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Is It a Rivalry? Boise State vs. Nevada

Field goal posts and field rushing

Boise State at Nevada Kyle Green/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

In this new series, our writers will be looking at various Mountain West matchups and determining whether or not they qualify as rivalries. Our newest edition features Boise State vs. Nevada.

Record: Boise State has 30 wins to Nevada’s 13

Longest winning streak: Boise State’s longest winning streak is 10 and Nevada’s is 3.

Largest margin of victory: Boise State 56-3 in 2003. Nevada 66-28 in 1996.

How does each team feel about the opposition and its fanbase?

Zach: Before the move to the Mountain West, Nevada was clearly becoming Boise State’s biggest rival. Following the 2010 loss to the Wolf Pack, there was a lot of animosity. Bronco Nation was bitter over the short field goal posts and the way their fans treated the Bronco players on the field. I even knew of a fan that go hit with a beer bottle after the game.

Matt: Nevada doesn’t like Boise State, nor its fans. When you’re consistently the top dog in the conference — regardless if it’s the WAC or in the Mountain West — nobody is going to like you. That’s exactly how Nevada feels; whether you believe Nevada and Boise State are rivals or not, Nevada has long had animosity towards the Broncos. For the foreseeable future, I believe some hostility will be present between the two schools, especially after 2010 (more on that later).

Would you consider the rivalry competitive?

Zach: There have been a lot of competitive games and in the 1990’s it was very competitive. But Boise State is 16-1 against the Wolf Pack this century. While there have been some competitive games, the Broncos have a very clear advantage. But some of the Broncos most competitive games came against Nevada (2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014).

Matt: If you look at the win-loss column in the matchup’s history, no, at least not recently. As Zach highlighted, Boise State has bested Nevada in 16 of the last 17 contests. In those 16 victories, the average point differential is 23.1 points per game. That’s ballooned from seven straight Bronco victories of 30-plus points from 1999 to 2006. It has been much closer since 2007, where six of the ten affairs since have been one possession contests (eight or fewer points).

Which matchups stick out in your mind?

Zach: A decade removed, the 2010 loss still stings. But enough about that, 2007 was easily the most exciting matchup. A young Colin Kaepernick absolutely terrorized the Boise State defense, but the Broncos were able to escape with a 69-67 victory. 2014 was also a critical game because that is when the Broncos were able to turn their season around and Grant Hedrick really hit his stride on the way to a Fiesta Bowl berth.

Also, celebrating a Fiesta Bowl bid in 2006 in Reno was pretty sweet.

Matt: Stating the obvious, the 2010 Wolf Pack victory stands out — known as “Blue Friday”. The Nevada win — ending a 24-game Boise win streak — currently stands as the most memorable game in Nevada football history and one of the most memorable in school history. It was the best Nevada football team ever up against arguably the best Boise State team ever. Even prior to the game, it was considered the Reno’s most hyped-up sporting event in a century. Spoiler alert: It lived up to the hype.

No. 3 Boise State, led by quarterback and Heisman candidate Kellen Moore, looked to keep its BCS National Championship hopes alive with a convincing win over No. 19 Nevada. It was Colin Kaepernick’s senior night, which added to the game’s level of importance. The Broncos squandered a 24-7 halftime lead with 13 seconds left in regulation after a 7-yard touchdown pass from Kaepernick to Rishard Matthews tied the contest at 31. Moore heaved a 54-yard dime to Titus Young, landing at Nevada’s 9-yard line, with a second remaining on the ensuing possession. It set up a potential game-winning 26-yard field goal try by Kyle Brotzman. Brotzman missed it wide-right and forced overtime. Brotzman’s nightmare evening continued, following up with a second miss that went wide-left on a 29-yard attempt in Boise’s first possession in overtime. Nevada kicker Anthony Martinez kicked Boise’s national title hopes away with a game-winning 34-yard field goal to earn the 34-31 victory. You can find the full game here. (Note from Zach: Ouch!)

Two years prior, Nevada fell to Boise State 41-34 despite Moore throwing two pick-sixes. Another notable matchup was Kaepernick’s first collegiate start that came against Boise in 2007. Kaepernick completed 11-of-26 passes for 243 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, adding 177 rushing yards and two more scores on the ground. Both teams combined for 18 touchdowns in the four-overtime contest — with Boise State downing Nevada 69-67.

If you asked Nevada fans what they think about Boise State what would they say aloud? What would they secretly be thinking?

Matt: Some notable things that Pack fans would say to or about Boise State (most likely in this order): “Boise is not a state!” “Hey, does Boise remember 2010?” “Boise is not a State!!” “The blue field looks bad.” “Have I mentioned that BOISE IS NOT A STATE?!?”

In all seriousness (even though I guarantee the sentences above would come up), Nevada fans would talk about Boise State’s success. Even if they don’t like to admit it, the Broncos have arguably been the most dominant Group of 5 program in the nation. Since joining Division I-A in 1996, they have racked up 17 10-win seasons, 19 bowl appearances and 14 conference championships.

Consequently, the Broncos’ success would also be what controlled Nevada fans’ thoughts. They would wonder how Boise became so successful, how they sustained that success, etc. There are lots of Nevada fans who loathe the Broncos’ success, and justifiably so. Who, in all honesty, wouldn’t loathe tremendous success? That success has still continued today, contributing to the same degree of envy. Since Nevada’s first season in the Mountain West in 2012, Boise State has five division titles (2014, 2016-19) and three Mountain West Conference titles (2014, 2017, 2019). Nevada has zero of either. Its closest opportunity to capturing a share of a division title in the Mountain West came in 2014. The Wolf Pack finished 4-4 in conference play and one game short of both San Diego State and Fresno State.

If you asked Boise State fans what they think about Nevada what would they say aloud? What would they secretly be thinking?

Zach: Boise State fans hate Nevada and the city of Reno. Reno is often the brunt of many jokes. While the hate is not as strong as it once was, I would still consider Nevada to be one of Boise State’s biggest rivals.

Final verdict, would you consider these two teams to be rivals?

Zach: Yes, but barely. This was a really competitive rivalry at one time, but the Broncos now hold a convincing advantage. The games are usually competitive and Nevada always gives BSU their best shot.

Matt: Yes, but you could talk me into saying no. It is hard to say any two interstate foes are “rivals” if one has an overwhelming majority of victories. It’s also hard when they do not play each year due to divisional conflicts within the conference. Since the Mountain and West divisions were put in place in 2013, the two programs have faced-off just four times (in seven seasons). When you think of a rivalry matchup, you think of annual battles. That’s not the case here. But I still believe it comes down to the two fan bases here. Neither like one another and both poke fun at each other. 2010 sparked bad blood between the two programs that still stands today, even though Boise has much more to brag about than Nevada.