Nevada players excited to be in Hawaii Bowl

RENO, Nev. -- They might have preferred to play before
family and friends at the Las Vegas Bowl.

But after the school's 9-year bowl drought, Nevada players are
excited to be heading to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve against
Central Florida.

"It would have been nice to be in Las Vegas and have our fans
there," said senior B.J. Mitchell, the Western Athletic
Conference's leading rusher.

"But it's my first time in a bowl game so it [Hawaii Bowl] is
special. To come from where we did, it's plenty good enough," he

Nevada (8-3) formally accepted a bid Sunday to play Central
Florida of Conference USA at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

It will be Nevada's first bowl appearance since the 1996 Las
Vegas Bowl and sixth bowl game overall. The Wolf Pack has a 2-3
mark in bowl games.

Central Florida earned the school's first-ever bowl appearance
after going from 0-11 to 8-4 in just one season.

Nevada, picked to finish fifth in the WAC in preseason polls,
shared the conference title with Boise State after upsetting then-No. 16 Fresno State, 38-35, on Nov. 26.

"Obviously, that win gave us a huge boost," quarterback Jeff Rowe said at a Sunday news conference. "We're excited to have a
chance to keep it going. We feel hot right now."

Under Chris Ault, Nevada posted its first winning season since
1998. Ault, the winningest coach in school history, left his job as
athletic director to return to the sidelines two seasons ago.

"We couldn't be happier for our players, our program and the
state of Nevada by playing in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl," Ault
said. "This is a great opportunity for us and a great reward for
these players for all their hard work."

Ault's co-defensive coordinator, Tim DeRuyter, compared Central
Florida with Fresno State, saying both can run the ball and throw
it deep.

He praised Central Florida coach George O'Leary. In his second
season, O'Leary's team snapped what was the nation's longest
Division 1-A losing streak at 17 games. The Golden Knights lost the
conference championship game to Tulsa 44-27 on Saturday.

"He's a very good coach," DeRuyter said. "Like Coach Ault,
he's a disciplinarian. It'll be a challenge for us. Hopefully,
we'll put on a good game."

The schools had no common opponents this season.

Defensive back Kevin Stanley said he and his teammates are
looking forward to hitting the practice field. The Wolf Pack leaves
Dec. 18 for Hawaii.

"I'm relieved to learn about the bowl game," Stanley said.
"Now we can focus on practice and get ready to play the game. I'm
ready to stay focused."

While off the field in Honolulu, the Wolf Pack will take part in
various activities, including visits to Pearl Harbor and a
Shriner's hospital.

The game, which will be nationally televised on ESPN beginning
at 5:30 p.m. PDT, will mean a $750,000 payout to Nevada.

"It gives us yet another opportunity on national television to
showcase our university, our athletics department and our football
program," Athletic Director Cary Groth said.