Boise State junior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes dismissed the words he heard from veterans two years ago when the Broncos were preparing for a trip to Reno to face Nevada.
Now he’s one of the veterans spreading the word about what the players should expect from sold-out Mackay Stadium this Saturday night (8:34 p.m. MT, CBS Sports Network).
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Williams-Rhodes said. “They really hate us. They really do. People told me, but I didn’t believe. They really do. So we’ve just got to keep our focus in between the lines and not on what’s going on outside of it.”
For many Broncos, this will be their first Reno experience — and possibly their last. Boise State isn’t scheduled to play at Nevada again until 2018 unless the two teams meet in a Mountain West championship game there. The Broncos and Wolf Pack aren’t scheduled to play at all in 2015-16.
Sophomore defensive tackle Sam McCaskill is one of at least 10 starters who haven’t experienced Mackay Stadium as a Bronco. Boise State won 27-21 there in 2012.
“I just heard that it’s like Fresno, but even crazier,” McCaskill said. “I heard their fans will get after you. I think that’s awesome in the game of football. Everybody needs that. It just adds some more motivation and I love that. It was fun playing at Fresno last year and walking down to the stadium having people cuss at you and telling you you look like the scout team. I think that’s all fun.”
Williams-Rhodes and McCaskill said the Broncos’ Tuesday practice — the first of their game-week preparations — was their best in weeks. Coaches changed the script a bit and turned off the music that usually blares to emphasize bringing energy to the field.
The Broncos have lost seven of their past 10 away games, including 28-14 last week at Air Force.
“It was tough right after the game,” McCaskill said. “That was a lot for our team to take on. I don’t know if you’d say it was a shock to us, but it definitely made us open our eyes a little bit. It just added a whole other level of focus for us. I thought we had a lot of great energy (Tuesday). It was maybe the best Tuesday practice that we’ve had in a long time. It was just because everyone felt responsible for the loss and everyone kind of took it upon themselves to do the best they can to get this team back on track.”
The coaches’ have stressed two points with the team this week, Williams-Rhodes said: “focusing and finishing.”
“Last week, that team came out and was focused,” he said. “They came out and they fought harder than us.”
Boise State’s recent history with consecutive losses within the same season:
2007: Lost at Hawaii in the regular-season finale and to East Carolina in the Hawaii Bowl.
2005: Lost the first two games of the season, at Georgia and at Oregon State (combined with the 2004 Liberty Bowl, this was Boise State’s last three-game losing streak).
2001: Lost the first two games of the season, at South Carolina and vs. Washington State.
1998: Lost at Louisiana Tech and at home against North Texas.
The last time the Broncos lost consecutive conference games was in 1998 (Idaho) and 1999 (North Texas) in the Big West. Within a single season, it was 1997 (Utah State, Nevada).
The Broncos never have lost consecutive Mountain West/WAC games.
“I think everyone’s bouncing back pretty well,” junior center Marcus Henry said. “We know we have a great challenge in front of us with Nevada. They’re a great team. But it’s a challenge that this team is ready for.”
A few miscellaneous quotes:
— Williams-Rhodes on sophomore wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck, who had a breakout game after Matt Miller was injured last week: “A lot of times I call him Matt Jr. He reminds me just like Matt. He’s got great ball skills and he might not be one of the fastest but he can make plays.”
— Williams-Rhodes gives Sperbeck the nod over cornerback Donte Deayon for catch of the year. “He wasn’t looking at the ball,” he said of Sperbeck’s catch.
— McCaskill on the need for energy on the road: “Energy just drives the game of football. Energy is a big thing in this program. If you have energy, you can get through anything.”
— The Broncos’ clearest path to the Mountain West championship game is to win their last six conference games and have Air Force lose one more. That makes this week nearly a must-win. “This game will test a lot for us,” McCaskill said. “It’ll be big in a sense of how we react to adversity and going down to a place that not a lot of guys on the team have gotten to play at and playing against a really good opponent who happens to be a rival and it’s a big conference game.”
Boise State at Nevada
When: 8:34 p.m. MT Saturday
Where: Mackay Stadium (30,000, FieldTurf), Reno, Nev.
TV: CBS Sports Network (Rich Waltz, Adam Archuleta, Cassie Gallo)
Radio: KBOI (670AM), KKGL (96.9 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
Records: Boise State is 3-2 overall, 1-1 Mountain West; Nevada is 3-1, 1-0
Series: Boise State leads 27-13 (Boise State won 34-17 last year in Boise)
Email me at email@example.com.