Boise State Broncos vs. Nevada Wolf Pack Complete Game Preview
The Broncos of Boise State (4-2, 2-1 MWC) will host the Nevada Wolf Pack (3-3, 2-1 MWC) Saturday in a Mountain West showdown on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium.
This is a non-division game within the conference, but that will not diminish the rivalry between these two teams. It is also the Broncos' homecoming game, which should add to the atmosphere.
Boise State is coming off of a convincing win over Utah State, while the Wolf Pack are coming off of a bye week after losing to San Diego State in a painful 51-44 overtime loss.
First-year head coach Brian Polian will make his first trip to Boise since taking over the helm from the now-retired legend Chris Ault. Bronco Stadium, although not big, is an extremely loud and challenging environment, and it will be interesting to see if Polian will have his team prepared.
It should be a good game, as both teams have some offensive firepower. However, the home-field advantage and experience of the Broncos may be too much for Nevada to overcome.
Let's look at the keys to this game, which players should make a difference and how it might all go down on The Blue this weekend.
Game: Nevada at Boise State
Date: Saturday, October 19, 2013
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Where: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho
Television: CBS Sports Network
Keys to Victory for Nevada
Years ago, there was a casino on Virginia Street in Reno called Eddie's Fabulous 50's. To win this game Saturday, the Wolf Pack are going to have to draw on that as inspiration.
In fact, the coaching staff could actually form a game plan that is inspired by the music of that decade.
To have a chance in this game, the first thing Nevada must do is make a big splash on The Blue.
Bronco Stadium can be a very tough place to play when it's rockin'. For the Wolf Pack to have a shot at the upset, they must get some things done early and often.
That will take the crowd out of it and inspire a Nevada team that needs inspiration right now.
Shake, Rattle and Roll
First, the shake.
To get something done on offense, quarterback Cody Fajardo must do what he is known for. He must be able to shake would-be tacklers in an effort to hit his receivers downfield or gain some yardage on a scramble.
Next, the rattle.
To get something done against a defense that has been improving every week, the Nevada offense must rattle the young Broncos. Quick strikes and a fast-paced flow of yardage could put Boise State on its heels and make for a long night for the home team.
Lastly, the roll.
The ground game of the Wolf Pack is more than adequate. Junior running back Kendall Brock has three things Boise State fans don't like. First, he plays for Nevada, and secondly, he is from Fresno, Calif.
The third thing that fans of Boise State can't be fond of is the fact that Brock is also a very good running back. In fact, he should remind fans of a little smaller version of former-Boise State star running back Doug Martin.
Brock can break tackles, has decent breakaway speed and gets better as the game rolls on. The Wolf Pack running game isn't what it was last season, but it still has the potential to get things done.
Johnny B. Goode
They say, "defense wins championships." However, the same thing can be said of upsets.
Jonathan McNeal is an outstanding linebacker. He leads the Wolf Pack in tackles and has proven to be quite the force on defense this season.
To have a shot at victory Saturday, McNeal will have to have a career night. However, he can't do it alone.
The rest of the Nevada defense will have to step up in a huge way to shut down—or even slow down—a potent Boise State offense with multiple weapons.
The top priority for the Wolf Pack defense in this game will have to be an effort to get to and disrupt Joe Southwick.
On the season, Southwick has been very effective hitting multiple targets in the pass game and scrambling for key yardage when he has to.
The Wolf Pack will need to hound the Broncos quarterback all game long if they want to have a chance Saturday.
Keys to Victory for Boise State
The Broncos could also reach back in the archives of hit music to find their inspiration.
Perhaps songs of the 1960s would be more fitting for the team known for it's somewhat colorful stadium featuring blue turf.
Born to Be Wild
The defense of Boise State has been getting better every week. Against Southern Miss and Utah State, it played incredibly aggressive and with attitude.
The wild-eyed defense will need to continue that kind of effort against the Wolf Pack.
With a mobile quarterback who can also throw and a running game that is solid, Nevada has the weapons to get some offensive things done.
It will take another incredible effort by the Boise State defense to shut down Nevada.
Like a Rolling Stone
The key to the Boise State offense is almost always to establish a solid ground game first, then throughout the course of the game, keep that ground game rolling.
Jay Ajayi will need another impressive performance Saturday, but his backups will need to contribute much more than they did against the Aggies last week.
Shane Williams-Rhodes has been given a lot of nicknames: "Taz," "Shake-n-Bake," "Lightning in bottle," "SWR," and "Mighty Mouse," just to name a few.
However, when you watch him play the game, a more accurate description of his performance might be "pinball."
He looks like a pinball as he bounces off defenders, spins and keeps on rolling.
He was a key factor in the Utah State game, and he will probably be a key against Nevada as well.
As you drive down Broadway Avenue in Boise, it isn't long before you see it. Towering above the local trees and college campus buildings is Bronco Stadium.
As mentioned in a previous slide, the home-field advantage of the stadium is quite impressive.
To win Saturday, the Broncos need to feed off of a loud and energized crowd.
To insure that, Boise State must make sure it gets things going early, and the fans need to make sure they bring their A-game.
Please Mr. Postman
Joe Southwick is playing very efficient this season, and he will need to continue to deliver against Nevada.
