September 30, 2011

Nevada-Boise St. Preview

(AP) -- Boise State's hopes of reaching the BCS championship game were dashed last season by a bitter loss at Nevada.

If the fourth-ranked Broncos can avenge that defeat Saturday, it might boost their chances of capturing that elusive berth this season.

Boise State was fourth in the BCS rankings and had won 24 straight when it visited the then-No. 19 Wolf Pack on Nov. 26. With a 24-7 halftime lead, the Broncos looked like they were going to bolster their argument for inclusion in the title game, but they couldn't hold off a furious rally.

The Wolf Pack scored the tying touchdown with 31 seconds left in regulation last season in Reno, but Kyle Brotzman had a chance to end the game with a 26-yard field goal. Instead, he missed that and a 29-yard try in overtime, sealing a 34-31 defeat.

That loss relegated Boise to the Maaco Bowl in Las Vegas, where it concluded its final season in the WAC with a 26-3 win over Utah. The Broncos joined the Mountain West this season, and Nevada will follow suit in 2012.

Considering that loss cost them a third consecutive undefeated regular season, the collapse is still fresh on their minds.

"We just have to go out there, play hard for four quarters and make sure we finish this time," running back Doug Martin said.

Boise State's kickers have missed three of the team's 17 extra-point attempts and the Broncos (3-0) have yet to attempt a field goal. That hasn't mattered too much, though, as they've outscored their first three opponents 116-57.

Despite needing a brace on his right knee, Kellen Moore threw four touchdown passes last Saturday to lead his team to a 41-21 win over Tulsa. Tyler Shoemaker hauled in two of those scores while finishing with a season-high 102 yards on five receptions.

Moore was banged up in a win at Toledo on Sept. 16, but went 23 of 29 for 279 yards. He's completed 79.0 percent of his passes through three games - second in the nation - and has compiled 995 yards, 12 TDs and two interceptions.

Broncos coach Chris Petersen, though, is looking for improvement - especially from a rushing attack that's averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, two fewer than it did last season.

"It's not any one thing," Petersen said. "That's the bad news. It's a combination of us not staying on our blocks and not leaving a few of the blocks correctly. We've got to play better and up our game in that department."

Boise State might have a chance to do better on the ground considering Martin has topped 125 yards in each of his two matchups with Nevada. He had 152 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries in last season's game, and caught three passes for 78 yards and another score.

This time, Martin and the Broncos will get the opportunity to face the 108th-ranked rushing defense in FBS, a Wolf Pack unit allowing 209.7 yards per game.

Nevada (1-2) enters its fourth straight road game having already surpassed its 2010 loss total, but it nearly held off Texas Tech last Saturday. The Wolf Pack held a pair of 14-point leads in the third quarter, but the Red Raiders rallied, completing a 35-34 win on a touchdown pass with 36 seconds left.

Mike Ball rushed for a season-high 139 yards on 27 carries in the defeat, the same total freshman quarterback Cody Fajardo produced while scoring twice.

Those two will try to follow in the footsteps of Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua, who combined for 435 of Nevada's 528 yards in last season's win.

"I've watched other guys. I've seen them carry the load," Ball said. "As a Nevada back, you've got to suck it up and go."

The Broncos, who lead the series 24-13, are playing the Wolf Pack as a non-conference foe for the first time since 1977. Boise is 15-2 all-time against Nevada at Bronco Stadium and has won six straight matchups there.

During the previous game in Idaho in 2009, Moore matched a career high with five touchdown passes in a 44-33 victory.












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