November 27, 2010
Nevada 34, Boise State 31 (Overtime). The concentric circles radiating outward from the Broncos' second half collapse affect the college football landscape on every level, on up to the national championship game, and we will get to them all. But at the center, there is a kicker: Kyle Brotzman, a senior with 65 successful field goals to his name over four years as Boise State's primary kicker, who will be forever linked to the two he missed tonight in Reno.
The first was a 26-yard chip shot with one second on the clock at the end of regulation, immediately on the heels of arguably the diving catch of the year by Titus Young to save a game the Broncos had nearly let slip away twice. Instead, wide right and overtime. The second came in OT, when Boise failed to make a first down on offense, and Brotzman pulled the go-ahead attempt wide from 29 yards, setting up a successful boot for the win by Nevada's Anthony Martinez. Within minutes, "Brotzman" was a trending topic on Twitter, where he was gleefully – and with painful accuracy – dubbed the new Ray Finkle.
Before there was Brotzman, though, there was the most consistent, bankable outfit in America blowing a 24-7 halftime lead. The high-octane Boise offense, good for at least 48 points in seven straight games coming in, scored a mere seven in the second half. The Boise defense, dominant throughout the season and throughout the first half, was reduced to a pile of ribbons in the second, when it yielded 24 points on nearly 400 Nevada yards. The entire operation, a decade in the making, seemed to seize and topple over in a matter of minutes.
With the Broncos' fall comes a hail of broken winning streaks: Twenty-five straight in all games, 37 straight in the regular season, 22 straight in the WAC. With the head-to-head tiebreaker in the Wolf Pack's favor, the conference championship will go to a team other than Boise State for just the second time in nine years. It's the first time the Broncos have ever lost a WAC game they were favored to win. Their hopes for a fifth perfect season in seven years are finished.
As are their hopes – shared by Cinderella lovers and BCS haters everywhere – of crashing the BCS title game. Given the comebacks by Auburn and Oregon earlier in the day, those odds were already much longer by kickoff than they'd been 12 hours before. But they won't be crashing the Rose Bowl, either, a coveted consolation prize that now falls to TCU, which won't be nudged out of the on-deck position, after all. The Frogs are shouldering the underdogs' burden alone. For Boise State, the debate is over. The dream is dead. The beast is taking its best hope for a breakthrough back to the Humanitarian Bowl.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.