Sunday night football for Nevada | NevadaAppeal.com

Sunday night football for Nevada

Seven years and seven lopsided losses.

That’s the story of the Nevada-Boise State series since 1999. It’s been so bad, that a close game could be considered a moral victory for the Pack fans.

The last Nevada win in the series came back in 1998. In the past seven games, BSU has outscored the Pack 346-76. In four of the seven games, Nevada has managed just one touchdown or less.

Quite honesty, Sunday night’s game at Bronco Stadium (5 p.m, ESPN) doesn’t look much better.

Nevada (2-3, 0-1) enters the WAC contest with the 119th-ranked run defense and the worst run defense in the conference, and with redshirt freshman Colin Kaepernick making the first start of his collegiate career. That’s music to the ears of the Broncos (4-1, 1-0), who have been a strong running team over the years.

“They (Boise State) are as good as it gets in our conference on both sides of the ball,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “It’s a heck of a challenge. The three games since I’ve been back haven’t been close.”

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It’s certainly a strange phenomena. San Jose State (at home) has given Boise State all it can handle twice in the last three years. Yet Nevada has been a better team in that span and can’t keep it close to the Broncos. Go figure.

“It’s been a good rivalry,” BSU second-year coach Chris Petersen said. “I know they always play us hard. It should be a good game.

“I don’t know (why games are lopsided). We have a lot of respect for Nevada. They (the games) are always hard fought. Fortunately, we’ve been able to play well.”

Especially last year. Boise State ran off with a 38-7 win, holding the Pack without an offensive touchdown. Nevada snapped the ball only 37 times and finished with a season-low 141 yards. Ault admitted after the game that he didn’t think any team could stop his offense like that.

Ault said his biggest concern Sunday is the Pack’s Swiss-cheese run defense.

The Broncos, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Ian Johnson, average more than 200 a game on the ground. Johnson, who has scored seven times, accounts for nearly half of that average with 97 a game. D.J. Harper (140 yards) and Jeremy Avery (240 yards) have proven to be a strong complement to Johnson.

“We haven’t had bad defense like this in a long while,” Ault said. “It’s a combination of a whole lot of things. We experimented on defense with (different) personnel.”

Nevada lost defensive end Erics Clark to injury and illness, which has left an already vulnerable front even more vulnerable, and cornerback/safety Jon Amaya won’t play because of a knee injury. Those are two key guys who both play the run pretty well.

“That’s not an excuse to play the way we have played,” Ault said.

Nose tackle Matt Hines said after last week’s loss to Fresno State that his teammates needed to do some “soul searching.” He said problems stemmed from alignment issues, playing in the wrong gaps and not playing with emotion.

Anybody that knows football, knows that defense is all about emotion and desire. Ault pointed out after the Fresno State loss that he was disappointed with the lack of emotion the defensive unit showed.

Boise quarterback Tyler Tharp figures to make things difficult for the Pack. Given the time, he’s an accurate passer, and is showing some nice game management skills.

Tharp has completed 96 of 149 pass attempts for 1,209 yards and nine touchdowns. His favorite wideouts are Jeremy Childs (28 catches, 395 yards, 5 TDs) and freshman Titus Young (13-278-2).

“He has gotten better the last couple of games,” Petersen said. “He’s feeling more comfortable out there.

“He (Young) has done a good job,” Petersen said. “He’s a great competitor. He doesn’t play like a true freshman.”

Nevada’s second concern is how will Kaepernick perform against a stingy Bronco defense. Kaepernick, who took over when starter Nick Graziano was lost for the season with a tendon injury, accounted for four touchdown passes and one rushing TD in the Pack’s 49-41 loss to Fresno State.

“He’s very intelligent,” Ault said. “He’s been ready to play. I probably should have put him in against UNLV when Nick (Graziano) struggled.

“He’s never played at Boise. It’s a whole new ballgame. We’ll give him things we know he can execute.”

With Graziano out, true freshmen Luke Collis and Pete Murdacha have been elevated to Nos. 2 and 3, respectively.

Ault, like any other good coach, likes to establish the run. That may be difficult to do against the Broncos, who give up a WAC-low 67 yards a game on the ground. It will be a big test for the Nevada offensive line.

Notes: Boise State leads the all-time series 21-12, including a 13-2 edge in games played in Boise … Boise State is unranked, but getting votes in the AP, USA Today and Harris polls … Nevada hasn’t been shut out in 322 games, an NCAA record …Former Elko star Jeff Cavender is starting his 43rd consecutive game for the Broncos. He’s played three different positions during the streak … In the last five years, the Broncos have won 97 percent of their home games … Boise State is 23-4 on national TV.

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281

NEVADA (2-3, 0-1 AT BOISE STATE (4-1, 1-0)

When: Sunday, 5 p.m.

Where: Bronco Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: 630 AM, pregame show starts at 4 p.m.

The line: Boise State by 26