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Nevada tops Boise State 41-31, earns second victory against Broncos in over two decades

Nevada v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

For the first time since 2010, the Nevada Wolf Pack downed the Boise State Broncos, 41-31, with a record 37,426 in the stands at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. It’s Nevada’s second victory against the Broncos since 1998.

Though it’s played on the blue turf twice since its last meeting in 2018, Saturday also marked the Wolf Pack’s first road victory against the Broncos since 1997. They entered 2-18 all-time on the blue turf in the matchup’s history.

Nine of Nevada’s 14 victories all-time against Boise State have been by double-digits. Nevada, who trailed 21-20 at halftime, outscored the Broncos 21-3 before Boise’s final touchdown with under four minutes to go.

Nevada finished a plus-three in the turnover battle against Boise State, who entered the weekend Top-5 in the FBS in turnover margin (plus-7; T-4) and turnovers forced (12; 2nd).

The Wolf Pack move to 3-1 and 1-0 in Mountain West play; Boise State drops to 2-3, the first time it’s had a losing record at any point of the season since 2014, and 1-1 in conference play.

Nevada totaled 393 yards of offense with 18 first downs. Redshirt junior Carson Strong went 25-for-38 for 263 yards, one touchdown and zero turnovers.

Toa Taua recorded his 10th career 100-yard performance and his second on the season. He totaled a season-high 124 yards (on 12 carries) with a pair of touchdowns, adding a team-high seven catches for 44 yards. Devonte Lee had 10 carries for 24 yards, including a two-yard rushing score.

Cole Turner led their non-running backs with six catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. Justin Lockhart hauled in five catches for a team-high 94 yards, while Romeo Doubs added five catches for 45 yards.

Nevada’s defense front took advantage of a middling Broncos offensive line, tallying six sacks. Two-time All-Mountain West honoree Dom Peterson had two fourth quarter sacks; Tristan Nichols had two, including one strip sack; Sam Hammond and defensive back AJ King added one apiece as well. The Pack had four quarterback hits as well.

Nevertheless, the Broncos had 410 yards of offense — 388 through the air — with 24 first downs.

Junior gun slinger Hank Bachmeier went 34-for-48 (70.8 percent) for 388 yards, four touchdown passes and one interception. It marked his first career four-touchdown performance and his second career performance of 380-plus passing yards, the other coming in his first collegiate start against Florida State (407 yards).

Cyrus Habibi-Likio had 10 carries for 46 yards, in addition to his five receptions for 22 yards. Andrew Van Buren had eight carries for 34 yards; George Holani finished with 27 yards rushing on four attempts.

Stefan Cobbs, entering the afternoon with 12 career catches for 253 yards and two scores in eight contests, tallied nine receptions for 132 yards and two touchdowns — all team highs. Octavius Evans had six catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. Khalil Shakir, Boise State’s best receiver, had four receptions for 70 yards and a score.

Eight different Bronco players caught at least one pass, including six with multiple catches.

Nevada opened with an 11-play, 67-yard drive, capped off by Strong’s seven-yard touchdown pass to Turner, his second of 2021.

Boise State’s first drive included an early Christmas gift — Nevada jumped offsides on fourth-and-4, rewarding the Bronco with a first down. The drive ensued with three pass plays of 15-plus yards, including Bachmeier’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Cobbs, tying the game at seven.

Nevada’s Brandon Talton put the Pack ahead 10-7 after his 38-yard field goal conversion, though Boise State marched down the field once again. Its eight-play drive ended with a ridiculous one-handed 23-yard catch from Shakir, putting the Broncos ahead 14-10.

The Pack re-took the 17-14 lead with 12:26 remaining in the first half after Lee scampered for a two-yard rushing score.

Three plays after a Shakir’s 40-yard punt return put the Broncos in plus territory, Bachmeier’s third touchdown of the first half found Cobbs for the second time on the afternoon, this time from five yards out.

Talton’s 37-yard field goal — set up by a pair of crucial third-and-long conversions — cut the halftime deficit to 21-20.

Both offenses saw above-average production in the first half. Both teams had 12 first downs apiece; Boise State totaled 213 yards (203 passing) of offense while Nevada had 229 yards (214 passing). Both teams did, however, garner fewer than 6.5 yards per play (Boise State - 6.3, Nevada - 5.5).

Tristan Nichols’ second strip sack of the season resulted in the game’s first turnover, setting Nevada up inside the red zone. After a bevy of Wolf Pack penalties, Taua plowed into end zone on a 12-yard run.

Jonah Dalmas’ 31-yard field goal trimmed the deficit to four. Back-to-back runs of 21 and 38 yards from Taua placed the Pack inside the redzone, though the Pack had to settle for three for the third time on the afternoon, re-upping it to 31-24 with 6:01 to go in the third quarter.

Taua’s 22-yard rushing touchdown — his second score of the afternoon — widened the lead to 38-24 with 2:40 to go in the third quarter.

Nevada safety Jordan Lee ripped-and-recovered the football from Stefan Cobbs’ hands on its second drive of the final period, giving Nevada prime field position at Boise’s 29-yard line. Though it wasn’t able to convert for six. Talton’s 38-yard boot — his fourth of the afternoon (all inside of 40 yards) — made it 41-24 with 10:42 to go.

On its next offensive play, Boise State’s CT Thomas bobbled Bachmeier’s throw, landing in Daiyan Henley’s hands — its third turnover of the afternoon and Bachmeier’s fourth interceptions of 2021.

Nevada didn’t put any points on the board, however. Bachmeier’s fourth-and-final touchdown was a four-yard pass to Evans, its final score of the game.

Next up: Nevada heads home for its first two-game homestand of 2021, beginning with New Mexico State on Saturday, Oct. 9. Kickoff will be at 7:30 PT.