By Dennis J. Freeman
The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl game didn’t come close to match the stupendous hype swirling all around Monday’s Tostitos BCS National Championship game between No.1 Auburn and No.2 Oregon. But it was a pretty good game, nonetheless.
While Auburn and Oregon reveled in the attention paid to them by much of the nation in their championship tug-o-war battle, which the Tigers ultimately won, Nevada and Boston College gave the folks that attended their game a contest worthy of the tickets being purchased.
“This felt like the NFL,” said Nevada linebacker Brandon Marshall. “It was an amazing stadium and crowd.”
Nevada (13-1) entered the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against Boston College (7-6) with one defeat in its first 13 games. Nevada had piled up 554 points and 75 touchdowns on the season. Nevada may have pulled off one of the top upsets of the season when it dealt then No. 3-ranked Boise State its first defeat of the season, clinching a wild 34-31 overtime win.
Nevada’s best feature all season has been utilizing one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation in Colin Kaepernick.
On the flip side of the matchup, Boston College muscled its way into the bowl game with a 7-5 overall record, and a 4-4 ACC mark. For Boston College, it’s been a rollercoaster season. After losing five straight games, Boston College ended its season on a five-game win streak, thus earning a way into a bowl game.
Playing a big part in Boston College’s success during that period was the production of running back Montel Harris. Coming into the game, Harris had rushed for over 100 yards in his last six games and totaled over 1,200 yards on the ground.
On paper, Nevada looked to be the cleared favorite. The game between the two schools began to look even more lopsided once it was determined that Boston College would be without the services of Harris, who suffered some sort of leg injury before the national anthem was sung.
However, the game was very much a lot closer than some may have expected. And the game ended up pretty good one to watch. Playing before 41, 063 folks in attendance for the game, Nevada squeaked out a 20-13 win at San Francisco’s AT & T Park.
Interesting enough it was Nevada’s defense instead of its potent offense that won the game for the Wolf Pack.
“Our defense came to play,” said Nevada safety Duke Williams. “We never took a play off. We read key plays and made big plays. The offense struggled a bit but the defense stepped up. We contained them. They have a good offense and we made the big plays when we needed.”
Rishard Matthews was the point man for Nevada, leading the Wolf Pack to a 17-7 first-half lead, thanks in part of a 72-yard punt return and a 27-yard pass reception from Kaepernick. Nevada scored both touchdowns in the first quarter.
But the man of the hour was Kaepernick, who became just the third quarterback in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for a 1, 000 yards in a season. The only other signal-callers to accomplish this feat were Missouri’s Brad Smith and former Texas star Vince Young.
His may team may have fallen short of the win, but Boston College tight end Mike Naples said the trip to the bowl was well worth it.
“My experience at the Kraft Bowl was very good,” Naples said. “We went on the cable car and went on fun trips such as Alcatraz. Compared to last year, this game had a lot more Nevada fans. Even though we lost, hats off to Nevada.”