Boise State coach Chris Petersen stated the obvious for the thousands of orange-and-blue-clad fans who made the trip to Reno on Saturday to watch the 25th-ranked Broncos earn a share of the Mountain West Conference title and ensure their nation-best seventh consecutive 10-win season.
“It’s better than last time we were here,” he said.
D.J. Harper ran for 130 yards and a touchdown and Joe Southwick threw for two more scores to lead Boise State past Nevada, 27-21.
Boise State (10-2 overall, 7-1 MWC) opened a 17-point lead in the third quarter, just as it did in 2010 when Nevada stormed back to score one of the biggest victories in school history, 34-31 in OT.
But this time the Broncos’ defense put the clamps on a Nevada offense that was averaging 38 points per game. And just as the home team seemed to be gaining some momentum, tight end Zach Sudfeld fumbled the ball on the way into the end zone, silencing the sellout crowd.
“You know a game like this going to come down to a couple of plays and you’re going to have to get a couple (of) breaks, we’re going to have to get a couple (of) turnovers,” Petersen said. “A play like that makes all the difference in the world.”
Boise State gave itself a slim chance to reach the BCS, but the Broncos will have to move up at least four spots in the last standings to the top 16 and be ahead of Mid-American Conference champ Northern Illinois to grab a bid to the marquee games. They’ll probably have to settle for something smaller, again.
“I know we’ll play somebody good,” Petersen said. “There are no bad teams going to bowl games.”
Stefphon Jefferson ran for 139 yards and a touchdown and Cody Fajardo passed for 203 yards and ran for 81 for the Wolf Pack (7-5, 4-4), who lost four of their last five games after starting the season 6-1.
At No. 16 Oregon State 77, Nichols State 3: Storm Woods ran for two touchdowns in the first quarter and the Beavers put up their record point total, routing the Colonels in a game postponed by Hurricane Isaac. The Beavers surpassed their 76-0 win over Willamette in 1931.
Oregon State (9-3) started playing its substitutes against the lower-division Colonels in taking a 35-0 halftime lead. Markus Wheaton caught 12 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown and sat out the second half.
Officials from both schools decided to put off the Sept. 1 opener when the storm bore down on the Colonels’ campus in Thibodeaux, La.
The Beavers had a big turnaround from their 3-9 finish last year. Oregon State is possibly headed to the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 in San Diego. Officials from that bowl and the Alamo Bowl were in attendance.