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Pack’s attitude got it entree into Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

The Nevada Wolf Pack might have been the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl’s second choice from the Western Athletic Conference.

Gary Cavalli, the San Francisco bowl game’s executive director, said Monday in Reno that Boise State wasn’t all that excited about playing in the Jan. 9 game (6 p.m., ESPN) at AT&T Park.

“They were not nearly as pumped up about going to San Francisco as Nevada was,” Cavalli said.

The Wolf Pack (12-1) will meet the Boston College Eagles (7-5) of the Atlantic Coast Conference in the ninth edition of the game at the home of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl had its choice between the three remaining bowl eligible teams (Nevada, Boise, Fresno State) in the WAC. The fourth WAC bowl eligible team, Hawaii, had already accepted an invitation to its own Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 24 against Tulsa).

“I really believe that we have one of the best matchups in the college football bowl season this year,” Cavalli said.

The Pack, though, was always rumored to be the third choice of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl to represent the WAC in the game behind Boise State and Fresno State. Cavalli, though, said Boise did not want to play in the Bay area game. The Broncos eventually accepted an invitation to play in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22 against Utah.

“They really had two objections to our game,” said Cavalli of Boise State. “First, once they were no longer going to play in a (Bowl Championship Series) game, or play for the national championship, they didn’t want to play in a game as late (in the bowl season) as ours. And, second, since they already beat the ACC champ in Virginia Tech this year, they didn’t want to play a fourth place team in the ACC. Those were their two main objections.”

Boise’s chance at a BCS bowl game vanished on the night of Nov. 26 in Reno when it lost to the Wolf Pack, 34-31, in overtime. Until that night, Boise was headed to a BCS Bowl (likely the Rose Bowl or national title game).

“They didn’t want to play in our game because it was so late in the bowl season,” Cavalli said. “They kind of had the feeling of, “Since we’re not going to play for a championship, we would kind of like to get it over with as soon as possible.”

Cavalli said Boise State was never formally invited to play in the San Francisco bowl game.

“After I talked to them and after I thought about it more (last week), I just determined that I would rather have a team that is excited and jumping up and down to come to our game rather than a team that really didn’t want to be there,” Cavalli said. “When a team doesn’t want to be there then they don’t show up for events, they show up late for events and everyone just gets the feeling that they are disappointed to be there. I’m not saying Boise would have done those things. But that’s what can happen.”

Cavalli added that he believes Boise would have accepted an offer to play in San Francisco.

“They wouldn’t have turned us down,” he said. “I believe that.”

The Wolf Pack, even without Boise in the picture, still might have been the second choice after Fresno State. Fresno State, which will meet Northern Illinois in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise on Dec. 18, finished 8-4 this year and lost to the Wolf Pack, 35-34, in Fresno last month.

Before Boise dropped out of consideration for a BCS game, though, it was widely rumored that Fresno would be the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl’s choice over the Wolf Pack because of the ability of the Bulldogs’ enthusiastic fan base to support its team in San Francisco.

A couple of Reno-area friends of Cavalli, though, helped convince him otherwise last week.

“John Sande and Pete Lazetich were very much in favor of bringing the Wolf Pack to this game,” Cavalli said. “They were Nevada’s biggest boosters.”

Sande, a Reno High graduate, and Lazetich, a former NFL player and long-time Reno resident are Stanford graduates like Cavalli.

“They helped convince me that Nevada would be the right choice and I couldn’t agree more,” smiled Cavalli.

The Wolf Pack , ranked 15th in the current BCS standings, will be going to its sixth bowl game in a row. The Pack will also hope to end a four-game losing streak in bowl games after getting beat by Miami (21-20 in the MPC Computers Bowl) in 2006, New Mexico (23-0 in the New Mexico Bowl) in 2007, Maryland (42-35 in the Humanitarian Bowl) in 2008 and SMU (45-10 in the Hawaii Bowl) in 2009.

“This is a special opportunity for us,” Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault said. “I’m excited that this football team will get a chance to play one more game. This game was my first preference and choice.”

“We have a chance to go there and do what we do best and that’s win,” Pack defensive end Dontay Moch said.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is 0-3 in bowl games, said the Wolf Pack has some unfinished business to take care of in San Francisco.

“We’re going to really try to put it out there that this team can play with anybody in the country,” Kaepernick said.

Kaepernick said getting to a bowl game was a priority all season.

“This is something we’ve worked for ever since the game last year (in Hawaii) was over,” he said.