This was the moment Rishard Matthews dreamed about when he decided to come to the University of Nevada to play football.
"It's one of the reasons why I signed, to get a chance to play Boise and to work with Colin (Kaepernick) and Vai (Taua)," the Wolf Pack junior wide receiver said Friday night. "I knew this was very possible."
Still, the moment when the dream became reality was even better than Matthews had hoped for. It hit him as he watched a large portion of the sold-out Mackay Stadium crowd of 30,712 storm the field to celebrate with Matthews and his teammates after the landmark 34-31 overtime win over Boise State.
"That was a new experience for me," Matthews said. "It was just overwhelming."
It was Matthews, though, who simply overwhelmed Boise State all night long.
"I've said it all along," said Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault, who brought Matthews to Nevada after last season from Bakersfield (Calif.) College. "He's needed to step out of the shadows and recognize that he can do it. Rishard Matthews is as good a wide receiver as there is in this conference."
Against Boise, which features talented wideouts Austin Pettis and Titus Young, Matthews was indeed the best, catching 10 passes for 172 yards and scoring on a 44-yard end-around. His touchdown catch tied the game with 13 seconds to go in regulation and has to rate as one of the most important, clutch catches in school history.
"He's come into his own the last half of the season," Ault said.
Ault had big plans for his junior college transfer heading into Friday's game.
"We told him we needed him to play well," Ault said, "because he was going to be a big part of our game plan."
The 21-year-old Matthews, who enrolled at Nevada last spring and took part in spring ball to get accustomed to quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the Pack's intricate Pistol offense, was the Pack's top target from the opening kickoff to the frenzied finish in overtime. He caught more than half of Kaepernick's 19 completions and two-thirds of Kaepernick's 259 passing yards.
Matthews, who verbally accepted an Oregon scholarship during his senior year of high school at Saddleback High in Santa Ana, Calif., personally was responsible for 41 percent of the Pack's 528 total yards.
"We just executed what we practiced all week," said Matthews.
The rangy and strong 6-foot-2, 215-pounder knew he would get an opportunity to shine under the national television spotlight.
"All week me and Kap (Kaepernick) talked one on one," Matthews said. "He said he was going to put the ball up and give me a chance to make plays. And he did that and I was fortunate enough to make plays."
Kaepernick was true to his word, targeting Matthews a total of 19 times. The evening, though, didn't start out as planned as Matthews let Kaepernick's second pass of the game slip through his hands and into the waiting arms of Boise's George Iloka at the Boise State 17.
"We just stayed with our game plan," Matthews said.
Matthews, though, recovered to catch two passes on the Pack's first scoring drive of the game, hauling in a 47-yard pass and a 17-yarder to set up Taua's 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
It was in the fourth quarter, though, that Matthews' night truly became special.
Kaepernick took the snap out of the shotgun and rolled innocently to his left toward Matthews, who was out wide. The Pack quarterback then flipped the ball to Matthews, who headed back to the right.
There wasn't much room to run. At first.
"We practice that play every week," said Matthews of the end-around. "Coach Ault decided to call it and it kind of broke down a little bit."
Matthews, though, never gave up on the pay. And neither did his teammates.
"I saw (tight end) Virg (Virgil Green) go out and block so I just cut back off Virg and I was fortunate enjoying to make a big play," Matthews said.
The 44-yard touchdown run cut Boise's lead to just 24-21 with 13 minutes to play and might have been the defining moment of the Pack comeback.
"That play kept everybody motivated that we could come back," Matthews said. "It sure kept me motivated."
Matthews keyed the Pack's do-or-die drive in the final minutes to send the game into overtime. He grabbed a 9-yard pass down to the Boise 18-yard line on a 2nd-and-8 and he snared Kaepernick's bullet pass to the left corner of the end zone from seven yards out to tie the game at 31-31 with 13 seconds to play.
"At halftime the seniors got up and gave a little speech," Matthews said. "They told us to never give up, that they weren't giving up. That was basically the message that came across. They all got up. Dontay Moch, Kap. Everybody. They just stood up and got us fired up."
Matthews then stood up on the field in the second half and helped the Pack to the signature victory in the program's history.
"You haven't seen the best out of him yet," Ault said.
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