Boise State is 3-0 and is once again ready to appear in front of the hometown fans for the second time this season at Bronco Stadium. This Saturday, the Broncos host the Nevada Wolf Pack
(1-2) of the Western Athletic Conference in non-conference action. The undfeated Broncos come into the game after three wins over the Georgia Bulldogs
, the Toledo Rockets
, and last weeks win over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane
. Saturday's game starts at 12:30 MT and will be televised on Versus.
This will be the Boise State's fourth non-conference game of the season. The Broncos open league play on October 15 at Colorado State, while the Wolf Pack will be joining the Mountain West Conference next year, allowing the former WAC rivals to continue their rivalry into the forseeable future.
This season, Boise State is once again favored to win---this time by 28 points. Anyone who believes that spread is going to get covered might want to rethink that bet over a cold six-pack. This is going to be a bare-knuckled fight going in and history is on the side of the Nevada with the spread. In 2007, the Pack lost to the Broncos 69-67 in OT. In 2008, they lost 41-34 to the #9 ranked Broncos. In 2009, they lost 44-33 to the #6 ranked Boise State, and of course we all remember their thrilling 34-31 OT win over the Broncos down in Reno last year. That was when the Wolf Pack handed the Boise State a crushing defeat on national television and prevented the Broncos from gaining a shot at the National Championship or an appearance in the Rose Bowl.And the Wolf Pack would like to do the same thing again. In their opening game this season, the Wolf Pack dropped their opener when they traveled to Eugene, Orgeon and faced off against the #13 Oregon Ducks
. They lost that game 20-69, but not before they racked up 516 total yards of offense. For their second game they traveled to San Jose, California to hand the San Jose State Spartans a 34-24 loss, then headed down to Texas to give the Big 12's Texasa Tech Red Raiders a big scare. Nevada led that game all the way and should have won it. They outplayed the Red Raiders and racked up 562 yards of total offense compared to Tech's 441. The Wolf Pack lost when a desperate Texas Tech managed a last minute fourth quarter score with 36 seconds left in the game.
So if you think that post-Keapernick the Wolf Pack would be a pushover, you might want to take another look at the 2011 Nevada team. Head coach Chris Ault has put together another formidable team that knows how to use his pistol offense. QB Tyler Lantrip, 6-4 220 lbs, has been the starter for the Nevada team. Last week, he was 11 of 18 for 191 yards through the air, and one was a TD. But he's definately not the runner Kaepernick was. But freshman QB Cody Fajardo, 6-2 205 lbs, is. He looks like a Kaepernick clone out there on the field. After getting his feet wet at Oregon, Ault put him in last week and watched as the redshirt freshman threw two touchdowns passes and ran for a 56-yarder. The youngster demonstrated his running abilities with 139 yards on 10 carries against the Raider defense. Fajardo also completed 4 of 6 passes for 59 yards and a TD.
The Nevada quarterbacks have several deadly receivers to use against the Boise defenders. WR Rishard Matthews, 6-2 215 lbs, proved he can be their deep man last week. He caught 5 passes for 107 yards and a TD. That's an average of 21.4 yards a catch. And he wasn't alone out there. WR Shane Anderson, 6-1 210 lbs, caught 3 that averaged 17.3 yards each. What's important is that through three games Nevada is averaging 483 yards of total offense and every one of those yards have been earned on the road. And its been a balanced attack incorporating not only a passing attack but a good running game as well. Nevada RB Mike Ball, 5-10 215 lbs, has been comfortable carrying a load on the field. He is averging 5.2 yards a carry. A week after he received all-conference honors for 124 yards on 29 carries in the win at San Jose State, Ball rushed for 139 yards on 27 carries last week at Texas Tech. Look for him to be charging into the Bronco D-line Saturday and getting all up into everybodys stuff.
Boise State head coach Chris Petersen is not saying it, but the fans are: the Broncos have a score to settle after last years drubbing in Reno. The question is, can they get it done? The experts are all saying yes, and we know they are never wrong.
Boise State's star QB Kellen Moore, 6-1 193 lbs, was 23 of 29 for 279 yards last week against Tulsa, leaving himself 5 yards short of 1,000 passing yards in three games. He threw to nine differenct receivers but TE Tyler Shoemaker, 6-1 213 lbs, and WR Mitch Burrougths, 5-9 187 lbs, were the big standouts. Both caught 5 passes each, with Shoe averaging 20.4 on 102 yards and two TD's. Burroughs had 63 yards on the night, averaging 12.6 a catch and a TD.
The Bronco running game continues to sputter. The Tulsa Golden Hurricane held the Broncos to 131 yards on the ground and that is a major concern for first year offensive coordinator Brent Pease. The former wide receivers coach is getting the job done on defense, but it is clearly frustrating that the Broncos running game continues to struggle. Last week, RB Doug Martin, 5-9 215 lbs, ran 21 times and averaged 3.6 yards a carry. His backup, RB D.J. Harper
, 5-9 210 lbs, was even worse, managing a 2.9 average on 15 carries.
The Bronco starting lineup hasn't been announced yet, but Moore should be healthy this week. He was wearing a leg brace last Saturday and could be seen limping now and then. That was also why Petersen pulled the senior out of the game and let QB Joe Southwick, 6-1 197 lbs, have a turn. The sophomore was 5 of 7 passes for 48 yards and a TD. He also rushed 6 times for 14 yards and was sacked once.
If there is another spot of sunshine in the Bronco lineup, it is with special teams. Kicker Dan Goodale, 5-9 184 lbs, began putting it through the uprights after missing his first attempt in last Saturday's game, indicating that he might have found his groove. He went on to close out the evening with 5 straight extra points, much to the cheers of the fans at Bronco Stadium. And punter Brad Elkin
, 6-2 195 lbs, continues to impress with his performance. He is using the rugby-style punt with perfection and last game put 3 of his four punts inside the 20 yard line.
Boise State will be needing a decisive win at home on The Blue if they want to stay in the top five. A big win here going into conference play will be a factor as the Broncos once again chase a BCS Bowl slot. And Nevada could care less. In fact, the Wolf Pack would like nothing better than to hand their top-ranked nemesis another humiliating defeat.
It happened before. It could happen again. That is why Chris Ault is not going to name
his starting quarterback until the last minute.
Sorry, coach. But that's not going to be good enough for a win this Saturday night so you better bring your A-game.
And I know you will.
My final score prediction: Boise State 45, Nevada 33.