Nevada beat Boston College 20-13 in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Sunday night in San Francisco. Here is a quick instant analysis:
How the game was won: It certainly was not won on the ground. Boston College, the No. 1 rush defense in the country, won the battle with the No. 3 rush offense in the country in Nevada. What made the difference for Nevada were plays in the passing game early and a stifling defense. Colin Kaepernick, a much improved passer this season, was 14-of-19 for 138 yards and a touchdown in the decisive first half, when the Wolf Pack built a 17-7 lead it would not relinquish. Nevada only had 54 yards rushing in the first half, and finished with a season-low 112 yards on the ground, well below its season average of 306 yards per game. It was not the prettiest game Nevada has played all season -- the Wolf Pack had three turnovers and scored a season-low in points. Nevada only scored three points in the second half and failed on several occasions to put the Eagles away. But the Wolf Pack defense came up with the big plays when it had to to give Nevada its first bowl win since 2005.
Turning point: Trailing 20-13, Boston College had a shot to try and tie the game. But with less than two minutes to go, Khalid Wooten intercepted a pass from Chase Rettig and sealed the victory.
Player of the game: Nevada receiver/returner Rishard Matthews. As noted above, the difference in this game was the way the Wolf Pack were able to pass the ball. Matthews had a receiving touchdown, and also returned a punt 72 yards for a score. It was the first punt return for a touchdown for Nevada since Marlon McLaughlin did it Oct. 13, 2001, against Louisiana Tech. The score ended a drought of 119 games, which was the fourth-longest in the nation.
Unsung hero of the game: Nevada defense. The biggest question about the Wolf Pack going into the season was whether or not its defense would be improved. They played perhaps their best game of the season against Boston College, completely shutting down the Eagles in the run game and forcing Rettig to be off in the passing game.
What it means: Nevada finishes off the best season in school history at 13-1 and has a shot at cracking the Top 10 in the final rankings. It truly was a remarkable year for coach Chris Ault and his team. They delivered one of the biggest upsets of the season when they beat Boise State, and won a share of the WAC championship for the first time since 2005. Next season is going to have its challenges, with Kaepernick, Vai Taua and Dontay Moch all leaving. But that is for another day. Tonight belongs to Nevada.
Record performance: Two more milestones for Kaepernick: He finishes his career with more than 10,000 yards passing, becoming the only player to rush for 4,000 and pass for 10,00 yards. He also went over 3,000 yards passing for the season, becoming the third player to rush for 1,000 and pass for 3,000 yards in the same season. Brad Smith of Missouri and Vince Young of Texas also accomplished the feat.