Nevada football | Mackay Stadium may still be buzzing after upset of Boise State
Special to the Sun
RENO, Nev. and#8212; The peaks of the Sierra were filled with an almost unprecedented early season snowpack going into Thanksgiving, and the Reno shops and malls were packed with bargain seekers on Black Friday. But a lift ticket or a low-priced laptop wasn’t the only hot commodity last weekend.
Friday night’s University of Nevada-Boise State football matchup in Reno drew an overflow crowd of 30,000-plus to a frigid Mackay Stadium. The game was a complete sell-out and those who were lucky enough to have scrounged a ticket sat bundled and buzzing in anticipation of this long-awaited showdown, pitting the one-loss Wolf Pack against the unbeaten and fourth-ranked Broncos from Idaho.
The game had all the glamorous trappings: two high-powered offenses led by Heisman-worthy quarterbacks (Boise’s Kellen Moore and the Packs’ Colin Kaepernick), a raucous standing-room only crowd and the ESPN road crew delivering the game to a prime-time national audience.
The stakes were as high as the temps were low: For Boise, a victory meant extending the nation’s longest winning streak to 25, a third consecutive Western Athletic Conference (WAC) title and most important, a possible shot at the national championship. Nevada was seeking redemption for a decade’s worth of consecutive losses to the Broncos, a share of the conference crown and for the first time and#8212; a win over a top-10 team. A victory would also reaffirm to skeptics that the Pack was indeed worthy of a top-20 national ranking, something that hasn’t happened since the 1940s.
Although Nevada was the home team, Mackay seemed an equal mix of Wolf Pack silver and blue and Bronco blue and orange. On an audio level, however, the Broncos seemed to outscore the locals. Boise’s diehard fans came to cheer, yell and scream for their team at every opportunity. The Bronco boosters also included an odd assortment of costumed characters, including a Boise State Elvis and a blue- and orange-painted Boise Caveman wearing next to nothing in the chilly Nevada night. Clearly, the Broncos were here to celebrate what the oddsmakers had predicted to be at least a two-touchdown victory and the final step towards a BCS bowl berth.
But we know that didn’t happen.
In what Nevada’s Hall of Fame Coach Chris Ault described as and#8220;the university’s greatest win in its 104-year history,and#8221; the Pack stormed back from a 24-7 halftime deficit to upend the mighty Broncos 34-31 in overtime. Nevada can now clinch its first WAC title since 2005 (which it shared with Boise) with a win against Louisiana Tech on Dec. 4. The Pack also can look forward to a holiday bowl appearance with much new-found respect from around the country.
At the intermission, many Nevada fans headed for the exit seeking a warmer spot to watch what they thought would be a blowout.
They missed being part of history.
It was also during halftime that the crowd witnessed a harbinger of sorts for what was to come. The Nevada cheerleaders, performing to Bon Jovi’s and#8220;Livin’ on a Prayer,and#8221; inspired most of the fans and#8212; Wolf Pack and Broncos alike and#8212; to join in the chorus. and#8220;Oh, we’re halfway there, ohhhhh, we’re livin’ on a prayer,and#8221; echoed through the stands.
The song, obviously, hit a common chord for both sides.
And in the end, as every Pack fan knows, it was Nevada that was graced with good fortune and#8212; or just maybe and#8212; divine intervention. Two missed chip-shot field goals, one at the end of the game and one in overtime, by their usually reliable kicker, Kyle Brotzman, doomed the Broncos. Nevada’s kicker, McQueen grad Anthony Martinez, on the other hand, calmly split the uprights in the Pack’s first possession in OT, crushing Boise’s title hopes, sending shock waves across the BCS landscape and the home crowd streaming onto the field.
The Boise fans were absolutely stunned. Some wept openly; others stood motionless, completely dumbfounded. One team’s prayer had been miraculously answered; the other team’s dream had been totally dashed.
In the bedlam that followed, another rock anthem, Journey’s and#8220;Don’t Stop Believing,and#8221; filled Mackay Stadium.
They might still be singing in Reno.
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