BOISE, Idaho - Another year, another whipping. Things haven't changed much in the last five years between Boise State and Nevada.
Boise State scored 21 unanswered points in the first half thanks to a potent running game, and the Broncos' defense intercepted five passes and recorded seven sacks en route to a 49-14 win over the Wolf Pack in a battle of Western Athletic Conference unbeatens Saturday at Bronco Stadium.
The win was Boise State's fifth straight over Nevada, and none of the games have been close. In that span, Boise State has outscored the Wolf Pack 257-52. Those numbers aren't pretty if you are a Wolf Pack fan.
Nevada coach Chris Ault, who watched his team fall to 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the WAC, was obviously disappointed with his team's performance.
"We got handled on both sides of the ball," said Ault, who watched his defense get shredded for 460 yards. "Obviously I'm disappointed in the defense. If you can't stop the run (281 yards) you aren't going to win.
"Offensively, we moved the ball well in the first half, but we didn't make plays. The second half we went backwards offensively. They are a good football team, and they played well. As the game went on, we just shot ourselves in the foot."
Indeed. Nevada finished with 438 yards, but the five interceptions, a fumble and a botched field goal attempt kept the Pack out of the end zone. Nevada was in the red zone seven times and only came away with one score, that coming in the fourth quarter on Robert Hubbard's 4-yard run long after the outcome was decided.
"We're getting there," Boise State coach Dan Hawkins said. "Obviously I thought the defense did a great job and really came up with some huge stops. The turnovers were big. We've had some pretty good defenses here. I know these guys have been continually improving. It's good to see those guys get it done.
"Nevada did a good job of rallying; coming back. The key thing was coming out in the second half and stopping them."
Five of Nevada's six turnovers came in the second half, including three interceptions by Jeff Rowe and one by Travis Moore. Rowe also fumbled after a 13-yard sack. The mistakes led to 14 points.
As bad as the second half was, the first half was worse. Nevada walked off the field trailing 21-7, but the game should have been much closer. It should have been at least 21-13 if not a tie game.
Trailing 7-0, Joe Garcia stepped in front of a Jared Zabransky pass and returned it to the 44. He was hammered out of bounds by tight end Derek Schouman, and the ensuing 15-yard penalty gave Nevada a first down at the Boise 41.
After making a first-down catch at the 29, Nichiren Flowers, who had his best game of the season (9 catches for 136 yards), was hit late by Orlando Scandrick. The 15-yard walkoff gave Nevada a first down at the 14. After a 5-yard penalty on the Pack, Rowe scrambled for 14 yards down to the 5. B.J. Mitchell (62 yards) was stopped for no gain on third-and-1. Ault disdained the field goal on fourth down. Mitchell got the call, and again was stopped short of the first down. An opportunity lost.
That gave the Broncos some momentum, and they didn't waste it, driving 95 yards on 11 plays capped by Zabransky's 1-yard pass to Legedu Naanee. Zabransky faked and then rolled right and found a wide-open teammate. Anthony Montgomery's PAT made it 14-0 with 13:37 left in the half. So impressive was the Broncos' drive, they only faced one third-down situation.
Nevada put together a nice drive, only to turn it over when Rowe tried a touch pass that didn't get over the head of Marty Tadman, who intercepted it at the 20. Three plays later, Ian Johnson broke off a 46-yard run down to the Nevada 14, and Jeff Carpenter (5 carries, 64 yards) skirted left end for a score on the next play and a 21-0 lead. Carpenter got a great seal block from Schouman.
The Pack bounced back with another solid drive. A 7-yard pass from Rowe to Kyle Sammons and a 37-yarder to Flowers put the Pack on the Boise 15. Rowe completed a 5-yard pass to Jack Darlington down to the 10. Two rushing attempts by Mitchell left Nevada facing a fourth-and-3 from the Broncos' 8. Ault bypassed the field goal again, and Rowe was sacked by a blitzing Chris Barrios back at the 13.
Ault explained his reasoning after the game.
"It's common sense," Ault said. "Boise State is going to score points. They are going to move the ball. We had to score points (touchdowns). We've been very good on third and fourth down this year. We were confident (we could do it)."
Maybe so, but six points is six points, and against Boise you need to take whatever points you can get.
Those two red-zone failures loomed even larger when Rowe took Nevada on a 78-yard scoring march following a BSU punt.
The drive was capped by a 43-yard strike down the middle to Caleb Spencer, who caught the ball inside the 10 and dragged Scandrick into the end zone. Brett Jaekle's extra point made it 21-7 with 2:10 left in the half. A 10-yard pass interference penalty and a 23-yard reception by Flowers were key plays in the drive.
That's when it got real interesting.
Jaekle lofted a sky kick along the left hash. Linebacker Josh Bean tried to make a shoestring catch and fumbled. Andy McIntosh alertly fell on it at the Boise State 33.
Nevada was in business, and looking to end the half on a high note. Another golden opportunity for points and another screw-up by Nevada.
A 13-yard pass by Rowe to Flowers gave the Pack a first down at the 20. Rowe was dropped for a 1-yard loss and Mitchell rumbled down to the 15 on a draw play. Rowe, under heavy pressure by Mike T. Williams, threw an incomplete pass on third down.
Out comes Jaekle for a 32-yard field goal try. Snapper Travis Branzell snapped the ball to an unprepared Travis Moore, who picked up the loose ball but was thrown for a 5-yard loss.
"He (Branzell) just snapped the ball," Ault said, a disgusted look on his face. "He said he thought he heard the signal. He (Travis) didn't cal the snap. One of those things that just happens."
Things snowballed in the second half.
Quinton Jones returned a Justin Bergendahl punt 47 yards down to Nevada's 17. Only an ankle tackle by Uche Anyanwu saved a touchdown. It just delayed the obvious.
Carter got a key first down at the 10 with a 4-yard run on third-and-3. He scored on the next play. Montgomery's PAT made it 28-7 with 11:25 left in the third.
Nevada would take two straight trips into Boise State territory on ensuing possessions, only to be rebuffed each time, and each time BSU cme back with a touchdown.
On fourth-and-16 from the BSU 32, Williams sacked Rowe for an 8-yard loss. After BSU scored to go up 35-7, Nevada drove to the 29 where Rowe was sacked by Chris Barrios at the Nevada 49. Barrios returned it to the 39. Zabransky (12 of 16, 180 yards) lofted a 39-yard scoring pass to Naanee on the next play to make it 42-7.
What made it even tougher to swallow, according to Garcia, is that the Pack had two weeks to get ready for the game.
"We knew they would be good," Garcia said. "Mentally we were ready and pumped up. We watched plenty of film and had a good scouting report."
"It's frustrating," linebacker Roosevelt Cooks said. "We played terrible. You can't win games giving up nearly 300 yards rushing. If you can't stop the run, they don't even have to pass. We missed tackles and that hurt us."
It was a little payback, according to Boise State. The Broncos, who won their 29th straight game at home and passed Michigan and Notre Dame in the process, were angered by recent newspaper articles regarding the game.
"We're not going to let a team like Nevada come in here and try to talk trash when they are not going to give us the respect we deserve," BSU offensive tackle Daryn Colledge said. "We're going to punish them like the dad should and send them back home. Until you prove you can put them (us) down, then you can talk after the game. But definitely not the champions and definitely not in their house."