No. 7 Boise State invades Mackay Stadium
RENO – Last year’s season-ending 56-3 loss to Boise State was one of the most embarrassing moments in Nevada football history.
It helped lead to the ouster of coach Chris Tormey. Many in and around the program, including former athletic director and now head coach Chris Ault, felt the Wolf Pack mailed it in that day and weren’t prepared.
Ault and his squad have a chance to exact some revenge today when the Broncos (10-0, 7-0), ranked seventh in the lastest BCS poll, come calling on the Wolf Pack (5-6, 3-4) at 4:45 p.m. at Mackay Stadium in a nationally televised game.
Boise State comes into the game with a 21-game win streak, tops in the country. The Broncos have won 12 straight WAC road games, which is no easy task considering the travel involved in the conference.
Ault claims he isn’t using last year’s score/game as motivation.
“I’m not going to compare clubs or coaches,” Ault said. “It’s their last home game here. The game is on national TV and we have the opportunity to play the seventh-ranked team in the BCS. What a great opportunity. That’s my approach.”
It’s one that quarterback Jeff Rowe is taking. He was in the stands at Boise State that day, and he doesn’t want to be reminded of the debacle. He admitted that the effort given that day may have been less than 100 percent.
“We definitely don’t want to do that this year,” said Rowe, who has thrown for 2,388 yards and 14 scores this year. “This is the highest-ranked team we’ve ever played here. We know what we’re up against.
“It’s a big deal (for the conference) if they win. All the hype is around them and none of it is around us. This would be a good one to win. You definitely don’t want to end the season with a loss. We really want to go 6-0 at Mackay. You can’t prepare to just play close and hope for good things. We have to play like we have nothing to lose. That’s what I’m going to do.”
And, as far as Rowe is concerned, there is no such thing as a moral victory.
“I don’t think there is such a thing with coach Ault,” Rowe said.
Boise State coach Dan Hawkins said he’s been impressed with Nevada’s balance on offense this year in its new offense. He said that the Broncos will have to bring their “A game” to win today.
Rowe & Co. face the best run defense in the conference. The Broncos held Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Moats to less than 70 yards on the ground, and that is no easy feat.
Hawkins was impressed with Talib Wise, who eclipsed the 100-yard mark last week against Fresno State. Ault said he wasn’t sure whether Wise would go back to wide receiver, or possibly see action at both spots during the game. Chance Kretschmer, who missed two games with an ankle injury, will be ready to play.
Linebackers Andy Avalos, Colt Brooks and Korey Hall are outstanding run stoppers, and defensive end Julius Roberts and defensive tackle Alex Guerrero also are playing well. Roberts has three sacks, while Guerrero has 7 1/2 tackles behind the line, including 2 1/2 sacks.
The Broncos’ defense has given up some big plays through the air. Hawkins said it’s part because the team plays the run so hard, has had some breakdowns and part because of an injury to safety Chris Carr (McQueen High), who intercepted three passes last year against the Pack.
“Every defense has a weakness,” Ault said when asked about some of the big plays the Broncos have given up. “You have to find it and execute. The ones (big plays) we’ve seen have been more on the corners.”
A couple came against San Jose State, but Rowe said the Spartans have gone deep against a lot of teams, including Nevada.
That means Nichiren Flowers and Wise, the two fastest receivers on the Pack squad, could have big games.
Defense is what has let down Nevada in recent losses to SMU and Fresno State. The Pack allowed 279 yards on the ground to Fresno State and 170 to SMU. If you can’t stop the run, you won’t win many games at any level.
“It’s (defensive line) the most veteran group we have,” Ault said. “Last week and SMU I don’t think we played with much tenacity.”
The big difference with Boise this year is that they are balanced offensively. There hasn’t been a dropoff with Jared Zabransky at quarterback instead of Ryan Dinwiddie. The talented sophomore has accounted for 2,777 yards rushing and passing. He has 12 rushing touchdowns, including an 85-yarder against Hawai’i.
“That’s the difference,” Ault said. “Zabransky will run and Dinwiddie didn’t. We have to keep contain (with defensive ends). Last week against Fresno State we lost contain twice and (Paul) Pinegar ran for 15 yards, and he can’t run.”
Lee Marks has carried the load on the ground for Boise (80.9 per game). T.J. Acree (45-785-6), Lawrence Bady (23-371-0) and Drisan James (38-545-1) are the top receivers.
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281.