Jan. 9,2011RATTO ARCHIVERay RattoCSNBayArea.com
As we know from our previous experiences with bowl games in the modern era, keisters in seats are a very good way to determine whether a bowl game should be considered a success.As a result, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Sunday night kicked the hell out of the Beef OBradys Bowl. Now thats fightin hunger.The game itself was Nevadas, a 20-13 winner over Boston College despite the fact that BC linebacker Luke Kuechly looked a little bit better than Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick or wide receiverreturn man Rishard Matthews or at least thats what it said in Trent Baalkes new leather-bound 49er notebook.(We made that last part up: He was in the building trying not to be seen, but its hard to be an incognito NFL general manager, a fact he will learn soon enough, but we didnt see what he wrote).But this did not seem to be a scouts paradise, nor did the game cause people to hang on every play unless, of course, you bet the game at Nevada-minus-7 12. It was a fairly comprehensive beating by Nevada upon BC, finishing for head coach Chris Ault his best season ever and making him a national coaching figure only nine years after being voted into the National College Coaches Hall of Fame.It was a breakout game for Matthews, who broke a 72-yard punt return and caught a 27-yard pass from Kaepernick for the two Nevada scores. It was also another dominant game for Kuechly, who had 12 tackles and an interception as the heart, aorta and ventricles of the Boston College defense.They werent performances for the ages, but they were entertainment enough to cap off a weekend of pro games, coaching hires, free agency declarations, the Warriors and Kings losing on the same day, and the Sharks being shut out again.Frankly, this was pretty much the best of the lot.Truly, for a bowl game that took the space normally held by the now-defunct International Bowl, the KFHB did well enough. Almost all the available seats were filled (41,063), which if youve seen the other bowl games is a noteworthy achievement.Nevada brought the behinds that filled the seats, and the game was as close to being a home game for the Wolf Pack as you could get without trucking in snow. BC, which has been in this game three times in the last decade, did the best it could, but this was a Nevada home game, and the Pack performed accordingly as in, just good enough, just often enough, to prove that their 13-1 record was not some mutant accident but an accurate measure of their place in the national football firmament.Hey, what other FBS team beat a national champion this year? Nevada whipped Eastern Washington, which won the FCS tournament Friday night, to begin the year, which didnt seem like all that much back in September.It wasnt the season in which the meek finally inherited their piece of the action, in large part because Nevada rose up and smote Boise November 26. It was the year that the famed Non-AQs had their best postseason ever, as Boise, TCU, Central Florida and Nevada all beat BCS conference schools.No, this was one of those puppy love games you know, the kind where it doesnt matter all that much except to the puppies. The Nevada players and fans mingled on the field after the game as though it were Homecoming Week, far less frenzied than when they beat Boise.Plus in doing so, they managed to almost eradicate the vision of the streaker who took the field in the third quarter in hopes of raising awareness for the Kraft Fight Clothing Bowl, and for a kind judge when he goes to court.This was, in short, a very nice outing for the Nevada fans who will remember the overtime win over Boise State for far longer, but will say they had a better time in San Francisco than they normally might.So the bowl games worked, as well as it could anyway, entertained 41,000 people with an excuse for a trip to San Francisco, and honestly had no impact on the national fight for a playoff. It didnt prove the WAC is better than the ACC, or that hunger had been conquered, but it did the job it was capable of doing.In short, it let Nevada fans remember the best year their school has ever had, led a weary nation to the national championship game Monday night between Oregon and Auburn, and got us one day closer to the end to a long, strange and occasionally rewarding college football season.