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December 22, 2009
By Chad Hartley
The tradition at Nevada is that football season ends with a bowl game. That’s been the case for five years running. During those five years Nevada has also achieved a Western Athletic Conference title, 38 victories and numerous individual honors.
These past five seasons, including the 2009 campaign, have marked the best five-year run in more than a decade and have helped Nevada football establish itself as one of the top programs in the Western Athletic Conference.
Let’s take a look through time at the Wolf Pack’s five-year bowl-game history:
Nevada entered the 2005 season with much uncertainty as the Wolf Pack was bringing in a new defensive scheme and unveiling a brand new offensive concept – the Pistol. When the dust cleared after the season, however, history had been made. Nevada went 9-3 and won the WAC title as running back B.J. Mitchell was the league’s Offensive Player of the Year. Chris Ault was the WAC Coach of the Year and he picked up his first bowl victory with a thrilling 49-48 overtime win over Central Florida in the Sheraton Hawai`i Bowl in 2006. Robert Hubbard and B.J. Mitchell each ran for more than 100 yards in the game.
In 2006, the Pack beat Northwestern 31-21 in Reno, the University’s first-ever win against a program from the Big Ten Conference. The Pack would go on to win eight more games and was invited to the MPC Computers Bowl to play traditional powerhouse Miami for the first time ever. The season ended with a trip to Boise, a game now known as the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl. Nevada was driving for what would have been a game-winning score in the closing minutes before a Miami interception sent Nevada to a heartbreaking 21-20 loss.
The 2007 season featured the toughest schedule up to that point in program history, with road games at Nebraska and Northwestern before a tough conference slate. But, Nevada finished the regular season with six wins and received another bowl invitation to the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque. Running back Luke Lippincott was the WAC Offensive Player of the Year and led the league in rushing.
Last year, Nevada shattered several individual and team records with perhaps its most prodigious offense ever. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Vai Taua each ran for more than 1,000 yards. Kaepernick, the WAC Offensive Player of the Year, became just the fifth player in college football history to throw for at least 2,500 yards and rush for at least 1,000 yards. Nevada returned to Boise for the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl and a school-record fourth straight bowl game, facing Maryland of the Atlantic Coast Conference. A wildly offensive affair came down to the Pack driving at the end, but Nevada came up just short with a 42-35 final score. The season would end with a second-place finish for the Pack in WAC play.
This year, the Wolf Pack returns to Honolulu, Hawai`i to face Southern Methodist University in the Sheraton Hawai`i Bowl on Christmas Eve for a new program-record fifth-straight bowl appearance. The Nevada Wolf Pack and SMU Mustangs will kick off at 5 p.m. (PST) on Dec. 24 at Aloha Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN, and radio coverage begins on the University of Nevada Sports Network (Flagship: ESPN 630 AM) with the pre-game show at 4 p.m.
Chad Hartley is Assistant Director of Media Services in Intercollegiate Athletics.