NCF Nation: Humanitarian 0830

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

If Colin Kaepernick had played the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl healthy, it would have been a better game. But Kaepernick suffered a sprained ankle late in the first half and the Nevada offense suffered right along with him as the Wolf Pack lost to Maryland 42-35.

 
  Brian Losness/US Presswire
  Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick's injury in the Humanitarian Bowl may have been the difference in the Wolf Pack's 42-35 loss.

Prior to Kaepernick's injury, Nevada was right in the game, down 20-14 and moving the ball. But as soon as Kaepernick injured his ankle, the game changed. He couldn't make plays with his feet, which allowed the Maryland defense to drop back into coverage. Many of his passes sailed because he couldn't set his feet. Although Wolf Pack receivers were getting open, Kaepernick's accuracy was gone.

It's too bad Nevada's season had to end like this. It really seemed like the Wolf Pack were energized after they won their final game of the regular season and early it looked like they were going to challenge Maryland. But things got out of sync when Kaepernick was injured and even though he yielded some plays to backup Nick Graziano, it wasn't enough rest to get him moving again.

The loss means that the WAC goes 1-4 in bowl games in what could be considered one of the most disappointing seasons in the WAC since the 1970s. I know that statement might seem ridiculous considering Boise State's 12-0 regular season, but the Broncos couldn't beat TCU, ultimately the best team on their schedule.

Louisiana Tech, a team that started the season 2-3, earned the lone win for the WAC.

The WAC, which has been good in past years, lived up to everything every college football pundit said about it all season. The way the WAC performed during the bowl season merely strengthened the claim that Boise State didn't play a tough enough schedule to deserve a BCS bid.

So, I go back to what WAC commissioner Karl Benson said earlier in the season; the lower half of the WAC needs to provide more commitment to its programs to make the top better. I do believe that Boise State, Hawaii, and Louisiana Tech were among the better teams in the non-BCS this season, but playing weak competition gives those teams a false sense of confidence when it goes against some of the better teams around the country.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This was exactly what Maryland needed.

 
  Brian Losness/US Presswire
  Maryland Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen and the Terrapins salvaged their season with a 42-35 win over Nevada.

The Terps salvaged an otherwise disappointing season with their 42-35 win over Nevada, and they did it by winning the field position battle, controlling the line of scrimmage and wearing down the undersized Wolf Pack. In the process, they helped the ACC even its bowl record to 3-3 with four games remaining, and a few of the fans in the announced crowd of 26,781 began to chant "A-C-C!"

If there has been one thing the conference has excelled at this season, it's been keeping things interesting, and the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl was no exception.

Much like Maryland's entire season, the Terps' performance in the Humanitarian Bowl was filled with inconsistencies, wild momentum swings and unpredictable moments. (Who could have foreseen the wind blowing the ball off the tee?) An interception and two lost fumbles in the third quarter kept Nevada in the game.

Although Maryland's defense allowed its fair share of big plays, it was a respectable debut for interim defensive coordinator Al Seamonson, who was forced to audition for the job against one of the nation's most prolific offenses. Nevada was No. 2 in the nation in rushing offense at 291.42 yards per game, and the Terps held them to just 114 yards and 3.5 yards per carry.

Unfortunately, college football fans didn't get to see Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick at his best, as he was hampered by an ankle injury for much of the game. And the Terps were helped by Nevada's six drops, as Kaepernick was healthy enough to hit his receivers in stride and give them catchable balls.

Even without the seven players who were suspended from the start of the game, Maryland looked prepared and played with a purpose for four quarters.

The only problem with this win for Maryland was that it was the final game for 31 seniors, and the Terps will head into spring football sorely missing their leadership. But the first half showed flashes of promise from young players like Adrian Cannon, Torrey Smith, Ronnie Tyler and Morgan Green.

While it might have been a consolation prize for a team very much in the hunt for the ACC championship in November, it was still the senior sendoff the team was looking for and a lesson learned for next year.

Roady's Humanitarian Bowl preview

December, 30, 2008
12/30/08
10:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

WHO TO WATCH: Senior linebacker Moise Fokou. He has a team-best five sacks and his pressure on Colin Kaepernick will be integral. The former walk-on leads the Terps with 11 tackles for loss. His five sacks are the most by a Maryland linebacker since Shawne Merriman had a team-best 8.5 in 2004.

WHAT TO WATCH: Maryland's defensive adjustments in the second half. The Terps will need the first half to figure out Nevada's unique offense, and they have been at their best in the second half this season. Maryland held ACC opponents to an average of 141 yards and 6.6 points in the second half this year, but will be without former defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, who was hired at Kansas State.

WHY TO WATCH: The Terps have won three of their past four bowl games and are the ACC's next chance at improving upon the league's 2-3 record.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

Nevada will look to keep the WAC's momentum going when it squares off against Maryland in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl on Tuesday. The WAC is 1-3 in bowls this season and Tuesday's game is the first against a BCS team.

WHO TO WATCH: Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada
Kaepernick has been the Wolf Pack's most dynamic weapon this season mostly because of his running ability. He's the second half of a rushing duo that ranks second in the country in rushing offense. But during the last half of the season, Kaepernick started to find his passing ability, making him a true dual threat.

WHAT TO WATCH: Maryland's rushing defense
Nevada's offense rushes for nearly 300 yards a game, and that's not good news for a Maryland rushing defense that already ranks 72nd in the country allowing 149 yards per game. Nevada will rush first and pass second, which is in stark contrast to most of the teams the Terps have faced this season.

WHY TO WATCH: Which is the weaker conference?
The WAC already has proven that its not all its cracked up to be with its 1-3 start to the bowl season. But what about the ACC, a conference that was also dogged much of the season, but is 2-2 to start the bowl season? This is its second game against a non-BCS -- Wake Forest beat Navy to start the bowl season. Both of these teams have their conferences to represent and also want to get to that illustrious eighth win.

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