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Boise State beats Nevada 44-33, wins WAC championship and stays undefeated

The Broncos overcame injuries and a determined Nevada team to win their seventh WAC title in eight years with a 44-xx win over the Wolf Pack.

Kellen Moore threw five touchdowns and Doug Martin rushed for over 100 yards for the Broncos, and the BSU defense held Nevada's Colin Kaepernick in check in the second half. What stood out to you in Boise State's big win? Join me after the jump in a few minutes for some analysis of the game (UPDATE: 12:45: analysis now added).

Doug Martin saves the Bronco offense, saves the Bronco season?

As far as I'm concerned, the game turned on a Doug Martin drive midway through the third quarter. Spanning the first and second halves, the Broncos had passed on 13 of 15 plays, broken up only be a Kellen Moore QB sneak and a Jeremy Avery two yard loss. Worse, the pass had stopped working as effectively as it was early in the game.

At the same time, Nevada was slowly crawling back into the game. The Wolf Pack had taken a 27-3 deficit and made it 27-19, having just punted on a drive that could have tied the game. The Boise State offense needed a spark, and it needed one badly.

Enter Doug Martin, who had already contributed some clutch first down conversions on an earlier TD drive. He took off for carries of 11, 16, 8, 8, and 5 yards to start the drive, moving the ball from the Boise State 36 to the Nevada 27 all by his lonesome. Kellen Moore capped the drive with his fourth touchdown of the night to a wide open Tommy Gallarda. The lead was pushed to 15, and even though Nevada answered on its next play from scrimmage, the game no longer felt tilted in the Wolf Pack's favor.

Colin Kaepernick reduced to Vai Taua middleman and generally bad QB by Boise State defense

Boise State held Kaepernick to 172 total yards - his 2nd lowest output of the season - and left him completely out of sorts in the second half, thanks to another strong overall effort by the defense. For much of the game, Kaepernick handed off to RB Taua on Nevada's vaunted veer option, as Taua finished with 24 carries for 160 yards. Kaepernick's numbers? Slightly less impressive.

16 carries, 31 yards, 0 TDs.

His passing was a little more effective - on two drives. To end the first half, Kaepernick marched the Wolf Pack 79 yards in 1:30, going 5-for-5 for 62 yards on the drive. To end the game, Kaepernick again took Nevada down field and into the end zone on a 71-yard drive, completing four passes for 66 yards and a score.

The rest of the game? 13 yards passing and an 0-for-7 stretch during the third and fourth quarters that all but spelled Nevada's doom.

Much credit goes to the Bronco defense for stopping Kaepernick. They took the ball out of his hand on the option and forced him to go laterally when he kept it around the end. I only remember three or four times when he was really able to turn it upfield and gain yards, but it would have taken a lot more of those carries to make a difference in tonight's game.

Austin Pettis proved his value by standing on the bench in street clothes

If anyone was not convinced that Pettis is perhaps the team's most valuable player, his absence from pretty much all of the Nevada game should have stated a pretty good case. The Broncos missed Pettis. There is simply no other receiver like him, and the drop off from Pettis to Chris Potter and Mitch Burroughs is considerable.

Nevertheless, for the Broncos to overcome an injury to an MVP-type player like Pettis shows a lot of heart and guile from the team. Young players stepped up in Pettis' absence. Doug Martin made his presence felt. Kellen Moore found other receivers to contribute. But the biggest impact might have been on the Broncos' gameplan, as there's a pretty good chance that Coach Pete and Bryan Harsin had to throw the whole thing out the window once Pettis went down. The changes to the strategy on offense - be it Doug Martin's running, working FBs and TEs against Nevada linebackers - obviously worked. Here's hoping the coaches get the credit they deserve.

By the way, anyone want a do-over on that two-point conversion try? I'm okay with the call. You could never know that Pettis would get hurt on something like that.

Same with Daron Mackey

Mackey was no doubt a huge part of Boise State's gameplan to stop Kaepernick and Co., so seeing him leave the game on the first defensive snap couldn't have been easy. Major high fives to Derrell Acrey and Hunter White for stepping in to fill Mackey's shoes (although Acrey did leave the field late in the fourth quarter with an injury).

Anyone catch Boise State's defensive strategy?

Whatever the Broncos did to Nevada, it worked. Apart from one long Vai Taua run, the Wolf Pack were forced to grind their way down the field or get nothing at all. Five times the Broncos forced three-and-outs. Nevada had barely more than 10 total three-and-outs coming into the game.

