NCF Nation: 2010 Las Vegas Bowl

Boise State beat Utah 26-3 in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Wednesday night. Here is a quick instant analysis:

[+] EnlargeTerrance Cain
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesBoise State's defense sacked Terrance Cain four times and pressured him throughout the game.
How the game was won: Neither team should be proud of themselves after their performance. Both were incredibly sloppy -- seven combined fumbles (six lost), missed field goals, dropped passes and penalties that negated big plays -- including a Utah touchdown. The big difference was that Boise State had a semblance of an offense that came up with enough big plays. That is not to say the Broncos were particularly good on offense. Austin Pettis fumbled a touchdown in the end zone; Titus Young had a sure touchdown but was called out of bounds because his right foot toed the line. Kellen Moore had two turnovers himself in the first quarter and looked like he was suffering from a Heisman jinx. But Boise State hit a bit of a rhythm in the second quarter with the help of its running game, and that was all it needed to win. As shaky as the offense looked, Moore ended up with another 300-yard game.

Turning point: Boise State had three turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the game. Utah scored a grand total of three points off those mistakes. As bad as Boise State looked on offense at times, Utah looked worse. Much worse. Those missed opportunities essentially doomed the Utes.

Stat of the game: 217-to-32. Boise State yardage advantage in the second quarter. Boise State outscored Utah 16-0 in the decisive quarter.

Player of the game: How about the entire Boise State defense? One of the biggest story lines going into the game was how Utah would play with Terrance Cain as the starting quarterback in place of Jordan Wynn, out with a shoulder injury. Cain was 9-1 as a starter, but he was totally harried and harassed all game long. Boise State had four sacks and eight hurries, and there was simply nothing Utah could do to slow the Broncos down. Cain finished 10-of-24 for 91 yards and was ineffective in the run game, with 19 yards rushing.

Best call: After the inconsistent passing game early for Boise State, the Broncos turned to the ground in the second quarter. Doug Martin ran for a career-long 84-yard touchdown to put Boise State up 7-3, and the Broncos never trailed again. Martin ended up being a huge difference-maker and ran for more than 100 yards.

What it means:Boise State ends its affiliation with the WAC with yet another 12-win season, though perhaps the Broncos wanted more after going into the season ranked in the Top 5. A heartbreaking overtime loss to Nevada was its only blemish. The Broncos head into the Mountain West with Moore and Martin returning, but many of its biggest play makers will be gone. As for Utah, the Utes had their nine-game bowl winning streak snapped. That had been the longest active streak in the country. They head into Pac-12 play with many of its best players returning on offense and defense, and should have a healthy Wynn back for the start of 2011. But it will need more offensive consistency. The Utes scored a combined 13 points in their three losses this season.


Boise State, Utah notes and nuggets

December, 21, 2010
As we prepare for the big showdown between No. 19 Utah and No. 10 Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Wednesday night, here are some interesting notes and nuggets headed into the game. Hopefully you already clicked on my video previewing the contest. Motivation is the name of the game for both teams.

-- Utah has won nine straight bowl games, the longest active streak in the nation. The all-time record is 11 straight, set by Florida State from 1985-95. When asked what has been the key to his team's bowl success, coach Kyle Whittingham said, "We have a model that we follow as far as bowl preparation that we feel has been tested over the years but what it boils down to is the way the players approach that model and the work ethic and commitment they have. We don’t think we have any secret way of doing things. It’s just the mentality. We practice with the same intensity and same way we do during the course of the season."

During the span Utah has gone 9-0, Boise State has gone 6-4 in bowl games.

-- It has been a rough end to the season for Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman. He missed two crucial kicks against Nevada that cost the Broncos the game. Then he finished the regular season with another miss against Utah State, the first time in his career he has missed three consecutive field goals. Still, Brotzman is three points away from becoming the NCAA’s all-time leader in kicking points. Art Comody scored 433 points while playing for Louisville from 2004-07.

