College kickers are about as reliable as cell phone service in the mountains.
They’re just as likely to make a 55-yarder as they are to miss a PAT. And unfortunately for Boise State, kicker Kyle Brotzman fell into the latter category Friday night in Nevada.
Everyone knows the situation for Boise. Because of the conference the Broncos play in, they have to win out to have a shot to play in the BCS title game. And even then, they have to beat the one or two top ranked teams on their schedule, then hope those opponents go on to do great things the rest of the year, then hope hell freezes over, then hope McDonalds comes out with the McRib sandwich at the exact right time, then pray that their auto mechanics don’t try to screw them over when they go in for a simple oil change.
In other words: They have to be perfect in order to hope to play for a national title. Then they have to be lucky.
In 2010, they couldn’t be perfect. With the game tied 31-31 with 13 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter on Friday night, Kellen Moore heaved a beautifully timed deep pass to Titus Young, who somehow got behind Nevada’s defense and made a spectacular catch for a 53-yard gain. With one second left, the Broncos used their final time out and sent kicker Kyle Brotzman up for a cheap shot field goal to win. But he pushed the short kick right and Nevada had new life.
In overtime, Moore once again led the Broncos into field goal range and again, Brotzman missed – this time from 29 yards out. The Wolf Pack then drove into field goal range for Anthony Martinez and, like adding salt in the wounds of Boise, he converted a 34-yarder that couldn’t have been more down the middle.
With the loss, Boise can’t even claim to be WAC champions in 2010, although not that that matters. If they can’t play for a national championship, then who cares about the conference? Go ahead, Nevada – take the damn thing. The Broncos had their sights on a much bigger prize.
Of course, while Brotzman will play the goat, the one thing that cannot be overlooked is how Nevada was only the second team all year (Virginia Tech being the first) to challenge Boise in the second half. The Broncos had built a 24-7 lead at halftime, then their offense went completely stagnant until five minutes left in the fourth when Doug Martin took a screen pass 79 yards for a touchdown to give Boise a brief 31-24 lead. Other than that, they were completely shutdown by a motivated Wolf Pack defense.
Speaking of defense, Boise’s was completely worn down in the second half, which is something they didn’t experience all year. Usually by the fourth quarter their starters are standing on the sidelines watching their backups play because they’re up by three touchdowns. But on Friday night, they weren’t only in the thick of it, they were also being run over by the combination of Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua. The senior duo put the game on their shoulders and led the Wolf Pack to greatness. It was almost surgical what they were doing to Boise’s defense in the second half.
That said, Brotzman has to make one of those kicks. Maybe Nevada goes on to score a touchdown in overtime and they win anyway, but if Brotzman hits that chip shot at the end of the fourth, Boise escapes with a close call instead of disaster. Maybe they don’t play for a national title, but at least they’re still in the discussion.