Wolf Pack to face Lobos in New Mexico Bowl | NevadaAppeal.com

Wolf Pack to face Lobos in New Mexico Bowl

Pack to face Lobos in New Mexico Bowl

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Nevada’s football team is going bowling for a school-record third consecutive year.

The Wolf Pack, which went 6-6 overall and 4-4 in Western Athletic Conference play, was selected to play in the New Mexico Bowl, in Albuquerque, N.M., Dec. 22 at 1:30 p.m. against the University of New Mexico, which compiled an 8-4 record this year.

Nevada needed to beat Louisiana Tech on Saturday to become bowl eligible and then have Hawaii wrap up its undefeated season with a win over Washington. Nevada topped Tech 49-10, and then the Warriors edged Washington later on Saturday in Honolulu.

This will be the third different bowl Nevada has played in that three-year span. In 2005, Nevada defeated Central Florida in overtime at the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. In 2006, Nevada dropped a 21-20 heartbreaker to the University of Miami in the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho.

“That means a lot to me,” senior tight end and captain Adam Bishop said. “It’s the first time in school history. It’s something I’ll remember forever. We didn’t want to go out being losers, without a winning record and without a chance for postseason. A bowl opportunity is great for us.”

Head coach Chris Ault was especially happy for the seniors.

“I’m very pleased that our team, especially the seniors, will have another opportunity to play another game against a quality opponent,” Ault said. “I had a chance to see one of their (the Lobos’) games on television this year. They have an outstanding running back and a very good defense.

“I’m proud of these guys. It’s a privilege to go to a bowl game. Our young guys will get to see what it’s all about. It says a lot about our football program. Nevada and Boise State are the only schools to go to bowl games the last three seasons.”

Bowls are great for so many reasons. Not only does it give the schools a chance to play another game, the school stands to earn a pretty hefty paycheck, the younger players get much-needed practice time and the extra television exposure helps recruiting.

“It’s huge (for recruiting), especially on the West Coast,” Ault said. “When you are recruiting, so many kids are looking for postseason opportunities. It’s another opportunity to be on ESPN. It’s great exposure for the University of Nevada.”

It was exposure that wouldn’t have come about had Hawaii lost on Saturday night, and Bishop and Matt Hines, the only players in attendance, went through some nervous times watching the game. Hawaii trailed by 21 points before rallying for the 35-28 win, capping a 12-0 season and earning a berth in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 1 against Georgia.

“I was just hanging out watching,” Bishop said. “When it was 21-0, I was rooting for Hawaii.”

“I got upset a little bit when it was 21-0,” Hines admitted. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing -what was with all those shovel passes?”

Ault said he was happy for the Warriors.

“Anytime you go undefeated, it’s something very special,” Ault said. “The can score points in a hurry. I’m happy for them.”

Ault also said that the Pack can take something away from the Louisiana Tech game, namely the performance by the defense.

“We played very consistent and with a lot of energy,” Ault said. “The last few weeks the defense is definitely getting better, while the offense continues to be very good.”

This is the fourth time in five years that the conference has had four teams in bowl games, a fact not lost on Hines.

“We (the WAC) should get more respect,” Hines said. “There are a lot of good schools in the conference.”

You won’t get any argument from Jeff Siembieda, the executive director of the New Mexico Bowl. He knows all about the WAC, and was hoping to get Nevada for his game last year.

“Nevada is an exciting team,” Siembieda said. “We have tremendous respect for the program that Chris Ault has built. We’re looking forward to hosting the Wolf Pack and their fans for a great bowl week.”

NOTES: Ault also announced that the team will get linebacker Josh Mauga back and center Dominic Green back for the bowl game. How much either will play remains to be seen…Vai Taua had his knee scoped last week and won’t play in the bowl game … Tickets for the New Mexico Bowl are available by calling the Nevada ticket office at 348-PACK … The players will resume practice on Friday for the bowl game…Nevada is 2-3 in its past five bowl appearances.

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