Is 2010 finally Nevada’s time against Boise State?
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO – Mackay Stadium will be all aglow Friday night.
“We won’t need lights to make it light up,” Nevada Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault said.
The fourth-ranked (Bowl Championship Series) Boise State Broncos and the 19th-ranked Wolf Pack will be all the electricity needed the night after Thanksgiving to make sure Mackay Stadium can be seen from space.
“It’s an opportunity to play for a championship and show what we’re made of,” Ault said. “That’s special stuff.”
It promises to be a special, historic and possibly program-changing night for the Wolf Pack. The nationally televised (ESPN, 7:21 p.m. kickoff) game will be the first in Wolf Pack history between two Top 25-ranked teams. Mackay Stadium has been sold out for this showdown for two months.
“It’s an electric place when it’s filled,” said Ault of the stadium he played in as a player in the 1960s and where he’s coached for 26 seasons. “Our job is to keep them yelling.”
The championship on the line for the Wolf Pack is the Western Athletic Conference title. A victory over Boise, coupled with a victory at Louisiana Tech on Dec. 4, will give the Pack at least a share of the title with either Boise or Hawaii or both.
“This is definitely the most important game of all,” Nevada defensive tackle Brett Roy said. “We’re getting an opportunity not many people get. It’s awesome.”
Boise, 37-1 in WAC play since 2006, is 10-0 overall and 6-0 in the WAC. The Pack, which last earned a share of the WAC title in 2005 (with Boise) is 10-1, 5-1 and Hawaii is 8-3, 6-1. Boise finishes its WAC schedule on Dec. 4 by hosting Utah State and Hawaii will close out its conference season against New Mexico State this Saturday.
“This is another step toward a WAC championship,” Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick said.
Boise, though, is looking to make an even larger step. A victory Friday and next week will keep their Bowl Championship Series national title dreams alive.
“There’s nothing I can say that the media hasn’t already said about how good this Boise team is,” said Ault, who added this week that this Boise State team is the best team the Wolf Pack has ever played. “We’re going to have to play our best football game to have a chance.”
Welcome to the WAC Mutual Admiration Society. Both the Wolf Pack and Boise State were careful not to light any artificial fires this week that could been seen or heard from Boise to Reno.
“They pose a tremendous challenge,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said of Nevada. “Everybody has a lot of respect for Nevada. They are and have been a very good team for a long time.”
The last time the Pack was good enough to beat Boise, though, was 1998. Boise has a 10-game streak of domination in this rivalry.
“For me, as a senior, to finally get a ‘W’ against them would be great,” Pack defensive end Dontay Moch said. “I’ve been trying to do that ever since I was a freshman. This is our final hurrah to finally bring it home.”
Boise State won the first seven games in its current 10-game winning streak against Nevada by an average of 39 points, beating three Pack coaches (Jeff Tisdel, Chris Tormey and Ault) along the way. The last three Boise victories, though, have been by an average of just seven points. One of those games (2007) even went to overtime.
Ault, though, reminded everyone this week that football is not like horseshoes, hand grenades and professional golf.
“Close doesn’t count,” Ault said. “It doesn’t matter. Close didn’t bring home the trophy.”
Ault was asked repeatedly this week about the Pack’s slow starts in its last three games against Boise. The Pack fell behind 27-3 last year, 24-3 in 2008 and 21-7 in 2007 before losing 44-33 (2009), 41-34 (2008) and 69-67 (2007).
“It’s been ugly,” he said. “What more can I say?”
Ault wanted to talk about how his team finished as opposed to how it started.
“You don’t want to be trailing Boise State at anytime in the game,” Ault said. “We have to find a way to finish the deal.”
Boise State is led on offense by junior quarterback Kellen Moore. Moore passed for 262 yards and five touchdowns against the Pack last year and 414 yards and three scores in 2008.
When asked what makes Boise’s offense special, Wolf Pack defensive coordinator Andy Buh answered quickly and to the point.
“Their quarterback,” Buh said. “He doesn’t make mistakes.”
Actually, the quarterback on the field Friday night who has made the least mistakes in this rivalry won’t be Moore. Kaepernick has played three games against Boise and has yet to be intercepted over 98 pass attempts. The Wolf Pack intercepted Moore three times in 2008.
“You have to be smart in everything you do against Boise State,” said Kaepernick, who has passed for 625 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 278 yards and two touchdowns in three games against Boise State. “You have to play smart and you have to play fast.”
Since it is the last home game of the year, the Wolf Pack will honor its seniors on Friday night. But, Ault said, it won’t be your typical Senior Night.
The game, Ault said, is the priority. Not the pre-game or halftime festivities.
“There will be no hugging babies,” he said. “The focus needs to be unlike any other focus.”
The Pack has been focused on this game since last year’s 44-33 loss at Boise State. A WAC title, after all, always goes through Boise State. The Broncos have won at least a share of seven of the last eight WAC crowns.
“We’ve had a great year,” Ault said. “Now it’s about how great do you want to make it?”