The University of Nevada football team has played its share of memorable games at Mackay Stadium over the years. There were “Snow Bowl” victories in the 1983 and 1985 NCAA Division I-AA football playoffs. There were improbable comebacks (the greatest comeback in NCAA history in 1991 against Weber State), and three-overtime thrillers (a 59-52 victory over Boise State in 1990).
Nothing, however, compares to what will be known forever more as “Blue Friday”: the Wolf Pack’s improbable 34-31 overtime victory over No. 3 Boise State on Friday, Nov. 26, 2010, before a sold-out crowd of more than 30,000 fans and a national television audience on ESPN.
“It is the greatest victory this university has ever had, I can tell you that,” said Nevada coach Chris Ault, whose association with Nevada as a player, coach and athletic administrator dates back more than 40 years. “The way it happened is just an unbelievable feeling.”
Few expected the 19th-ranked Wolf Pack to win. Undefeated Boise State hadn’t trailed in a game since Sept. 6. The Broncos’ defense was one of the top three in the country, and their intentions were clearly focused on a possible national title shot. To make matters worse, Nevada hadn’t beaten Boise in a decade. The Wolf Pack, not surprisingly, entered the game as a 14-point underdog.
Winners of 24 straight games, Boise rolled to a 24-7 halftime lead.
Then some Mackay magic happened.
Playing behind an inspired offensive line that dominated Boise’s defensive front for the entire second half, Nevada’s “pistol” offense began to fire on all cylinders. Senior quarterback Colin Kaepernick started to hit medium-range passes and senior running back Vai Taua began to shred Boise’s defense like a little battering ram. Junior wide receiver Rishard Matthews had a breakout game, grabbing 10 passes and scoring two touchdowns. Nevada outgained Boise, 239-8, on the ground in the second half, storming back to tie the game 24 and again at 31.
Then even more Mackay magic happened.
Boise’s Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Kellen Moore, completed a long pass on the game’s second-to-last play in regulation, setting up what appeared to be a game-winning 26-yard field goal. Boise senior kicker Kyle Brotzman’s kick sailed wide right, however, forcing overtime.
In overtime, Brotzman, one of the nation’s most accurate kickers, missed another short field, setting up Wolf Pack kicker Anthony Martinez’s game-winner from 34 yards out. Wolf Pack fans stormed the field in jubilation.
The improbable had happened. Nevada had found a way. Mighty Boise had fallen.
Nevada improved to 11-1 overall. With a win against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, the Wolf Pack will earn a share of a Western Athletic Conference title – its first since 2005.
“For these players to hang in there against such a great football team, the way they did it to win, I can’t describe it,” Ault said. “I’m just proud of this team.”