Nevada Defeats Boston College In Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

January 10, 2011

San Francisco, California -- In a departure from the norm, the Nevada defense stole the show from its usually high-powered "Pistol" attack by stifling the Boston College Eagles' offense en route to a 20-13 victory Sunday night at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

The win capped off the most successful season in school history, as Nevada improved to 13-1, including notable wins over California, BYU, and Boise State.

With the Eagles boasting the top-ranked run defense in the nation, many expected Nevada's third-ranked rushing offense to be tested.

That defense quickly lived up to its reputation in the game's opening minutes, as it forced and recovered a fumble from Nevada star quarterback Colin Kaepernick.  The Eagles then converted the turnover into an early 7-0 lead after Andre Williams scored on a 30-yard run with 8:30 remaining in the first quarter.

The Wolfpack answered right back however, when Kaepernick led Nevada on a 10-play, 77-yard drive that concluded with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews to even the score.

Less than two minutes later, Matthews struck again, taking a punt return to the house for an electrifying 72-yard touchdown that put Nevada up 14-7 with 2:27 left in first quarter.

From that point, the two defenses stood their ground, forcing multiple punts, creating turnovers, and preventing either offense from reaching the end zone. In fact, each team could muster no more than two field goals apiece offensively for the remainder of the contest.

Nevada's "Pistol" formation -- imitated throughout the country by several programs because of its productivity in the run game -- struggled against the Eagles, as the Wolfpack produced just 114 yards on the ground while averaging a lowly 2.9 yards per carry. They were particularly bad on third down, converting only 6 of 18 attempts.

Although Kaepernick himself gained only 22 yards on 9 carries, he did manage to hurt the Eagles through the air, completing 20 of his 33 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown.

But the real story behind Nevada's success was the play of its defense.

The Wolfpack defense limited Boston College to just 185 total yards, and stopped 11 of the Eagles' 15 third down attempts. Boston College gained only 64 yards on the ground, in part because leading rusher Montel Harris sustained an injury while stretching prior to the game.

In addition, the defense sacked Eagles quarterback Chase Rettig 3 times, and forced him into a tough 14 for 34, 121-yard passing night.  He also threw two picks.

More importantly, the Wolfpack defense delivered in the clutch, most notably limiting Boston College to a 22-yard field goal in the third quarter after the Eagles intercepted a Kaepernick pass and returned it to the Nevada 6-yard line.

Following another Eagles' field goal that cut the Nevada lead to 20-13, the Wolfpack again rose to the occasion, as Khalid Wooten ended the Eagles' hopes by intercepting a Rettig pass with 2:05 remaining in the game and Boston College driving for a tying score.

Boston College dropped to 7-6 with the loss.

Player of the Game: Rishard Matthews

In a defense-dominated game, Matthews was the difference with his two momentum-changing touchdowns.  His explosive punt return provided Nevada with a lead it would not relinquish, and got the heavily pro-Nevada crowd back into the game.

On a night when Nevada's "Pistol" rushing attack struggled, Matthews emerged as Kaepernick's go-to guy in the passing game, catching 7 balls for 86 yards. As such, he is our Player of the Game.

Post Game Notes

1. The 114 rushing yards was a season-low for the Nevada offense. The 20 points also was a season-low for Nevada.

2. Entering the game, Nevada was ranked #15 by the BCS and #13 by the AP.

3.  The attendance was 41,063, the second-largest crowd in the history of the bowl.

4.  Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, the nation's leading tackler, had an outstanding effort in the loss with 1 interception and 12 tackles.  He now has at least 10 tackles or more in 21 consecutive games.


By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

Photographs by Marc Ramos
Contributing Photographer for

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