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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 22, 2009

WAC not having success at 'Bowl'-ing

By Ferd Lewis

This is the season to be jolly ... unless you are the Western Athletic Conference in football.

Then, it is looking like the season to take your lumps in bowls. Again.

Not to put too much pressure on the University of Nevada in Thursday's Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, you understand, but can somebody in this conference please win a bowl game?


Fresno State sure couldn't. The Bulldogs were 11-point favorites over Wyoming and left the New Mexico Bowl red-faced after blowing an 11-point fourth-quarter lead in a 35-28 double overtime loss to the Cowboys. This despite four cracks at the end zone from the 1-yard line, three of them with Ryan Matthews, the conference's best running back. Ouch.

But, then, that's the way postseasons have been going lately for the WAC, which is 2-8 over its last 10 bowl games across parts of three seasons. Play-Up, indeed.

The hometown Warriors, who are sitting this postseason out, are not innocent bystanders in this, either, having absorbed two of those losses: 49-21 to Notre Dame and 41-10 to Georgia.

Now it falls to 8-4 Nevada, which is a 15-point pick over Southern Methodist, to uphold the conference's sagging honor. Especially since the WAC's other remaining representatives, Boise State (against Texas Christian) and Idaho (versus Bowling Green), enter as underdogs on the Las Vegas betting line.

As such you have to like the Wolf Pack's semi-official rallying cry this week: "just going to a bowl game isn't good enough (anymore)."

The quote is the brainchild of Nevada defensive back Jonathon Amaya, and his head coach, Chris Ault, liked it so much he was repeating it to drive home the point at yesterday's press conference.

Small wonder, perhaps, since the Wolf Pack has lost its last three bowl appearances since an overtime victory over Central Florida here in the 2005 Hawai'i Bowl.

Ault is counting on a senior class heavy on bowl game experience to carry the Wolf Pack in the absence of two of its three 1,000-yard runners, Luke Lippincott (injury) and Vai Taua (academics), for the game. "They understand the sense of urgency and great opportunity," Ault said.

Nor is it lost of any of them that they carry the WAC banner. "The WAC is always part of the equation," Ault said. "You're not only representing your university and community, you're representing the WAC, you bet."

Said Amaya: "We are representing the WAC; we've got to hold our own. Especially coming here to Hawai'i, where this is a (bowl) game in our league's (stadium)."