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Nevada takes inaugural Arizona Bowl from Colorado State

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If a bowl game is streamed over the Internet and played between two conference foes, did it really happen?

Yes, and Nevada has the trophy to prove it.

The Wolf Pack claimed the inaugural Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl from Mountain West bunkmate Colorado State, 28-23 in Tucson on Tuesday night.

Nevada (7-6) was guided by the ground efforts of James Butler, who rushed 24 times for 189 yards and two touchdowns, including a four-yard burst that put the Wolf Pack on top with 1:06 remaining. Butler’s first score came on a 77-yard jaunt that nudged Nevada to a 13-7 lad with 6:38 left in the first half. Colorado State answered Butler’s touchdown with a field goal, but Elijah Mitchell returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to stake Nevada to a 19-10 lead.

Colorado State (7-6) scored 13 of the next 16 points, notching a 29-yard Wyatt Bryan field goal just before the break, a nine-yard Jasen Oden, Jr., run that pulled the Rams to within 22-20 with 3:55 left in the third quarter, and another Bryan field goal that gave Colorado State a 23-22 lead with 3:40 to play in the game.

Colorado State had a chance to re-take the lead one last time after Nevada’s final score, moving to the Wolf Pack 21 with nine seconds remaining, but Rams receiver Jordon Vaden failed to get out of bounds after a nine-yard reception with no timeouts remaining.

Nick Stevens led Colorado State with 310 passing yards on 22-of-42 passing and one rushing score. Izzy Matthews led the Rams’ rushing game with 87 yards on 12 carries.

Tyler Stewart completed 6-of-13 passes for 74 yards for Nevada while rushing six times for 29 yards.

The win gives Nevada its first bowl victory since a Colin Kapernick-led Wolf Pack took down Boston College in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Colorado State and Nevada became the first conference mates to meet in a postseason game since LSU and Alabama squared off in the 2012 BCS National Championship — though, unlike that game, these teams did not meet in the regular season. Tonight’s game represented just the 14th all-time meeting between the Rams and Wolf Pack; Colorado State holds an 11-3 lead.

Colorado State grants backup QB release from scholarship

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley
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Odds are pretty good Colorado State knows Nick Stevens is going to be the starting quarterback in Fort Collins for the next couple of years. With that being the case, the chances backup quarterback Coleman Key would be expected to get to play may be few and far between, barring injury of course. Key will pursue other opportunities in 2016, as he has been granted a full release from his scholarship by Colorado State, the school announced on Monday.

“We appreciate Coleman’s time here and his contribution to this team,” said head coach Mike Bobo. “He has expressed his desire to pursue other opportunities and we wish him all the best in that pursuit. He will be with us through the bowl game and be part of this team before pursuing those options next semester.”

Key has appeared in six games this season as a backup option to Stevens. In his limited playing time, Key ahs completed 47.7 percent of his pass attempts for 251 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions. A redshirt freshman, Key will have two more years of eligibility after sitting out the 2016 season at another FBS program due to NCAA transfer rules. He would be eligible again in 2017, or right away in 2016 if he transfers to a lower division school.