Last week against Utah State, Southwick threw his first two-interception game of his career and made some throws that were unwise. One of Southwick's bad deliveries was marked "return to sender," as the Utah State defender took it back for a touchdown.
The Broncos also had some wide receivers who uncharacteristically dropped passes that should have been caught. That will also need fixing if Boise State wants to win this game.
Players to Watch for Nevada
Nevada has a potent offense, especially when quarterback Cody Fajardo is healthy. But, he isn't the only weapon the Wolf Pack have.
Senior wide receiver Brandon Wimberly, who it seems like has been playing in Reno since the early 2000s, is a very good pass-grabber. So far this season, Wimberly has caught 46 passes for 412 yards and five touchdowns.
Junior running back Kendall Brock is also an offensive force. He has rushed 100 times for 417 yards and five touchdowns of his own.
On defense, look for three key contributors. Junior linebacker Jonathan McNeal, junior defensive end Brock Hekking and senior defensive back Markus Smith.
To say Nevada has its work cut out for it would be an understatement.
However, if the defense is going to slow down the very good Boise State offense, McNeal, Hekking and Smith will need to carry a large load.
Players to Watch for Boise State
On offense for the Broncos are the usual contributors.
Senior quarterback Joe Southwick and his key targets, junior wide receiver Matt Miller, senior wideout Geraldo Boldewijn and sophomore sensation Shane Williams-Rhodes.
Miller had some drops last game, but he is usually a chain-mover. Boldewijn is a valid deep threat, and Williams-Rhodes is certainly a threat in open space.
Sophomore running back Jay Ajayi will also be key. He will, however, need some help from his backups, which is something that didn't happen against Utah State.
Junior defensive end Demarcus Lawrence has looked like his old self the last two games, and he will need to keep that trend going.
Freshman linebacker Bean Weaver, junior linebacker Blake Renaud, sophomore cornerback Donte Deayon and junior corner Bryan Douglas are all players who will need to continue to shine this week.
The Broncos are going to have the daunting task of containing a mobile quarterback while slowing down a good running game and defending a very real deep threat when they meet the Wolf Pack Saturday.
It won't be easy, but the Boise defense is looking much better these days, and it should be interesting to watch.
What They Are Saying
Dan Hinxman of the Reno Gazette-Journal wrote an article in which he quotes Nevada coach Brian Polian on his thoughts concerning the Boise State rivalry. Polian said:
I mean, I don't feel the pressure of, you know, boy, you haven't beaten them in so many years. I wasn't here. And please don't misunderstand, I have a ton of respect for that program and who they are and what they are, but I don't necessarily carry that burden right now. Five years from now, if I'm sitting here and we're 0-5, I'll probably carry that burden.
Polian went on to describe his philosophy when preparing his team for this game:
One of the things we've been talking about this week is, some teams go up there and they're defeated before they even come out of the locker room because of record at home and the blue turf and the rowdy crowd. I'm not going to belabor the point to the team, but the one thing I have mentioned is, Let's not be afraid of it, let's enjoy it. It's a great college atmosphere.
Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo is quoted in the same article as saying:
But for me I'm excited to play on the blue turf. All my life, been watching games on the blue turf, and you're, like, that would be cool to play on it. Now here's my opportunity to play on it.
Coach Polian added some perspective about playing in Boise on the blue turf:
I'd much rather play there than, you know, I was part of some games in the MAC, you go to the Akron Rubber Bowl in late November in front of 3,000 strong and 40 degrees and raining sideways. That's no fun. Playing in front of a full house and a rowdy crowd and a great atmosphere, that's fun. That's fun. So, we've talked to the team about, let's just go enjoy the moment.
As far as Boise State and the words coming out of its camp. Head coach Chris Petersen usually doesn't say too much. However, he did mention the Wolf Pack this week in his weekly press conference, via the IdahoStatesman.com.
Petersen mentioned that Nevada is "a different style" than what the Broncos have faced so far. Petersen also threw some compliments toward Nevada players. He was asked about quarterback Cody Fajardo, to which Petersen said, "he's as good as we have in this league."
He stated that Nevada "is always difficult to defend." Petersen also noted that Fajardo can run the ball, posing a different kind of challenge.
Another compliment was given to Nevada wide receiver Brandon Wimberly. Coach Pete mentioned that his size and ability make him a real threat, noting that he is a player with a lot of experience.
Concerning defensive end Brock Hekking, Petersen gave him some praise, calling him "hard-nosed and blue-collar."
The Wolf Pack had to come from way behind to beat Air Force, and they had to do the same thing just to force overtime with San Diego State, which was a game they ended up losing.
They are a team struggling on defense, but they can score points in bunches.
Boise State had some letdown against Utah State last week in the fourth quarter, and that can't happen against a Nevada team that knows how to come back from large deficits.
In saying all of that, you have to think that the powerful offense of Boise State will be able to outscore the Wolf Pack Saturday.
Add to that the much-improved Broncos defense, which will probably be playing inspired at home on homecoming, and it should all point to a Boise State advantage.
It may look like a shootout for a bit, but if the Broncos are on their game, there is little chance Nevada can keep up.
Head coach Chris Petersen will have to make sure his team finishes as good as it starts, but in the end, it should be an entertaining victory for Boise State.
Prediction: Boise State 53, Nevada 27