Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Analyzing Nevada's Recent Bowl History

The Nevada Wolf Pack will be making just their 10th ever appearance in a bowl game when they face BC in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Back in 1948, Nevada played in their first bowl game in a game called ... believe it or not ... the Salad Bowl. In that game, Nevada defeated the North Texas State Teachers College (now North Texas) 13-6 on New Year's Day 1948.

Nevada then spent the better part of 40 years in college football's lower divisions before making the jump back to Division I-A football in 1992, joining what was then the Big West Conference. In the years since Nevada has appeared in nine bowl games -- three Las Vegas Bowl appearances in the 1990s, followed by two trips to Hawaii, two to Boise and a New Mexico Bowl appearance in the 2000s.

While BC and Nevada have never faced one another on the gridiron, we might be able to learn something about the Pack from taking a closer look at their most recent bowl history.

 

2009 Hawaii Bowl - Nevada (8-4) vs. SMU (7-5)

Location: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hi.
Line: Nevada -10.5
Result: SMU 45, Nevada 10

Nevada entered the 2009 bowl season as one of the most heavily favored bowl teams. The Wolf Pack were 10.5 point favorites against an SMU team making their first bowl appearance since the program received the NCAA's death penalty (see also, ESPN's 30 for 30 Pony Exce$$). The Mustangs, led by June Jones, took out nearly 25 years of frustration out on the Wolf Pack rolling up 31 first-half points en route to a 45-10 blowout win over Nevada. The SMU defense held Kaepernick to 15-29 passing and just 1 passing touchdown. More importantly, SMU held the nation's #1 ranked rushing offense to just 137 yards on the ground (and zero touchdowns).

 

2008 Humanitarian Bowl - Nevada (7-5) vs. Maryland (7-5)

Location: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Id.
Line: Nevada -2.5
Result: Maryland 42, Nevada 35

Maryland's Da'Rel Scott rushed for 174 yards on just 14 carries and two fourth quarter scores as the Terps held off Nevada 42-35. The Maryland defense did give up 484 yards of total offense to the Pack's Pistol offense, 370 of those yards coming through the air. Colin Kaepernick finished throwing for 370 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs on 24-47 passing. The Maryland defense was able to limit the Pack to just 114 yards rushing, 101 coming from now senior RB Vai Taua. It was a game that Maryland (and Maryland fans) didn't really want to be in, as the Terps sold just a few hundred tickets for their trip to Boise. The game's attendance -- 26,781 -- was largely comprised of local fans, but my guess is there were many more Wolf Pack fans than there were Terrapins fans, a situation BC will definitely face in San Francisco. 


2007 New Mexico Bowl - Nevada (6-6) vs. New Mexico (8-4)

Location: University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.
Line: Nevada +2
Result: New Mexico 23, Nevada 0

In yet another bowl game where one team (New Mexico) was way more motivated than the other (Nevada), the Lobos blanked Nevada 23-0. It was New Mexico's first bowl appearance in 46 seasons. Certainly, it had to help New Mexico that they were playing in their home stadium. Then a redshirt freshman, Kaepernick was pestered by the Lobos defense all day, and Nevada's Pistol offense managed 210 total yards, including just 73 on the ground. Kaepernick finished 13-31 passing for 137 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions.  

 

2006 MPC Computers Bowl - Nevada (8-4) vs. Miami (6-6)

Location: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Id.
Line: Nevada +3.5
Result: Miami 21, Nevada 20

Like 2008, Nevada's bowl trip to Boise pitted the Wolf Pack against an ACC opponent in Miami. The Wolf Pack were down just 3 going into the locker room, but found themselves down 7 at the start of the fourth quarter. Despite their comeback attempt, the Pack managed just two field goals in the final quarter and fell to the Hurricanes 21-20. Nevada's QB Jeff Rowe threw a 27-yard touchdown pass and finished the day 20-31 for 192 yards. Nevada's kicker Brett Jaekle added four field goals on a day where temperatures were in the upper 20s.  

 

Conclusions

Nevada is 0-4 in their last four bowl games. Obviously, take that with a grain of salt. The Pack did face two ACC teams in Boise and came up empty in both contests despite playing both Maryland and Miami close throughout the game. In their 2007 and 2009 bowl games, Nevada went up against teams that had snapped 25+ year postsesason droughts, so clearly New Mexico and SMU were much more motivated to play than Nevada.

Still, might there be something to having a lot of time to prepare to face Ault's Pistol offense? In 2006, Miami was the nation's fifth-ranked defensive unit, and held Nevada to under 300 total yards. The following year, Nevada just managed 210 total yards. In 2008 against Maryland, Kaepernick had a career day passing (370 yards), but the Terps defense ranked in the bottom half of the country in both total defense and passing defense. And finally, just last year, the SMU defense limited the Nevada offense to just 91 total yards in the first half, jumping out to a 31-0 halftime lead.

With lots of time to prepare for the Pistol offense, do defenses have an edge over Nevada in their bowl games? Discuss.

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