Boise State (3-2) at Nevada (3-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 4, 10:30 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mackay Stadium (29,993) -- Reno, Nevada. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: BSU 2-0, Nevada 2-0. Away Record: BSU 1-1, Nevada 1-1. Neutral Record: BSU 0-1, Nevada 0-0. Conference Record: BSU 1-1, Nevada 1-0. Series Record: Boise State leads, 27-13.
GAME NOTES: Coming off one of the most shocking defeats in recent memory, the Boise State Broncos try to regain their composure as they tangle with the Nevada Wolf Pack in Mountain West Conference play at Mackay Stadium on Saturday night.
The Broncos stumbled out of the gate this season with a 35-13 defeat at the hands of Ole Miss in Atlanta, but seemed to rebound well with three straight victories against the likes of Colorado State, UConn and Louisiana. The meeting with Air Force should have been another tally in the win column, but the Falcons refused to simply roll over and nearly handed BSU its first shutout in more than a decade.
As it turned out, Boise State was held scoreless for the first three quarters, but still ended up with a stunning 28-14 setback in Colorado Springs. It was just the 10th conference loss for the Broncos since 2000 and the fourth as a member of the MWC, with the first three of those league defeats coming by a combined seven points.
Meanwhile, the Wolf Pack returned from a break in the schedule and a 35-28 loss at Arizona back on Sept. 13 to defeat San Jose State on the road last Saturday by a 21-10 score. With the conference-opening victory, Nevada enters this week tied with both San Diego State and Fresno State for first place in the West Division standings.
The Broncos lead the all-time series with Nevada by a count of 27-13, thanks in part to a 34-17 victory in the most recent encounter last season at home.
The performance of the BSU offense last Saturday was simply awful, as the unit turned the ball over three times in the first four possessions and suffered seven turnovers altogether. Even when the Broncos did get into scoring range they failed to capitalize, missing a field goal midway through the third quarter before finally coming up with a pair of meaningless TDs in the fourth.
Before being pulled, quarterback Grant Hedrick converted 18-of-33 passes for 209 yards and was picked off four times. Ryan Finley stepped in and went 12- of-25 for 161 yards and a pair of TDs, but he too saw one of his attempts intercepted by an Air Force defense that was more than up to the challenge. It also didn't help that running back Jay Ajayi, who has a history of losing possession, fumbled the ball away twice.
Defensively, the Broncos allowed the Academy to run for 287 yards and two TDs, even as safety Chanceller James registered a game-high 13 tackles, one tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.
Despite being run over by the Falcons, Boise State still ranks 19th in the country with only 100.2 ypg allowed on the ground. The pass defense is a bit more lax though, permitting 257.0 ypg (89th nationally). Another aspect of the game that is now working against the Broncos is penalties, with the team averaging 8.6 infractions per game for a loss of 75.6 ypg.
The transition to Hedrick has been a tricky one for the Broncos because you can never be quite sure which version is going to emerge from the locker room. He may have close to 1,500 yards of total offense, but at the same time he has thrown four interceptions in a game twice, but just a single pick combined in the other three outings.
Similar to the Broncos last weekend, Nevada also scored a pair of late touchdowns in their outing, but in that case the scores helped the visitors secure a double-digit victory in California.
Quarterback Cody Fajardo ran for a pair of TDs, and he finished with 64 net yards on 13 carries, but his passing efforts were simply atrocious. The signal caller connected on just 10-of-18 attempts for a paltry 64 yards. Luckily, the running attack managed 192 yards, and Nigel Haikins was able to come up with a late interception which he returned 27 yards for a score to seal the deal.
Also providing a defensive presence for the Pack were Jonathan McNeal and Matthew Lyons, who both had 11 tackles and a TFL.
It may not have been pretty against San Jose State, but at least the Pack earned the win, something that should be happening more often given the fact that they are tied for ninth in the country in turnovers with a plus-1.5 per game, and are fourth in red-zone defense, allowing foes to put up points only 55.6 percent of the time.
But as well as the defense can play for Nevada, this is still a team that revolves around the exploits of Fajardo, a candidate for MWC Offensive Player of the Year honors. The elusive quarterback has not only converted 68.1 percent of his passes to date, he is also second on the team in rushing with 246 yards and tied for the team lead with three rushing TDs.
Clearly, the Broncos are never quite sure how Hedrick will perform, and that alone can put the team behind the eight ball. However, as they showed against SJSU, the Spartans might see Fajardo struggle with his arm, but still he can push the squad into the win column.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 27, Boise State 20
10/01 10:38:03 ET