Bronco express rolls through Mackay again
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Another year, another whipping. Things haven’t changed in the Boise State-Nevada football series.
Nevada turned the ball over four times, three by the offense, gave up four sacks and was held to a season-low 141 yards by the Broncos in a 38-7 loss before a crowd of 25,506 Saturday afternoon at Mackay Stadium.
The loss dropped Nevada, whose only score came on a 45-yard interception return by Nick Hawthrone, to 8-4 in the regular season, and the Pack are expected to find out Monday whether it will go to the MPC Computers Bowl on Dec. 31 or the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 23. Boise State, meanwhile, finished 12-0 and will undoubtedly end up in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Broncos extended their winning streak over Nevada to seven straight. In that span, Boise State has outscored Nevada 346-76.
Nevada coach Chris Ault congratulated Boise State on its effort, and placed some of the blame on himself for the offensive problems. Nevada had a season-low 35 yards passing.
“They outplayed us in every phase of the game,” Ault said. “Our defense played tough until the fourth quarter. I didn’t do enough to get the offense rolling. The defense played well. It got absolutely no help from the offense. I’m disappointed in our offensive football team. There are no excuses.
“Absolutely not (did I feel they would stop us like that). We have a pretty good offense and a good quarterback who can execute. We had three turnovers in the first half. They were needless turnovers; inadequacies on the part of our team.”
Jeff Rowe, who has played so well the last two years, went 6-for-15 for 35 yards. Certainly not that type of performance he wanted to have in his final home game.
“Jeff did not play as well as well as he’s capable,” Ault said. “I felt the offensive front played average. The quarterback has to make some plays. Boise State has a good defense, but Jeff just missed some opportunities.”
“Obviously not (well) when you don’t score a point on offense,” said Rowe when asked how he played. “The responsibility is on me.”
Chris Petersen, Boise State’s first-year head coach, was obviously pleased with his team’s performance on the defensive side of the ball.
“They were amazing,” Petersen said. “I never thought they would perform this well. Nevada is so good that not even in my wildest imagination would I think our defense would perform this well.”
You would have thought that Nevada’s offense would have played off the defense’s effort. The unit gave up 477 yards of offense, but was on the field for much of the game, and played with a short field most of the first half.
Boise State started its first three drives in Nevada territory at the 45, 31 and 16 respectively.
Twice the Broncos went for it on fourth down deep in Nevada territory, and both times were turned away.
The first time, BSU tried a fake field goal and kicker Austin Montgomery was stopped for a 2-yard loss. On the second attempt, BSU faced a fourth-and-1 from the Nevada 22, and the Pack stopped Brett Denton for no gain.
Nevada wasn’t so lucky the next time after Robert Hubbard fumbled the ball away after catching a screen pass. BSU safety Marty Tadman returned the ball to the 16.
The Broncos moved the ball to the Nevada 11, and Montgomery came on to kick a 28-yard field goal. It was the first points Nevada had allowed since the third quarter of the Idaho game, a span of nearly 155 minutes.
The Broncos drove 72 yards for a score on their first possession of the second quarter, as quarterback Jared Zabransky completed 5-for-5 passing for 57 yards, setting the stage for Ian Johnson’s (147 yards, 3 TDs) 6-yard scoring run.
On the ensuing kickoff, Dwayne Sanders was pounded by Austin Smith, who forced the fumble and recovered the ball at the 23.
Again, it was Nevada’s defense to the rescue. Boise State drove down to Nevada’s 14, but Josh Mauga stopped Johnson for no gain to get the ball back to the offense.
On first down, Rowe bobbled the snap and then tried to hand it off to Hubbard. Rowe fell on the ball back at the 10. On second down, Rowe tried to scramble out of the pocket, but fumbled and Kyle Gingg recovered for BSU at the Nevada 4.
“The ground caused the ball to come out,” Rowe said.
Boise State scored on the next play, as Johnson scored on a 4-yard run. Montgomery’s PAT made it 17-0 with 8:34 left in the half.
It certainly could have been worse than 17-0 at the half, especially when you consider Nevada was only in Boise’s territory for three plays in the first 30 minutes.
“I wasn’t thinking about that,” Ault said. “My big concern at the time was trying to get our offense to show up.”
It never did, and the defense started to show wear and tear in the second half, surrendering touchdowns on consecutive BSU drives to start the third quarter.
Even if you’re a Wolf Pack fan, Boise State’s first possession of the second half was a work of art. The Broncos needed 10 plays to drive 80 yards, and not once was Nevada able to put them in a third-down situation.
Johnson started the drive with runs of 7, 16, 7 and 5 down to the Nevada 45. Two Zabransky completions – a 9-yarder to Brad Lau and a 17-yarder to Legedu Naanee (7 catches, 129 yards) – gave the Broncos a first down at the 18. Johnson rushed twice for 13 yards down to the 5, and then Vinny Perretta, a tailback, took a direct snap from center and skirted left end for a 5-yard TD run and a 24-0 lead.
A personal foul on Zach Shapiro and holding penalty put Nevada’s offense in another hole back at the 10 on the ensuing kickoff. Nevada went three and out, and the Broncos were sitting pretty at their own 43 following the Nevada punt.
Zabransky completed a big 5-yard pass to Derek Schouman on third down to give the Broncos a first down at the Nevada 45. On the next play, Zabransky (299 yards passing) found Naanee wide open ahead of Joe Garcia for a TD to make it 31-0.
That officially sealed the deal for the Broncos.
“We just needed to take our time and work on them,” Johnson said. “Once we got on a roll, we gashed them.”
After a Nevada punt, Boise State had the ball at midfield when Zabransky tried a bubble screen. Hawthrone had penetrated the backfield, leaped up and caught the ball, and took it back the distance.
“The first half I remembered seeing that play,” Hawthrone said. “They had three receivers to one side. They tried a quick screen. I read it and went up for it and he threw it to me.”
It was a little momentum, bit it came way too late.