Boise State holds on for victory over Wolf Pack
BY DARRELL MOODY
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer
RENO ” Boise State did what few teams have been able to do this year ” take the read-option play away from Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
With Kaepernick struggling to turn upfield from the outset, the Wolf Pack running game was essentially non-existent. Nevada needed to throw the ball, but didn’t have a lot of success with 19 completions in 51 attempts.
And, despite a valiant effort by the defense, which scored twice on interception returns by Jerome Johnson and Josh Mauga, the Wolf Pack lost a 41-34 heartbreaker to No. 9 Boise State Saturday before a crowd of 27,057 at Mackay Stadium.
Unlike most of the other Boise-Nevada games, this one went down to the wire. The game ended with Kaepernick throwing four incomplete passes in the end zone.
It was Nevada’s ninth straight against the Broncos. In that span, the Pack has been outscored 456-177. Nevada has scored 101 of those points in the last two years.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Johnson. “We lose in a dogfight last year (69-67 in four overtimes) and we lose in a dogfight this year. It hurts.”
Neither team had success running the ball early, and that set the tempo. In fact the Broncos essentially gave up early in the contest and resorted to throwing with great success. Boise State held Kaepernick to 10 yards rushing on the first four possessions and 70 for the game.
“They got their safeties (highly) involved in the game,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “When that happens, you have to be able to throw the ball to get them to back off. Kap didn’t throw well. We missed some opportunities.”
In fact, Kaepernick is only 55-of-127 through the air in the last four weeks. The last two weeks especially he has continually missed open receivers. He did however become the fifth player in NCAA history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards. He threw for 241 yards.
“Their defense had us going in the first half,” Kaepernick said. “They schemed us well with what we were trying to do. It’s a defense we’ll start to see in the future and we need to be ready for it.
“I don’t know whether its mechanics or my release (causing errant passes). Whatever it is, I need to fix it so I can get the team back on track.”
Boise State used a run-stuffing defense and the pinpoint passing of redshirt freshman Kellen Moore to take a 24-3 halftime lead. Nevada was held to 31 yards on the ground and Moore completed 19-of-29 for 319 yards and two touchdowns. Boise State scored on four of its six first-half possessions.
The Broncos scored on back-to-back possessions to grab a 14-0 lead, as Moore tossed a 16-yard pass to fullback Richie Brockel to cap a 79-yard drive, and following a Nevada punt, the Broncos drove 70 yards for another score with Vinny Perretta scoring from three yards out on a direct snap from center.
Nevada’s defense reverted back to its past on Boise State’s first scoring drive, failing to get off the field in critical third-down situations.
On the first scoring drive, the Broncos faced a third-and-24 situation from their own 7. No problem. Moore, under heavy pressure, lofted a pass to the middle of the field and found a wide-open Perretta for 60 yards to the Nevada 33. The Broncos converted a third-and-1 when Moore completed an eight-yard pass to Tommy Gallarda down to the 16, before Boise scored two plays later.
After Nevada cut the lead to 14-3 on Brett Jaekle’s 25-yard field goal, Boise converted two big third-down plays en route to a 34-yard Kyle Brotzman field goal with 6:22 left.
Nevada went three and out, and Brett Jaekle’s 29-yard punt went out at the BSU 25. Jaekle was filling for Brad Langley, who injured his Achilles’ tendon prior to the game.
Moore moved the Broncos quickly downfield, completing two more key third-down passes. The first was a 24-yarder to Austin Pettis on a third-and-18 situation down to the Nevada 49. After a 32-yard completion to Perretta down to the 17, the Broncos faced another third-down situation at the 18. Moore lofted a pass in the left corner to Pettis, who got behind Mo Harvey, to make it 24-3.
“No question,” Ault said when asked about the third-down failures. ” We gave up way too much yardage passing. They (the defense) made big plays, made turnovers. The defense held together. They played hard.”
The second half was a different story. Nevada played with a lot more energy on both sides of the ball and got themselves back into the game, 31-24.
Facing a second-and-5 from his own 21, Moore tried to connect over the middle. Jerome Johnson stepped in front of the intended receiver at the 28, jumped, caught the ball and rambled into the end zone. Jaekle’s point after try made it 24-10 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
“They were running a cross and dink,” Johnson said. “They had completed one. The next time they weren’t going to get another one. I jumped as high as I could and took it.”
Boise State bounced back three plays later when Ian Johnson broke loose for a 66-yard TD run, the longest run of his career and the longest play from scrimmage for the Broncos. Johnson shook off three tackles and covered the final 30 yards untouched for a 31-10 lead.
Nevada fought back to 31-24 with 5:14 left in the quarter, as running back Vai Taua, who saw his five-game streak of 100 or more yards rushing broken, took off for a 31-yard touchdown to cap a 69-yard, seven-play drive.
Mauga subsequently picked off a Moore pass at the 46 and tightroped the right sideline for a touchdown to slice the lead to 31-24.
A 39-yard punt return by Kyle Wilson gave the Broncos great field position at the Nevada 31, and the Broncos were in the end zone three plays later as Moore connected with Pettis for a 10-yard score and a 38-24 lead.
Nevada failed to get a first down on its next possession, and Jaekle was forced to punt from his own end zone after Nick Graziano was sacked back at the Nevada 4. Graziano played just a couple of downs after Kaepernick lost both of his shoes on a two-yard loss.
Boise took over at the 35 and moved the ball only two yards before Brotzman came on to kick a 50-yarder for a 41-24 lead with 7:20 remaining in the game.
Nevada drove 80 yards on the ensuing possession with Kaepernick drilling a nine-yard scoring pass to Marko Mitchell to make it 41-31.
Nevada’s Jared Silva-Purcell recovered the ensuing onside kick at the 41 which led to another 25-yard field goal by Jaekle with 2:36 left.
“I am proud of them,” Ault said. “They didn’t back down. They kept coming back and fighting and played with their hearts. We had better execution. Yet our offense didn’t do anything consistently.
“Our defense kept us in the game without question, but I am disappointed in our offense. We knew we had to throw the ball. We had people open and didn’t get it to them.”
So, Boise walks away with another victory over Nevada, but unlike seven of the past eight games, the Broncos knew they were in a game.
“They got a great program here. Coach [Chris] Ault does a tremendous job with these guys,” BSU head coach Chris Petersen said. “They are getting better every year. We are just fortunate to come here and get a win.
“I’ll tell you what, tremendous credit to Justin Wilcox and the defensive staff. They changed things up. They schemed it up and they made it very, very difficult for those guys to move the ball. The credit also goes to our players for playing that hard.”
– Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or (775) 881-1281