Boise St.-Nevada Preview
With its last visit to Mackay Stadium surely fresh in its mind, Boise State heads to Nevada with plenty at stake again.
Seeking a 12th victory in 13 matchups against the Wolf Pack, the No. 25 Broncos aim for a share of the Mountain West championship Saturday as both schools conclude their regular-season schedules.
Boise State (9-2, 6-1) had taken 10 straight from Nevada by an average of 29.0 points before falling 34-31 in overtime Nov. 26, 2010, ending the then-No. 3 Broncos' hopes of playing in a BCS bowl game. While Boise State got a bit of revenge with last season's 30-10 home win, it's looking for more - and a piece of its first Mountain West title since joining the conference last season.
"If I had my preference, I wish it was wrapped up and it didn't come down to this," said coach Chris Petersen, seeking his fifth league title in seven seasons. "But I think it's good for the programs, I think it's good for college football and I think it will be a hard fought game."
The Broncos come out of their bye after posting back-to-back victories, winning 49-14 at Hawaii on Nov. 10 before beating Colorado State 42-14 the following weekend. Joe Southwick completed 17 of 20 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns against the Rams while D.J. Harper carried the ball 10 times for 107 yards and two scores.
"Just getting better. Watching a lot of film, analyzing the heck out of myself from each game," Southwick said of improving throughout the year. "I definitely see improvement from week to week...I feel like I'm getting better each week, and that's comforting. I know the offense is just going to keep getting better and better."
Boise State is averaging 30.7 points, a far cry from last season's mark of 44.2. The Broncos' defense is giving up 14.4 points per game to rank fifth in the country, but could be in for a tough test in trying to contain Stefphon Jefferson.
The junior running back, sixth in the BCS with 1,564 rushing yards, needs 169 to set the school's single-season record and 148 to break the Mountain West mark.
"They always have good running backs, and I think that comes with the pistol offense," Petersen said. "(Jefferson has) been in the program for a while now and has a great feel for finding creases, it's a difficult offense to defend, it really is."
The Wolf Pack (7-4, 4-3) had dropped three in a row before bouncing back Nov. 17 with a 31-24 win at New Mexico. Cody Fajardo threw three TD passes and ran for a career-best 186 yards while Jefferson rushed for 128 and scored his 20th rushing TD of the season.
"We have a lot of streaks at Nevada. We are excited to have broken the streak," said coach Chris Ault, whose team has gone 5-1 on the road and just 2-3 at home. "It is interesting isn't it? I think there are combinations and the mental aspect and stuff of those three losses at home still burn a fire. We need to figure it out."
The Wolf Pack last suffered four home losses in 2000.
While Nevada has accepted an invitation to the New Mexico Bowl, Boise State's postseason plans have yet to be decided. The Broncos, though, are trying to stay focused on the task at hand.
"The bowl game aside, I don't think that matters to us at this point, we're trying to play Nevada and have a chance to win part of the conference championship and that's really important to us," Petersen said. "It's always that fine balance where you want the kids to feel that sense of urgency, but not so much that they're not putting their best foot forward."
Since losing at Nevada, Boise State has won all six of its conference road games by an average of 27.2 points.