Sonatane Lui was in Reno for the game that still stings for Boise State football fans.
You know the one — Nov. 26, 2010. Missed field goals. Kaepernick. Overtime.
But Lui was not cheering for the Broncos.
Boise State’s sophomore nose tackle grew up in Reno before moving to Utah before high school. As Boise State prepares to face Nevada for the first time since 2014, Lui has a unique perspective on the old rivalry.
“I grew up a big Wolf Pack fan, and I heard all about the drama between them and Boise State,” Lui said. “I remember watching that game, for sure. I’m so excited to play against them. They didn’t give me a lot of looks out of high school, so I have some extra motivation, too.”
There was no love lost between Nevada and Boise State back in the day, as the teams played 41 times from 1971 to 2014, with never more than a year off between games. The Broncos have won 28 of those matchups.
But with the Mountain West’s divisional rotation, the teams meet in consecutive years, then take two off. That doesn’t foster a rivalry, but Boise State coach Bryan Harsin saw the contest up close many times.
On Sunday, he let the team, most of which hasn’t played the Wolf Pack, know a bit of the history.
“Nevada’s always been a big game. It still is,” Harsin said. “... They don’t know it like we know it, how we played them every year, the kind of games we’ve been in.
“As we looked at our schedule, they could feel it was a game that’s important to us.”
Senior center Mason Hampton said the last meeting, a 50-46 Boise State win in Reno, “was one of the most fun games I’ve ever been a part of. I’d consider them a rival.” Junior quarterback Brett Rypien’s uncle, Chris Tormey, was Nevada’s coach from 2000 to 2003. He said “the greatest history is probably between us and Nevada.”
But Harsin also said to be a true rival, “I think you have to play every year.”
So, that adds a complication.
The Broncos haven’t played Idaho since 2010. Nevada, Fresno State and San Diego State, teams that have given Boise State plenty of trouble in the past, all have two seasons between regular-season meetings. Air Force, winner of three straight over Boise State, probably wouldn’t have mutual feelings, since the Falcons’ ire is saved for Army and Navy.
BYU might be the most likely to be a rival. The Cougars and Broncos have played each of the last six seasons, and are slated to play through 2023. That series may be extended, too.
“I know the BYU game’s always big, that’s always a fun game to play in,” sophomore safety Kekoa Nawahine said.
Then there’s the football-guy line about the target on Boise State’s back.
“I think we treat every game like a rivalry, because people are always going to give us their best shot,” Lui said.
This isn’t Oprah, Mr. Lui. We can’t hand out rivalries like free cars.
“If I had to say, personally, maybe BYU or Nevada, but it can change, depending on how the last time went,” he said.
Senior quarterback Montell Cozart, in his one and only season with the Broncos, said “I think Wyoming is considered one ... that’s a big one we emphasized.” The Cowboys won last year’s meeting, but had not beaten the Broncos in their previous 10 matchups.
In our completely unscientific Twitter poll, BYU was the winner of the fan vote with 44 percent. A combo of Nevada, Fresno State and San Diego State was next with 39 percent, followed by Idaho at 12 percent and Wyoming at 5 percent.
Creative answers included “goal posts,” “ESPN kickoff time scheduling” and “the entire concept of the triple option.”
Former players Shane Williams-Rhodes and Armand Nance went with the three West Division teams.
So, the consensus is that there isn’t really a consensus of who is the Broncos’ rival.
But for the Broncos’ top man, who played or coached against the Wolf Pack 13 times as a player or assistant before that 2010 stunner, Saturday’s game will be a reminder of games that were always heated.
“I still feel like, in my mind, Boise State-Nevada, that’s a big game, that’s a rivalry game,” Harsin said.
Nevada at Boise State
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPNU (Clay Matvick and Kirk Morrison)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 6-2, 4-0 (beat Utah State 41-14 last week); Nevada 1-7, 1-3 (lost to Air Force 45-42 on Oct. 20)
Series: Boise State leads 28-13 (Boise State won 51-46 in Reno on Oct. 4, 2014, in last meeting)
Vegas line: Boise State by 22
Kickoff weather: Low 40s, partly cloudy