BOISE, Idaho - If you're a Nevada Wolf Pack football fan, the last four games against Boise State have been pure agony.
The Broncos have outscored Nevada 207-38 in that span, and only once (A 58-21 loss in 2004) has Nevada scored more than one touchdown in any of the games.
Nevada (4-2, 3-0) could wipe away four years of frustration today if it can upset the three-time defending Western Athletic Conference champion Broncos (5-2, 3-0), who possess a 29-game conference winning streak, today (12:07 PDT) at Bronco Stadium.
"Well obviously this is certainly a big challenge for us," Nevada coach Chris Ault said. "Boise State is playing pretty well, and they've played pretty well the last three or four years. We have to put it together and play our best game.
"We're not worried about the blue turf. We're worried about how we execute on both sides of the ball."
Dan Hawkins, BSU head coach, said he's impressed by what he saw on tape during the week.
"This is probably the best team we've seen since Georgia," Hawkins said. "Their quarterback (Jeff Rowe) runs around and he makes good plays. They have talented receivers (Caleb Spencer and Nichiren Flowers) and tight end (Anthony Pudewell), and their tailback (B.J. Mitchell) leads the conference in rushing.
"They are doing a lot of great things. They run to the ball and bring pressure. We have to play a lot better than we have been to win this one. Everything (about them) has changed. They have some of the same players, but a different attitude. I like everything I've seen on tape. They are doing a great job at everything they do."
This game will measure how far Nevada has come under Ault. An upset or at the very least a competitive game will be huge. It would be a game the Wolf Pack could build on down the stretch.
And, make no mistake, the Pack is excited about the opportunity.
"These are the kind of games that you play football for," said Nevada quarterback Jeff Rowe, who has guided Nevada to three straight wins and into the bowl picture for the first time since 1996. "We've got a little bit of confidence. We need to use it to our advantage. They are a good team and it's a tough place to play."
Indeed. In the Broncos' 28-game home winning streak, they have outscored the opposition 1,313-445, or a 46.9-15.9 advantage.
One constant in recent years is that the Broncos seem to get off to fast starts against the Pack, and when that has happened, the Wolf Pack have imploded mentally and physically. Ault believes the Pack quit during the 56-3 thrashing in 2003, which led to Chris Tormey's firing.
"The last couple of years it's been a lack of confidence," senior tackle Tony Moll said. "We'd make one mistake and shut it down. When you're down a couple of wins like we were we had nothing really to shoot for... it's on the players and not the coaches."
Moll also said that the chemisty has improved immensely this year, and that the Pack haven't quit when things have gone wrong.
Take for instance the game against Louisiana Tech. The Pack lost a ball at their own 1 and the Bulldogs recovered a Nevada fumble in the end zone for a score to wipe out an early Nevada lead. Nevada went on to win the game.
Obviously Boise State is a much tougher opponent than Louisiana Tech. To beat the Broncos, mistakes have to be kept at a minimum because the Broncos are opportunistic.
The Broncos' ability to execute offensively out of different sets and quarterback Jared Zabransky's ability to run is making co-defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter's job a nightmare this week.
"Scheme-wise they are the toughest to plan for," DeRuyter said. "They make you work on everything. They make defenses think, and when defensive kids think, they don't play as fast."
And, the Broncos' scheme is such that you can't key on one individual at any position. The Broncos use a committee approach at running back with tailbacks Lee Marks (72-365), Jeff Carpenter (22-80), Antwaun Carter (52-213) and Ian Johnson (77-406) plus fullbacks Brad Lau and Michael Lose, who are used mainly as blockers.
Derek Schouman is a splendid receiving tight end (12-100) and the wide receiver corp is led by Drisan James (24-326), Jerard Rabb (21-306), Cole Clasen (15-211), Legedu Naanee (15-199) and Jason Murray (10-114).
The Broncos' defense allows 109 yards per game (second in the WAC), and they are eighth in the WAC defending the pass, allowing 266.7 per game.
That means the offensive line of Moll, Dominic Green, Charles Manu and Barrett Reznick will have its hands full with Boise's front seven led by linebackers Korey Hall (56 tackles), and Chris Barrios (54 tackles), and down linemen Mike G. Williams (15 tackles), Andrew Browning (13 tackles) and Alex Guerrero (18 tackles)
"Their defense is designed to stop the run," Rowe said. "We have to stay out of third and long situations We have to get yardage on first down. They are running the same stuff. They do assignment work and they do it well."
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775-881-1281