Wolf Pack defense has something to prove against Boise
For the Nevada Appeal
This time it’s personal.
The Nevada Wolf Pack defense has grown exhausted, weary and tired of hearing year after frustrating year about the truly remarkable, brilliant and incredible Boise State Broncos defense.
“Yes, it’s very personal,” Wolf Pack defensive tackle Brett Roy said after Saturday’s 52-6 nuking of the New Mexico State Aggies. “Anytime anybody questions what you can do as a man, you have to step up.”
The time to step up is Friday night when the unbeaten, perfect Broncos bring their remarkable and incredible defense to Mackay Stadium to meet the Wolf Pack.
“We’re ready,” Roy said.
Ready, willing and more than able.
“We have immense confidence,” said Roy, who stopped ever so slightly short of becoming a modern day Joe Namath predicting victory in the Super Bowl .
Actually, he didn’t really stop all that short.
“We’re at home,” Roy said. “And we don’t lose at home.”
Forgive Roy for sticking his chest out a little, looking his critics right in the eye and displaying his immense confidence. He was just sticking up for his teammates and, as far as he’s concerned, it’s about time someone stood up for this Wolf Pack defense.
“You hear it all the time,” Roy said. “People will say, ‘Oh, Nevada is a good football team but their defense isn’t that good.'”
The comments usually aren’t that politely stated. But Roy is absolutely correct. The amount of venom varies but the message is almost always the same: The difference between Boise State and Nevada is that Boise State plays defense. And Nevada, well, you might as well spell it Nevata because there really is no D in Nevada.
Yes, folks, this time it is personal.
“Our whole mentality is kill and ask questions later,” said Roy, who added that he likes to soften up offensive lineman early in the game with repeated in-your-face bull rushes.
“Once I establish that I can go from there and do other things,” said Roy who had two sacks against the Aggies.
Don’t misunderstand Roy. He’s not trying to intimidate Boise State with his words. And it’s not that he doesn’t respect the Boise defense. You can’t, after all, help but respect what the Broncos have done on defense.
Boise, the Wolf Pack knows better than anyone else in the country, is much more than their slick easy-to-sell ESPN and BCS-friendly image. You know, the hayseed team with good-natured farm boys who play in their bare feet, spit tobacco and beat you with a trick-play video game offense on a silly, blue, cartoon-like field.
That Boise State team exists only in fantasy land. In reality, the Broncos are a mentally tough, extremely focused, well-coached, smart, physical and athletic group with an offensive game plan plucked from about 20 years in the future. And, oh yeah, they also play old school, leather helmet, stand-you-up-and-hit-you-in-the-mouth defense.
“Boise’s defense is as good as there is,” Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault said.
You could argue that the Broncos truly have the best defense in the country. Sports Illustrated told us back in August that “the Broncos have the defense to win it all” and that’s one prediction they just might get right.
Boise’s defense is No. 1 in the nation against the rush, No. 7 against the pass and No. 2 overall. They lead the nation in sacks and tackles for a loss.
The Pack? Well, it depends which Pack defense will show up.
Will it be the Pack defense that stomped on Colorado State, BYU, San Jose State, Idaho and New Mexico State? Or will it be those other guys, you know, the ones that leave Ault shaking his head in post-game press conferences and wondering if his team wants a WAC title as badly as a gray-haired 64-year-old man who should be off bouncing his grandchildren on his knee.
“It was time for the defense to step up,” said defensive end Dontay Moch of the New Mexico State game. “We definitely needed to set the tone.”
It was also time to send a little message north to Boise. Don’t believe for a second that Boise didn’t want to send a message south to Nevada by shutting out Fresno State (51-0) on Friday night, just a week after Fresno dumped 34 points on the Pack.
Holding New Mexico State to just two field goals was the Pack’s reply to that Boise message.
“We just had to stay focused and stay hungry,” Moch said.
Ault, though, quickly switched into coaching mode on Saturday after briefly praising his defense, reminding everyone that New Mexico State “is not Fresno State. This was a little different,” he said.
Understood. And, so that nobody accuses anyone of drinking the Silver & Blue Kool-Aid, we’ll also remind you that Boise and the Pack have each played five similar opponents this year (New Mexico State, San Jose State, Hawaii, Idaho and Fresno State). Boise allowed 21 points combined to those five teams with three shutouts. The Pack allowed 97 with no shutouts.
Still, you can’t blame the Pack defense for feeling good about itself this week. The Wolf Pack held the Aggies to 89 yards rushing, they sacked the Aggies’ quarterback six times and returned an interception 90 yards (by Khalid Wooten) for a touchdown to cap off the victory.
“Our defensive effort was outstanding,” Ault said.
And so were the results.
“Coming off a game like Fresno, where they just seemed to gash us pretty good, we knew we had to pin our ears back,” Roy said.
“I just wanted to make sure I did my 1/11th,” said Moch, reminding us that he is just one of 11 defensive players on the field even though he does the work of three or four.
The Pack on defense at times, though, looked like 11 Lawrence Taylors attacking the overwhelmed Aggies like a pack of crazed dogs.
“The last couple years we’ve had a 100% turnaround on defense,” Roy said. “Now we can stop teams. Now we know how to finish.”
So stick that D right back in Nevada where it belongs. There will indeed be two defenses on the field Friday night, no matter what the ESPN announcers tell you.
“We’ve been groomed for this,” Roy said. “We’ve worked hard preparing for this.”