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December 2, 2010
Nevada at Louisiana Tech Preview
By pulling off a stunning upset over a top five opponent last week, Nevada believes it can compete with any team in the country.
That may be true, but its focus should be squarely on Louisiana Tech.
The 14th-ranked Wolf Pack look earn a share of the Western Athletic Conference title for the first time in five years when they visit the Bulldogs on Saturday.
Nevada (11-1, 6-1) is in position to earn a piece of the title as a result of beating then-No. 3 Boise State 34-31 in overtime last Friday. The Wolf Pack, a 14-point underdog and losers of 10 straight to the Broncos, rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to tie the game with 13 seconds left on Colin Kaepernick's 7-yard TD pass to Rishard Mathews.
Boise State then quickly moved into scoring position, but the normally efficient Kyle Brotzman missed a 26-yard field goal with 2 seconds left in regulation. Brotzman missed another from 29 yards in overtime, and Nevada took advantage. Redshirt freshman Anthony Martinez hit a 34-yard field goal that prompted a wild celebration from a sold out crowd on the Nevada campus.
"It is the greatest victory this university has ever had, I can tell you that," coach Chris Ault said.
The Wolf Pack snapped Boise State's 24-game winning streak and ended any hopes the Broncos would play in the BCS title game.
Nevada won't get a BCS invite, either, but it is suddenly brimming with confidence and has the chance to win a share of the conference title for the first time since 2005.
"This win puts a stamp on this program that says this team is ready to play football with any team in the country," Kaepernick said.
The Wolf Pack amassed an opponent season-high 528 yards against Boise State, which came in second in the FBS in total defense, allowing 229.2 yards a game. Nevada, which moved up five spots in the rankings, had more than that on the ground alone, racking up 269 yards behind Vai Taua, Matthews and Kaepernick.
Taua, the conference leader with 1,372 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, ran for 107 yards on 17 carries in last season's 37-14 win over Louisiana Tech. The Wolf Pack have won five straight over the Bulldogs after losing four of the first five meetings.
Like Nevada, which is fourth in the nation in rushing at 301.4 yards per game, Louisiana Tech's offense is also built on a strong ground game.
The Bulldogs (5-6, 4-3) are third in the conference in rushing with an average of 177.0 yards and are coming off a 374-yard performance - their most on the ground since 1998 - in last Saturday's 45-38 win at San Jose State.
Creer, second in the WAC in rushing with 1,132 yards, is averaging 143.8 yards and has scored all 10 of his touchdowns in the last six games. The Bulldogs have won four of those contests and are one win away from becoming bowl eligible after starting the season 1-4.
"We put ourselves in a situation that if we play well against Nevada we will have a chance to win the game and clinch a bowl spot," first-year coach Sonny Dykes said.
The Bulldogs, who last went to a bowl in 2008, have lost 11 straight against ranked teams since beating No. 23 Fresno State 40-28 in 2005. They lost to then-No. 2 Boise State 49-20 on Oct. 26.