Pack is headed to Hawaii | NevadaAppeal.com

Pack is headed to Hawaii

RENO – Nevada accepted an invitation to play in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl against the University of Central Florida on Saturday, Dec. 24, in Honolulu.

It will be the first bowl appearance for the Pack since they played in the Las Vegas Bowl in 1996. Nevada is 2-3 in previous bowl appearances.

Nevada (8-3) has never played Central Florida, which finished the regular season at 8-4 with a 44-27 loss to Tulsa in Saturday’s Conference USA’s championship game.

“We’re extremely excited and proud to represent the Western Athletic Conference and the state of Nevada,” Nevada athletic director Cary Groth said. “It gives us yet another opportunity on national television to showcase our university, our athletic department and our football program.”

Groth didn’t go into the financial part of the acceptance until she had talked further with WAC commissioner Karl Benson and Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl officials.

Nevada had been targeted by three bowls – Sheraton Hawai’i, Motor City and Las Vegas. Nevada probably was hoping for the latter because it would have more fans. However, those hopes were dashed when Oregon failed to get selected for the Fiesta Bowl.

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“We couldn’t be happier for our players, our program and the university,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “This is a great opportunity for us and a reward for these players for all their hard work.

“We’re pleased. We told the players on Wednesday that we felt this is where we would end up, and we told them that who we would probably end up playing. It will be a wonderful bowl experience. We were picked to finish fifth and we won our conference (co-title with Boise State).”

Were the players disappointed not going to Las Vegas?

It would have been nice to be in Las Vegas,” running back B.J. Mitchell said. “It’s going to be on national TV either way. It’s the first bowl game in 10 years. It’s exciting.”

The chance to play in a bowl game far outweighed the fact that the players might not be home on Christmas, especially the ones that live away from Reno.

“We’ll be traveling Christmas Day probably,” quarterback Jeff Rowe said. “There are a lot of Christmases left in my life.”

“I echo that,” Mitchell said. “Christmas is being with family. It’s not about gifts or anything like that.”

And, the Nevada football team is Mitchell’s family most of the year.

Tim DeRuyter, Nevada’s co-defensive coordinator, said that film exchange is expected to be completed in the next day or so.

“Kevin (Soria, film person) has already called up and gotten in touch with them,” DeRuyter said. “I believe the whole season will be exchanged.”

Central Florida is a mystery of sorts. The team, coached by George O’Leary, lost its first two games and then won eight of its last 10, including five straight before the Tulsa loss.

DeRuyter has coached against O’Leary-coached teams before, so he has a little idea of what to expect.

“They are a multi-formation team (offensively),” DeRuyter said. “They might be similar to Fresno State; same type of talent. They like to pound the ball and use play-action to throw it deep. We’ve seen that a lot this year.”

Kevin Smith averages 81.3 a game at running back and Jason Peters averages nearly 50 yards a game (5.6 per carry). Steven Moffett is the quarterback. He completed 204 of 339 for 19 scores and 2,624 yards.

NOTES: Nevada starts back to practice today at 3:15, and will only have one day off in the next 11 days before departing on Dec. 18 for Hawai’i … There are several pre-game festivities planned for the Pack, including a trip to Pearl Harbor.

n Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281