SAN FRANCISCO – Rishard Matthews caught a touchdown pass and returned a punt for another score, and No. 13 Nevada used a strong defensive effort to cap its most successful season ever at college football's highest level by beating Boston College 20-13 in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Sunday night.
Colin Kaepernick threw for 192 yards and a touchdown for the Wolf Pack (13-1), who snapped a four-game bowl losing streak by tying a school record for wins in a season set when it played in what used to be Division I-AA.
This game matched BC's top-ranked rushing defense against Nevada's high-powered pistol attack that was third in the nation in rushing. The Eagles (7-6) did a good job controlling the Wolf Pack on the ground, holding them to a season-low 114 yards — more than 190 below their season average.
Kaepernick was held to 22 yards on nine carries, but managed to top 3,000 yards passing for the season. That allowed him to join Brad Smith and Vince Young as the only FBS quarterbacks to rush for at least 1,000 yards and throw for 3,000 in the same season.
With an efficient passing day by Kaepernick, the big plays from Matthews and a stout defense, the Wolf Pack were able to snap Boston College's five-game winning streak. The Eagles were held to 185 yards.
Freshman Chase Rettig completed 14 of 34 passes for 121 yards and two interceptions. Boston College played without leading rusher Montel Harris, who was listed as the starter but did not play after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in late November.
The teams traded field goals in the third quarter, giving Nevada a 20-10 lead heading into the fourth. Boston College was unable to capitalize on an interception that Luke Kuechly returned to the Wolf Pack 6. But two runs netted just a yard and Rettig threw an incompletion on third down, forcing the kick.
After Nevada's field goal late in the third, Rettig's was intercepted by Marlon Johnson on a deflected ball that gave Nevada the ball at the BC 41. Vai Taua fumbled the ball right back but once again the Eagles were unable to take advantage.
Helped by a pair of pass interference penalties, BC got a 32-yard field goal from Nate Freese with 3:52 to play to make it 20-13. The Eagles got the ball back at their 10 with 3:06 to go and got a 32-yard pass from Rettig to Chris Pantale on their first play.
Two plays later Khalid Wooten intercepted a pass to seal the win and send the thousands of Nevada fans who drove a few hours from Reno home happy.
The Wolf Pack sold about 15,500 tickets, surpassing California and Navy for the most sold in the nine-year history of this game. The attendance of 41,063 was the second largest for the bowl. It included one streaker, who ran on the field in the fourth quarter, causing a brief delay.
After an early fumble by Kaepernick led to a 30-yard touchdown run by Andre Williams, Matthews provided the Nevada fans plenty to cheer about in the first half.
First, Matthews got behind the defense as Kaepernick scrambled to his left. Kaepernick then flicked a pass toward the end zone for an easy 27-yard score that tied the game for Nevada.
The Wolf Pack then held the Eagles to a three-and-out on the next possession and Matthews returned the punt 72 yards to make it 14-7. That was Nevada's first punt return for a score since Oct. 13, 2001. Nevada added a late 32-yard field goal by Anthony Martinez to take a 10-point lead at the half.
The game was sponsored by Kraft, which is using the bowl to promote its efforts to fight hunger in the United States. Instead of a coin for the opening toss, officials tossed an Oreo cookie that was chocolate on one side and vanilla on the other.