowns in the victory for the Pack and quarterback Ken Fujii tossed a touchdown pass. Al Creel kicked the extra point for the one-point win. The Pack also beat Occidental College, 35-0, at Mackay on Oct. 14, 1922. UCLA is currently coached by former Atlanta Falcons head coach and San Francisco 49ers assistant Jim Mora. Mora’s father, Jim, a former NFL head coach with the New Orleans Saints, played at Occidental.