It's Homecoming, and what better way to celebrate than to invite your longtime rivals to come in and play football on a beautiful fall day in Boise, Idaho?
Boise State hosts Nevada tonight at 6 in Bronco Stadium. The Broncos moved two games above .500 for the first time this season last week with a win over Utah State; they'd like to extend that to three tonight.
Nevada has had a rough go of it this year. The Wolf Pack were blown out 58-20 by UCLA in their season opener, and beaten 62-7 by Florida State. Like Boise State's two losses (to Washington and Fresno State), those two Pack defeats were at the hands of Top 25 teams. But then Nevada lost to San Diego State last week 51-44. In between are wins over Davis, Hawai'i and Air Force.
Nevada and Boise State have been facing one another since 1971, with the Broncos owning a 26-13 advantage in the series. They've certainly had some memorable games in recent years. Boise State held on for a 26-21 win in Reno last year. What fan of either team will forget the classic 59-52 game in three overtimes in 1990 in which the winner (Nevada) moved on to the I-AA national championship game? Then, there's the 69-67 barnburner in four overtimes in 2007--more on that later. Then there's the game in 2010 in Reno in which Nevada came from 16 points down to defeat Boise State 34-31 in overtime, keeping Boise State out of the Rose Bowl that season, and possibly a berth in the BCS national championship game.
Boise State's offense seems to have the edge this year, as the Broncos are scoring at a 40.8 points per game clip this season, compared to 30.5 for the Pack. Boise State is averaging 484 yards in total offense to 435.2 for Nevada.
Neither team is stopping the opposition on defense. Could we have another 69-67 game between these two teams? Let's hope not--that's rough on the heart! Nonetheless, Boise State is allowing 23.7 points a game to 38.2 for Nevada--the Wolf Pack are #115 in the nation in that department. The Broncos have been quite hospitable this season, allowing 396.2 yards a game while Nevada is #117 with 488.3 yards given up.
Cody Fajardo (6-2, 215, Jr.) has been banged up, but the word is he is ready to go tonight at quarterback for Nevada. Fajardo is having an excellent season, hitting 108-158 passes (68.4%) for 1,185 yards and seven touchdowns vs. zero interceptions. He has also run the ball 58 times for 272 yards (4.7) and five touchdowns.
Junior Kendall Brock (5-9, 195) is the leading rusher for Nevada with 83.4 yards a game. Fajardo has four main targets, all of which he uses almost exclusively for short yardage. Senior Brandon Wimberly (6-3, 225), of course, is one of the top receivers in the nation (#11), with 46 catches already for 412 yards (8.9 avg.) and five scores. Richy Turner (5-11, 180, Jr.) has 32 receptions for 368 yards (11.5) and three TD's, while 6-1, 200-pound junior Aaron Bradly (26-300 for 11.5 yards per catch and 1 touchdown) and 6-3, 250-pound senior tight end Kolby Arendse (16-183 for an 11.4 average and 2 scores) are the other Pack receivers with over 10 catches. Note that all four have yards-per-catch numbers below 12. This allows the Bronco defensive backs to play up tight.
Defensively, Nevada is led by Johnathan McNeal, a 6-1, 235-pound junior linebacker. McNeal has 32 tackles this season, two for loss, while fellow linebacker Matthew Lyons (6-2, 230, So.) has 30 stops, including 2.5 tackles for loss. Defensive end Brock Hekking (6-4, 255, Jr.) has caused the most trouble in the backfield--he's responsible for 25.5 tackles this season, including 7.5 for loss, with four sacks, three pass deflections and two forced fumbles. Markus Smith (6-1, 195, Jr.) is the leader of the secondary, with three interceptions and five pass deflections this season. Charles Garrett (5-11, 205, Jr.) has 25 stops to go along with four deflections.
Homecoming activities include the annual Parade down University Drive, beginning at 2:30 this afternoon, and the Varsity B Club All-Sport Reunion at 3 p.m. at the Caven-Williams Sport Complex. It all leads up to the football game between Boise State and Nevada, tonight in Bronco Stadium at 6.