-- This game is one of four outside the BCS contests that features two ranked opponents. The others: No. 20 South Carolina vs. No. 23 Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31, No. 16 Alabama vs. No. 9 Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1, and No. 11 LSU vs. No. 17 Texas A&M in the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Jan. 7.

-- There is no question Boise State wide receiver Titus Young is a deep threat. But did you know seven of his nine touchdown receptions this season have been for 40 yards or more -- the most in the nation. Special thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for that note.

-- It is no secret Utah struggled down the stretch, splitting its final four games. But how big was the disparity? Check out this chart from ESPN Stats & Information.

Utah quarterback Terrance Cain can think of no better way to end his career than with a win against No. 10 Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Wednesday night.

It would be appropriate for him, considering all he has gone through. Cain was the starter last season before losing his job to Jordan Wynn midway through the eighth game of the season. He started two games this season when Wynn had a sprained thumb.

[+] EnlargeTerrance Cain
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesTerrance Cain will start for Utah against Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Wednesday.
He gets the start against Boise State with Wynn out because of a shoulder injury. Cain is 9-1 as a starter, perhaps the most experienced backup in the country. But more impressively, he sat patiently and never complained about getting benched.

“It’s been tough, but I’m a team player,” Cain said in a recent phone interview. “It’s all about the team. Whatever works for the team, I’m down for.”

Utah quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson says it is that attitude that permeates the entire Utes team, and one that has been an example for his teammates to follow.

“Terrance is the most unselfish person I know,” Johnson said. “He’s all about the team and he’s a great teammate. Everybody on this team loves him. He’s the type of guy that makes our program as successful as it’s been the last couple of years. We have unselfish disciplined guys who put the team ahead of themselves. Terrance is a key example of that, and now he is going to try to make the most of his opportunity.”

No. 19 Utah (10-2) could be in a worse situation against the Broncos (11-1). How many other teams can boast a backup quarterback with as much success as Cain? He also brings more versatility than Wynn because he is more mobile.

One key to watch is just how much Utah gets him out of the pocket. Boise State has struggled against the run in its past two games, giving up more than 200 yards on the ground to Nevada and Utah State. Both teams feature mobile quarterbacks, though the Nevada offense is unique in what it asks Colin Kaepernick to do.

Middle linebacker Byron Hout missed those games with a foot injury and is out against Utah, and he could be a reason the Broncos have slipped.

Johnson said Utah would tailor a game plan toward Cain’s strengths, but would not say whether that meant more carries for Cain.

“There might be a couple, but the core of our offense doesn’t change much,” Johnson said. “Terrance’s skill set adds a different dynamic. With his ability to make plays with his legs, we have to find ways to utilize him and put him situations to be successful.”

While Cain looked good in his two starts this season, he also looked shaky in his last appearance against BYU. Utah benched a struggling Wynn, but Cain struggled, too. He went 2-of-7 for 8 yards with two interceptions before Wynn went back into the game.

But with time to prepare as the starter, Cain hopes for a different outcome in Las Vegas to end his Utah career.

“Closing with a win would feel great. It would be the best thing yet,” he said.

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas sold out

December, 16, 2010
The MAACO Bowl Las Vegas featuring No. 10 Boise State and No. 19 Utah has sold out, the sixth straight sellout for the game.

We knew interest would be high in this game, one of the handful outside the BCS pitting two ranked teams. It also matches up two of the best non-AQ teams in the BCS era before Utah leaves the Mountain West to join the Pac-12.

Tickets to the general public are sold out but fans may still be able to purchase them through either school's allotment. The teams play Dec. 22 and the game will air on ESPN.

“Our tremendous matchup this year has been earning buzz across the college football world and we are ecstatic that for the sixth straight year we have sold all of our tickets,” executive director Kunzer-Murphy said in a statement. “People in our community and fans of both Utah and Boise State have shown that they want to see this game and we can’t wait for the festivities to begin when the teams arrive this weekend.”