(Sports Network) The game that everyone has been waiting for in the Western Athletic Conference since the schedule was announced is finally here, as the 19th-ranked Nevada Wolf Pack host the third-ranked and undefeated Boise State Broncos in Reno on Friday night.
For the third week in a row the Broncos, owners of the longest win streak in the nation at 24 straight, are getting a chance to own the spotlight and capture national attention with a special Friday night edition of wild and wonderful WAC football. Last week, the team started out a bit slow as it hosted Fresno State on the blue turf, but once the final gun had sounded the Broncos had themselves a 51-0 victory. The shutout was the third on the season for Boise State, something the team hasn't done since 1970. The scoring output also marked the seventh straight game in which BSU has tallied at least 40 points, one game shy of the school record.
"It was awesome," Boise State head coach Chris Petersen said of his defense. "They played great. You could kind of feel at the end of the first quarter that it was going to be a tough night for Fresno on offense, just how well those guys were playing. But they've got explosive players, and we've played them so many times in the past they know any one play they can break it."
As for the Wolf Pack, their fight for national recognition moved forward last weekend as they crushed New Mexico State at home in Reno by a score of 52-6. The win was the fourth in a row for Nevada and the 10th in 11 tries overall as it pushed the squad to 5-1 in WAC play, which has them sitting in third place in the standings behind both BSU and Hawaii entering the week.
Nevada head coach Chris Ault has built an 11-game home win streak heading into this meeting, but at the same time the Broncos have won 16 straight outings on the road, so something has to give. In terms of the all-time series between the league foes, Boise State is ahead by a count of 24-12 after picking up a hard-fought 44-33 win at home last year. The Pack has dropped 10 in a row to BSU, last topping the Broncos by a score of 42-24 at home way back in 1998 before Boise State was even a member of the WAC.
"It was a different start than we've had all year as far as not getting out to such a quick lead," quarterback Kellen Moore said of Boise's first quarter against Fresno State last week. "But we know there are different games and different circumstances that will happen throughout the season. We were prepared for a tough opponent and we knew it was going to be a four quarter battle."
Moore, who is now the all-time leader in career passing yards and touchdowns for the Broncos and needs just 67 yards this week to reach 10,000 yards for his career, was intercepted once on a tipped ball and lost a fumble in the first quarter against Fresno, but still he and the offense bounced back in a big way to take down the rival Bulldogs. The signal-caller threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns, while wide receiver Titus Young caught eight passes for a career-high 164 yards, making him Boise States career leader in the receiving yards with 2,836. Likewise, wide receiver Austin Pettis caught 10 passes for 93 yards to move into fourth place on the BSU career receiving yards list (2,575).
As great as Moore and his receivers have been this year coach Petersen, who is a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award, has continued to develop a running attack that works very well with the aerial assault. Ranked second in the conference and 20th in the nation, the backs are generating 205.4 ypg and because of that the Broncos are second in the nation in scoring with 47.9 ppg right now.
Defensively it is hard to find a team better than Boise State outside of TCU right now. The squad is first in the nation in stopping the run, holding opponents to just 72.3 ypg, and seventh in pass defense as foes generate a mere 156.9 ypg. The pressure applied at the line of scrimmage by BSU is unrivaled as the group generates 8.8 tackles for loss per game to rank first in the country. Coming up with 3.9 sacks per game, once again Boise is first in the nation in that category. Perhaps most remarkable about those stats is that the Broncos don't have a single, dominating performer who garners more attention than anyone else, which means offensive lines have to pick their poison.
For the Wolf Pack the story is somewhat different on defense because everyone knows the player to watch is Dontay Moch. Against an overwhelmed New Mexico State last weekend, Moch went nuts and logged a total of three sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss for the defense. Moch now has 19.5 TFLs on the season to give him 60.5 for his illustrious career, which is now the record in the WAC and the most among active players in all of college football.
While Moch garners plenty of attention on the defensive side of the ball, the focal point for the offense continues to be quarterback Colin Kaepernick who has been doing it all since stepping onto campus in Reno. Twice named the WAC Offensive Player of the Week, Kaepernick had a modest game against NMSU in which he threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 35 yards and a score. Vai Taua rolled up a game-high 111 yards and two TDs on 22 attempts as well.
Ranked eighth in the nation in total offense at the moment, Kaepernick needs just 16 more yards on the ground to register 1,000 for the season. The signal- caller already has back-to-back 1,000 yards seasons from 2008 and 2009 and, unless something drastic happens, he'll become one of the most notable running quarterbacks in the history of college football. Kaepernick has this unit humming along with 537.7 ypg to rank first in the conference and third in the nation, generating 44.1 ppg (fourth nationally), but if the Pack thinks it is just going to run all over Boise State they had better think long and hard about what the Broncos have done to the competition this year.
"Boise's defense is as good as there is," coach Ault admits. "And their offense is the best they've ever had. We have our work cut out for us."
As much as the Wolf Pack would like to think that they are on par with Boise State this season, the team lacks a defense (beyond Moch) that can rattle Moore and his teammates. Nevada might be able to score some points on the BSU defense, but for the most part this should be another great showing on a national stage for Boise State.