Nevada’s payoff small for such a big win
The payoff for Nevada may come later, perhaps in the form of a
few top recruits – or some grudging recognition from those watching
nationally that the Wolf Pack belong in the Top 25 after all.
Beating No. 3 Boise State in a game the 19th-ranked Wolf Pack
was never supposed to win was the biggest thing to happen in this
gambling city in quite some time. It may have been the biggest
sports story here since Jack Johnson beat up on Jim Jeffries 100
years ago in a heavyweight title fight.
It certainly was a boost for a longtime coach whose only
previous claim to fame was that he invented the increasingly
popular pistol offense.
”It is the greatest victory this university has ever had, I can
tell you that,” coach Chris Ault said. ”The way it happened is
just an unbelievable feeling.”
Play in the puny Western Athletic Conference, though, and the
benefits can be limited. In Nevada’s case, that means the Wolf
Pack’s only tangible rewards may be an improved rating and a trip
to New Mexico for a bowl game that exists only to fill a few hours
of television time for people taking a break from Christmas
It could be worse. At least Nevada fans get to celebrate a job
Boise State’s faithful can only wonder what might have been as
any hopes of a national title game or even a BCS bowl bid
evaporated, when a kicker who had only missed three times all year
whiffed on two short field goals. Final score in overtime: Nevada
34, Boise State 31. Suddenly, the annual BCS debate got a lot
Had things gone right for the Broncos on what will always be
known in Idaho as Black Friday, they might have been making travel
plans for Jan. 10 in Arizona or perhaps the Rose Bowl on New Year’s
Day. Instead, their 24-game winning streak is over, their
reputation has taken a hit, and the consolation bowl they’re headed
for has none of the glamor of the ones the big schools play in.
And coach Chris Petersen still isn’t acknowledging what might
”We still have another game next week,” said Petersen, whose
10-1 Broncos will face Utah State. ”We said all along, at the end
of the season we will see where we are and go from there.”
For the better part of three quarters Friday night it looked
like Boise State would go places that small schools aren’t supposed
to go in the BCS system. Up 24-7 at half, the Broncos were playing
with the cool efficiency that made them the darling of BCS busters
everywhere and seemed headed for their 25th straight win.
Then Nevada’s vaunted ground game started grinding out the yards
and the pistol offense stopped firing blanks. Quarterback Colin
Kaepernick began hitting passes, and Vai Taua started getting big
chunks of yardage up the middle.
Against a defense that was No. 1 in the nation against the run,
the Wolf Pack ran at will. Nevada outgained Boise State 239-8 on
the ground in the second half, rallying to tie the game not once,
but twice, before the Broncos struck with a long pass with just 2
seconds left to set up what appeared to be a winning field goal
from 26 yards.
Senior kicker Kyle Brotzman, though, missed wide right. Then he
pulled one left on the first possession in overtime.
And a freshman kicker from a local high school made Boise State
pay dearly. Anthony Martinez, who earlier had a field goal try
blocked, calmly kicked a 34-yarder through the uprights, and the
celebration was on.
Few had noticed as Nevada won all but one of its games this year
and climbed into the national rankings for the first time since
1948. Few had expected a team that had dropped 10 straight to Boise
State and came into the game a 14-point underdog would upset one of
the top teams in the country.
But the Wolf Pack did, gaining 528 yards on a defense that was
only giving up 229 yards a game. Missed field goals aside, this was
”This win puts a stamp on this program that says this team is
ready to play football with any team in the country,” Kaepernick
Nevada will almost surely get a boost in the rankings this week
heading into its last regular season game against Louisiana Tech.
But with Boise State now likely headed to the Kraft Fight Hunger
Bowl in San Francisco, the Wolf Pack may end up representing the
WAC in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 18.
That hardly seems fair, considering an unranked Connecticut team
with four losses has the inside track to a big BCS bowl game worth
millions to the school and the Big East Conference. But the BCS is
not about being fair, and teams in conferences like the WAC have to
take their victories when they can.
”I think Boise and the TCU’s of the world are showing people a
balance in college football,” Ault said.
Ault could include his own team in that equation after the team
from the Biggest Little City in the World won its biggest game
”For these players to hang in there against such a great
football team, the way they did it to win. I can’t describe it,”
Ault said. ”I’m just so proud of this team.”