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What's the best NFL game played by a Wolf Pack alum? We have the answer

Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick's 181 rushing yards in a 2013 playoff game against the Packers remains an NFL record for a quarterback. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Last week, we looked at the best NBA game played a Nevada alum. We'll continue that series today by evaluating the best NFL game played by a Wolf Pack product. I'll start by apologizing to the offensive linemen alums because I didn't have a way to evaluate the best games in the careers of players like Joel Bitonio, Austin Corbett, Derek Kennard, Bob McClure, Harvey Dahl, Christian Barker, Shar Pourdanesh, Eric Sanders, Victor Carroll, Tony Moll and Terry Hermeling. Offensive linemen don't get public stats, but I'm sure they've had some individual games that were superb. Before we get to the best NFL game played a Wolf Pack alum, here are six honorable mentions.

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* Tony Zendejas: In a 26-24 Houston win over Cincinnati on Nov. 13, 1989, Zendejas tied a career high by scoring 14 points, a total he reached three times. Zendejas made 4-of-4 field goals and both of his extra points. His field goals went distances of 32, 42, 47 and 28 yards, that last one being the game-winner. He also had a kickoff the Oilers recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, so he kind of accounted for 20 points in the best game of his career.

* Marion Motley: Motley's entry didn't come in the NFL. Instead, it came in the AAFC title game, a 49-7 Browns win over Buffalo on Dec. 19, 1948. Motley had 14 carries for 133 yards and three touchdowns as well as one catch for 13 yards as the Browns secured the third of four straight AAFC titles before moving to the NFL in 1950. Motley's best NFL game was a 45-7 win over Pittsburgh in his "rookie" season in 1950. He had 11 carries for 188 yards (a Wolf Pack record) and one catch for 33 yards. He scored two of his eight NFL touchdowns in that game.

* Doug Betters: The greatest individual season in Wolf Pack history likely goes to Betters, who won the 1983 NFL defensive player of the year award after recording a then-Miami Dolphins record 16 sacks. In a 12-0 season-opening win over Buffalo in 1983, Betters sacked Bills quarterback Joe Ferguson four times. That remains the NFL record for a Wolf Pack alum and at the time was a Dolphins record, too.

* Brock Marion: Marion had an interception and fumble recovery in a 1999 playoff win over Buffalo while on Miami, but that wasn't his greatest game. That came Dec. 10, 2001 in a 41-6 win over the Colts while playing for Miami. Marion had eight tackles, two interceptions (returned for 78 yards), a forced fumble and fumble recovery. His interceptions came against Peyton Manning as Marion accounted for three of Miami's four turnovers forced. He was named the AFC defensive player of the week (and would later be named player of the month).

* Charles Mann: Entering a 1988 playoff game between the Chicago and Washington, Bears center Jay Hilgenberg told reporters, "I know everyone talks about Dexter Manley, but Charles Mann is their best defensive lineman. We've got to control him." The Bears did not control him. Mann had one of the four three-sack games in his career in a 21-17 playoff win over Chicago (all against Jim McMahon) to move Washington into the NFC championship game. The team beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl two games later.

* Sherman Howard: Playing for the New York Yanks against the Detroit Lions in 1950, Howard had nine rushes for 54 yards. He also had two catches for 67 yards and two scores, a 36-yarder and 31-yarder. Howard capped the performance with an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal a 44-21 win. This remains the only time a Wolf Pack alum has scored three touchdowns in an NFL game.

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Those are our honorable mentions. But the best game played in the NFL by a Wolf Pack alum? That's easy.

Colin Kaepernick: In his first NFL playoff game, Kaepernick led the 49ers to a 45-31 win over Green Bay on Jan. 12, 2013 by outplaying future Hall of Fame Aaron Rodgers. Kaepernick completed 17-of-31 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns (against one interception). Both touchdown passes went to Michael Crabtree, a 12-yarder and 20-yarder. Kaepernick also had 16 carries for 181 yards, the most rushing yards in a single game by a quarterback in NFL history, playoffs or regular season. That record still stands (Michael Vick is second with a 173-yard game). Kaepernick ran for touchdowns of 20 and 56 yards. He led the 49ers to 579 yards in the win, with Kaepernick accounting for 444 of those (and four touchdowns). The 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl that season where it lost to the Ravens, 34-31. Kaepernick also threw for a career-high four touchdowns during a 2016 win at New England where he out-played another future Hall of Fame, Tom Brady, but Kaepernick's playoff debut stands as the best game in the Wolf Pack's NFL history. It's one of the best quarterback playoff debuts ever.

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Here are some other noteworthy NFL games by Wolf Pack alums.

* Nate Burleson: In a 34-31 loss to Green Bay while playing for Minnesota on Nov. 14, 2004, Burleson set career highs in targets (18), catches (11) and receiving yards (141) while adding a touchdown. He also had one run for 11 yards.

* Rishard Matthews: In a 22-19 loss to Tampa Bay while playing for Miami on Nov. 11, 2013, Matthews set career highs with 11 catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns. He was targeted a career-high 14 times.

* Bob Awalt: In a 31-28 win over Tampa Bay when he played for the Cardinals on Nov. 8, 1987, Awalt, a tight end, had nine catches for 124 yards and a 4-yard touchdowns pass from Neil Lomax. The Cardinals trailed 28-3 entering the fourth quarter before scoring four touchdowns in the final frame to record the comeback win.

* Frank Hawkins: In a 40-38 win at Dallas while playing for the Raiders on Oct. 23, 1983, Hawkins had 17 carries for 118 yards and a touchdown. He also caught two passes for 20 yards and a score. That was one of two two-touchdown games in his career. Hawkins and Motley are the only Wolf Pack running backs to have 100-yard games in the NFL.

* Brandon Marshall: With a nod to Marshall's performance in the 2016 AFC title game win over New England when he played for Denver (five tackles, forced fumble), Marshall's top game came in 2015 when he had 12 tackles, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hit against Detroit. Marshall's career high in tackles was 15 in a 2014 loss to the Rams.

* Josh Mauga: In a 24-20 loss to the Raiders while playing for the Chiefs on Nov. 20, 2014, Mauga had 10 tackles, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit and one pass defended. That was one of three double-digit-tackle games in Mauga's career.

* James-Michael Johnson: In a 22-17 loss to the 49ers while playing for the Chiefs on Oct. 5, 2014, Johnson posted the only double-digit-tackle game of his NFL career. He had 11 stops, including two for loss, and added a forced fumble.

* Patrick Hunter: While playing for the Seahawks in a game against the Raiders on Oct. 13, 1991, Hunter recorded the first pick-six by a Wolf Pack alum in the NFL (Brock Marion is the only other player to do that since). Hunter picked off Jay Schroeder and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown to put Seattle up 17-0 at halftime before the Raiders stormed back to win, 23-20, in overtime.

* Malik Reed: The latest addition to this list comes from last season. In an 18-12 win over New England on Oct. 18, 2020, Reed had five tackles, two sacks and three quarterback hits. He followed that with a two-sack game the following week.

And while I don't have individual game numbers for punters, I'd like to note Pat Brady led the NFL in punting in 1953 at 46.9 yards per boot. Second place that season? Another Wolf Pack product, Horace Gillom, who averaged 43.8 yards per punt. Nevada used to be a punting factory.

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.

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