By SCOTT SONNER,
Associated Press Writer
RENO, Nev. (AP) Trailing by seven with 28 seconds remaining, Nevada was on the verge of forcing another overtime thriller against Boise State.
But the ninth-ranked Broncos, who held the nation's best rushing attack to just 31 yards in the first half, did just enough, knocking down a pass in the end zone as time expired to remain undefeated with a 41-34 victory over the Wolf Pack.
"I knew it would be a tight game," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "I knew they would make a run, especially if we turned the ball over."
Freshman Kellen Moore passed for 414 yards and three touchdowns, including 319 yards by halftime when the Broncos led 24-3, but threw three interceptions in the third quarter to let Nevada back in the game.
"Our defense was able to keep us in the game. They kept making plays when we needed them," Moore said.
Ian Johnson broke free for a 66-yard touchdown run in the third quarter for Boise State, clinched its sixth WAC title in seven years. The Broncos (10-0, 7-0 WAC) close the regular season next Friday at home against Fresno State.
"The season is not over," Petersen said. "To take that WAC trophy feels very, very good, but we've got a game next week and it will be a big one. It's always a big game with Fresno."
Colin Kaepernick passed for 241 yards and a touchdown and ran for 70 yards for Nevada (6-5, 4-3 WAC), which got the ball back with 1:34 left in the game near midfield and moved to Boise's 26 on Kaepernick's 28-yard pass to Chris Wellington with 28 seconds remaining.
But a delay of game penalty pushed the Wolf Pack back, Kaepernick's next three passes fell incomplete and on fourth-and-13, Brandyn Thompson and Kyle Wilson knocked down his throw to Marko Mitchell in the end zone as time expired.
Kaepernick entered the game completing 58 percent of his passes, but connected on only 19 of 50 attempts on Saturday.
"We had people open on offense and he just did not hit them," Nevada coach Chris Ault said. "I'm especially pleased with our defense. They kept us in the game without question. But I am very disappointed in our offense, especially in the first half."
"Give Boise credit. They are deserving of their ranking. Boise has a great defense and I'm certainly not saying we should have run the ball up and down the field on them. But we had our opportunities. ... This one was a tough one to lose," he said.
Trailing by 21, the Wolf Pack intercepted Moore three times in the third quarter and returned two for touchdowns. Jerome Johnson went 28 yards with one and Josh Mauga went 46 yards with another to make it 31-24.
But Kyle Wilson returned a punt 39 yards to Nevada's 31 and three plays later Austin Pettis caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Moore to make it 38-24 with 10:11 left to play.
On the next series, Mike Williams sacked Nevada backup Nick Graziano on third down for a 9-yard loss back to his own 4. Brett Jaekle's punt only made it as far as Nevada's 37 and Kyle Brontzman kicked a 50-yard field goal to put Boise State ahead 41-24 with 7:20 remaining.
Kaepernick passed 53 yards to Wellington then hit Mitchell for a 9-yard touchdown on fourth down to make it 41-31 with 4:36 to play and Nevada linebacker Jared Siva-Purcell recovered the ensuing onside kick at the Wolf Pack 41.
Kaepernick scrambled 24 yards to Boise State's 23 and got a pass interference penalty, but Kaepernick threw three incomplete passes from the 8 and Nevada had to settle for Brett Jaekle's 25-yard field goal to cut the lead to 41-34 with 2:36 left.
Jaekle tried another onside kick but Pettis went high in the air to grab the ball at Nevada's 40 and Brontzman missed a 48-yard field goal to set up Nevada's final drive.
The Wolf Pack entered the game averaging 325 yards a game on the ground, but managed only 144 on the game - 75 on 14 carries by Vai Tau, the WAC's leading rusher who entered the game averaging 128 yards per game.
"Our coaches worked hard and came up with a great scheme," Petersen said. "It was definitely a different look than we have shown in the past."
Moore completed 29 of 48 passes while Austin Pettis caught nine for 126 yards and two touchdowns and Vinny Perretta caught five for 126 yards.
Moore threw a 60-yard pass to Perretta to set up the Broncos' first touchdown on a 16-yard throw to Richie Brockle midway though the first quarter. On their next series, Moore threw consecutive passes of 18, 24 and 22 yards before Perretta took a direct snap from center and ran 3 yards for a score to put Boise State up 14-0. His 18-yard TD pass to Pettis made it 24-3 2:06 before the half.