The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — Despite playing on the opposite side of the country, Boston College has gotten the chance to see quite a bit of Nevada’s vaunted pistol offense on television.
The Eagles spent more than a few Friday nights the past couple of years being entertained in their hotel by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, running back Vai Taua and the rest of coach Chris Ault’s high-scoring crew while preparing for their own game the following day.
Boston College (7-5) has been forced to study the No. 13 Wolf Pack’s pistol much more closely the past few weeks in preparation for Sunday night’s Fight Hunger Bowl.
“I learned that we better be lined up right and we better be ready,” Boston College coach Frank Spaziani said. “They’re prolific. I think it’s misnamed. It’s not a pistol, it’s a bazooka. We run the pistol. They run a bazooka. This thing explodes.”
Nevada is led by the dual threat of Kaepernick, who has joined Heisman Trophy winners Tim Tebow and Cam Newton as the only players in FBS history to throw and run for at least 20 touchdowns in a season.
The Wolf Pack are fifth in the nation in scoring at 42.6 points per game with five games of at least 50 points. They are the third-most prolific rushing team with 1,000-yard seasons from both Taua and Kaepernick, and join No. 2 Oregon as the only teams averaging more than 300 yards rushing and 200 yards passing per game.
“Those guys make plays,” Eagles linebacker Mark Herzlich said. “No matter what offense Colin is in, he would make plays. What’s annoying about him, and I’ll tell it to his face, is he can pass the ball too. A lot of running quarterbacks can’t pass, but he can. That’s annoying.”
Much of the credit goes to Ault’s pistol offense that he invented a few years ago, which has the quarterback about four yards behind center and a running back three yards behind the QB to combine elements of the spread and the I formation.
BC has already seen a form of the pistol in its game against Duke in November. The Eagles won that contest 21-16, holding the Blue Devils to four yards rushing on 24 carries – a reason why BC is ranked No. 1 in the nation in run defense.
“We saw a little bit, but certainly not the way it’s run here and with the execution and the personnel,” Spaziani said. “He’s the inventor of it and they have pretty good players running it. It’s a lot different.”
Largely because of Nevada’s success the past few seasons, the offense has spread around the country so quickly that it’s becoming more of a staple than a novelty.
The Wolf Pack have watched the growth with admiration.
“Early in the year we saw Alabama running it and were like, ‘Wow, the national champions are running our offense,’” Kaepernick said. “That’s when it really hit that we’re doing some good things with this offense.”
Anyone who hadn’t caught on to what Nevada was doing surely learned about it the second-to-last week of the regular season, when the Wolf Pack rallied for a 34-31 overtime win over previously undefeated and third-ranked Boise State.
That was one of those late-night contests that Boston College caught in its hotel – and this one shook up the college football world, denying the Broncos a spot in the Rose Bowl.
It even showed Nevada’s own fans how good a team they had, validating earlier wins over California and BYU that started to give the Wolf Pack some deserved recognition.
“There was still some skepticism,” Kaepernick said. “Going into the Boise State game, everyone put a lot on that game. When we won it, it changed the whole perception of what our team is. To play a powerhouse like Boise State and beat them the way we did, everyone saw what we’re capable of doing.”
That enthusiasm also played a big role in the bowl’s decision to pick Nevada instead of higher-ranked and more publicized Boise State when organizers had to choose among co-champions.
“I didn’t think you’d pick a team we beat to play here but you almost did,” Ault told bowl executive director Gary Cavalli at a news conference this week. “That would have been sad.”
Cavalli is glad he didn’t as he is expecting his fourth sellout in the past five seasons despite not having a Pac-10 team this year. The Wolf Pack sold about 15,500 tickets locally, breaking the bowl record held by California and Navy.
This is the first year the bowl has been sponsored by Kraft, which is using the game to promote its efforts to fight hunger in the United States. The bowl is donating three meals for every ticket sold to the game to local food banks in addition to more than 15,000 meals in the Reno area to reflect the tickets sold there for a total of about 135,000 meals.
“This is the only game that is not just a bowl game,” Cavalli said.
Boston College (7-5) vs. No. 13 Nevada (12-1) at 9 p.m. ET on Jan. 9 (ESPN)
- Series Record: First meeting.
What’s at Stake
Nevada is trying to cap the best season in school history with a bowl win. The WAC co-champion was ranked for the first time since 1948 and posted the school’s best record since becoming an FBS team. Boston College is trying to end the season with six consecutive wins and snap a two-game bowl losing streak. The Eagles had won eight bowl games in a row before falling to Vanderbilt and Southern California the past two seasons.
Nevada’s running game vs. Boston College’s run defense. The Eagles have the nation’s stingiest run defense, led by LBs Luke Kuechly and Mark Herzlich. They’ve given up just 80.2 yards per game and have not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Oct. 10, 2009. Facing QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Vai Taua and the Wolf Pack’s vaunted pistol offense will offer its toughest test yet. Nevada is third in the nation in rushing with 305.9 yards per game.
Players to Watch
Boston College: RB Montel Harris. The junior needs 126 yards to break Derrick Knight’s school record of 3,725 yards rushing in a career. Harris has 21 career 100-yard games, including six consecutive, second to Taua’s 26 among active players. Harris ran for 102 yards in this game last season against USC.
Nevada: WR Rishard Matthews caught a pass in every game this season, but it was his performance in an upset of Boise State that highlighted his season. He had 10 catches for 172 yards and a TD and also scored on a 44-yard run in the 34-31 overtime victory.
Facts and Figures
Boston College is making its second consecutive trip to San Francisco for a bowl and third in the nine-year history of this game. … The Eagles have won five conseuctive following a five-game losing streak, the first time BC has had two such streaks in the same season in school history. … Kuechly leads the nation with 171 tackles, including at least 10 in 21 consecutive games. … BC has allowed just three offensive touchdowns in the last five games. … Nevada has lost four consecutive bowl games. … The Wolf Pack’s only loss this season was a 27-21 defeat at Hawaii on Oct. 16. … Kaepernick is one of three players to have 20 TDs rushing and 20 passing in the same season. He is also tied for the most career rushing TDs by a QB in NCAA history with Eric Crouch at 59. … Nevada DE Dontay Moch had 22 tackles for loss this season. His 63 career TFLs are a WAC record and are sixth most in NCAA history.
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