Toledo, Nevada Hoping for Notice in Little Noticed Bowl
LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Wasean Tait had to rush for nearly 2,000 yards to get noticed. His Toledo team had to win 10 games before advancing to the national rankings.
No wonder Tait and his teammates are excited to be on national television tonight, even in the lightly regarded Las Vegas Bowl.
``We never get a chance to play on national television,″ Tait said. ``This will show everybody else in the country what they’ve been missing.″
Toledo (10-0-1) tries to cap an undefeated season when it meets Nevada tonight (ESPN 9 p.m. EST) in the fourth annual Las Vegas Bowl, the first game of the major college bowl season.
It’s a rare opportunity for the Rockets to not only be seen, but to cement their No. 25 position in the final Associated Press regular season poll.
``A lot of people see us ranked and want to take a look at this football team,″ coach Gary Pinkel said. ``That should be very motivational for our team.″
The game, a rematch of a September game in Reno that saw Nevada turn the ball over six times in a 49-35 loss, features two teams with potent offenses and players coming off Heisman-like seasons.
Tait rushed for 1,905 yards for Toledo, which likes to get its yards on the ground, while Nevada’s Alex Van Dyke set an NCAA record with 1,854 yards receiving on a team ranked first in the country in passing and total offense.
Van Dyke caught 18 passes for 207 yards in that game, while Tait rushed for 176 yards for Toledo.
``Van Dyke’s an unbelievable player,″ Toledo linebacker Craig Dues said. ``He hurt us real bad in the first game.″
Nevada was 9-2 during the season, despite turning the ball over 21 more times than its opponents. The only other loss by the Wolfpack was to San Diego State in a game in which Nevada had five turnovers.
``We are a high risk offense,″ Ault said. ``When you throw the ball like we do there may be some turnovers.″
Toledo, on the other hand, led the nation in turnover ratio in a 10-0-1 season marred only by a 28-28 tie with Miami of Ohio.
``We created a lot of turnovers and when you create lots of turnovers it changes games,″ said Dues, who had six interceptions and three fumble recoveries during the regular season. ``Hopefully we can make some big plays and create some more turnovers in this game.″
The game, which will be televised by ESPN (9 p.m. EST), has never drawn well and figures to once again only half-fill the 32,000-seat Sam Boyd Stadium despite the presence of a Nevada team.
Despite the lack of fan interest, this year’s matchup may be the best in the brief history of the bowl, with oddsmakers making it a tossup in a game that figures to be high scoring.
The game features two teams with contrasting offensive styles, with Nevada willing to throw on almost every down and Toledo ranking fifth in the country in rushing with 244.5 yards a game.
If Toledo can win, it would be assured of ending the season with a top 25 ranking, the first time the team has been ranked since 1971 when it earned the No. 14 spot by virtue of a 12-0 season that included a Tangerine Bowl win.