So what did you see the Broncos doing? They lined up in the 3-4 defense quite often with Shea McClellin and Byron Hout getting much of the work at stand-up OLB. The Broncos brought the middle linebackers fairly often at the first sign of a run. Venable or another spy seemed to always be ready to take Kaepernick down, which may have been why he chose the inside handoff so often.

All those are great, but one thing that I really enjoyed was the timing of the pre-snap movement. The Bronco defensive line waited to change the set-up until Nevada's center put his head down to get the snap signal from Kaepernick. When he brought his head back up and snapped the ball, all the Bronco linemen were in a different position. It's the simple things, really.

All Dan Paul does is catch touchdowns

Paul went 3-for-3 on catches for touchdowns against Nevada, snaring all three first-half Kellen Moore TD tosses. And as if that didn't make Richie Brockel feel bad enough, Heather Cox had to remind Brockel about three times during his interview that he is injured and out for the season.

Kirby Moore makes the most of his second chance

Moore's fumble near midfield late in the third quarter could have been a killer for the Broncos. Boise State was only leading by 8 at the time, and the drive started after Taua's 71-yard sprint to the end zone. Fortunately, the Boise State defense came up big with a three-and-out and no harm was done.

Kellen let Kirby redeem himself on one of the game's most important plays. Boise State faced a 3rd and 5 at the Nevada 6-yard-line with just over five minutes to play and an 11-point lead. If Nevada held the Broncos to a field goal, it still would have been only a two-possession game, and the Wolf Pack would have been very much in it. But the Moore brothers made that point irrelevant as Kellen placed a beautiful fade pass onto the arms of Kirby who caught it with a defender draped on him and falling out of bounds. The touchdown essentially iced the game.

Titus Young starts things off right

Young's opening kickoff wasn't the most beautiful TD return you'll ever see, but what a way to start the game. After fumbling the kick, Young weaved his way in and out of Nevada tackles, breaking free for a 95-yard TD return. The return set the tone for a strong start to the game that saw the Broncos jump out to leads of 20-0 and 27-3.

Aaron Tevis came up big in the second half

As he usually does, Tevis found himself in the middle of some big plays against Nevada, both coming in the fourth quarter. His strip of Vai Taua led to a Bronco field goal, and on the next series, he sacked Kaepernick for a 16-yard loss back to the Nevada 10 that gave the Broncos a short field (and ended with Moore's TD catch).

Other observations

  • Did Jason Robinson ever see the field? Seemed like Venable took the most snaps he has taken all year.
  • Kyle Brotzman did not get any bounces to go his way tonight on punts. A 35-yard average is pedestrian for Brotzman.
  • Kaepernick short-hops more passes than any other quarterback I have seen. In fact, he looked like a worse quarterback tonight than he did last season. I don't mean to be hard on the kid, but he never looked comfortable on passing plays. When he was blitzed, he gave up on his receivers too early and started scrambling. When he scrambled he was never able to see receivers downfield. Was the Boise State secondary just playing that good? Partly, I'm sure. But I think Kaepernick should be better than he was tonight.
  • Credit that Nevada offensive line. They know how to run block and move the pile.
  • The Mitch Burroughs Experiment found a new way to disappoint: dropping sure touchdowns that would give his team a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter. Ugh. I will give Austin Pettis my ankle so that I never have to see that again.
  • Can we just give Kellen Moore the WAC offensive player of the year trophy now and get it over with? He'll likely have 40 passing TDs by the time the New Mexico State game is over.
  • On a similar note, can we give the defensive player of the year to Ryan Winterswyk? He's at least got to be in the conversation, right?
  • Did Nate Potter ever come back in the game after that facial laceration? I saw Matt Slater in there for quite awhile.
  • That defensive pass interference call on 3rd and 4 on the Broncos' last drive was a huge one.
  • Boise State finished 7-for-14 on 3rd downs, and they got a big conversion on every single TD drive. Dan Paul's first TD catch was on 3rd and 2, Kirby Moore caught a 34-yard pass on third down on the second TD drive, Doug Martin converted two third downs with receptions on the third drive, Martin ran for a conversion on the fourth TD drive, and the pass interference call and Kirby's touchdown both came on third down on Boise State's final scoring drive.
  • Nevada linebackers in coverage: Yikes.
  • Seeing Ault and Kaepernick just makes my skin crawl. I think I despise them almost more than any other Boise State opponent, Akey and Enderle included.
  • Is it time to talk openly about the BCS now? I mean, New Mexico State doesn't really count as a real game, right?
  • I'm very anxious to get the injury report on those Bronco players.
  • I'm just as anxious for the Oklahoma State game tomorrow.
  • Man, there were a lot of extra observations this game.
  • Go Broncos.