Mitchell is ready for the limelight
The Nevada running back comes into the Hawii Bowl as the WAC's offensive player of the year
B.J. Mitchell was supposed to represent Nevada's offense at the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl news conference Tuesday.
But the local media begged for local boy Caleb Spencer instead, and they got their wish.
Who: Nevada (8-3) vs. UCF (8-4)
Where: Aloha Stadium
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Ticket info: 548-2695
Mitchell shrugged it off -- at least externally. The Wolf Pack running back is used to the occasional snub. And although he isn't the jealous type, he's not beyond using whatever he can to help him play football even better than he already does.
"The outside stuff, I kind of see and I kind of don't," Mitchell said yesterday as Nevada prepared for Saturday's game against UCF. "I think deep down in my subconscious that kind of stuff does motivate me.
"I really don't care, though. Caleb's from Hawaii and it's good to get his perspective on things," the journalism major added. "I wasn't mad at all; it just means more time for me to relax and get ready. I don't trip on stuff like that, but I'm always fighting to prove myself."
Mitchell impressed an important set of judges -- rival coaches -- enough to be named Western Athletic Conference offensive player of the year after rushing for a league-high 111 yards per game and 10 touchdowns.
"B.J. Mitchell epitomizes what any football coach wants on his team," Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault said. "Obviously an excellent football player, but more importantly a tremendous leader and fierce competitor. I think B.J. is one of those guys who has a chip on his shoulder. To end it this way and be the player of the year in the WAC, it shows the coaches respected him and what he did for our program."
Mitchell spent most of his career playing behind Chance Kretschmer, who led the nation in rushing as a freshman in 2001. That same year, Mitchell rushed for more than 2,100 yards and scored 23 touchdowns at Del Oro High School (Loomis, Calif.), but was not highly recruited because of his 5-foot-8 height.
Like some other short running backs, the 210-pound Mitchell uses it to his advantage. Hawaii defenders had a hard time finding him when Mitchell rushed for two scores and a career-high 150 yards in Nevada's 38-28 victory over the Warriors in Reno on Nov. 5.
It was the first of four wins down the stretch for the Wolf Pack and the key to Nevada's first WAC championship, Ault said.
"Hawaii's a very good football team. Excellent players and well-coached. We were coming off that Boise game that was disastrous for us (a 49-14 loss that left Nevada 4-3)," Ault said. "They could score anytime, from anyplace on the field and the quarterback was just starting to get hot. So it was a game we had to step up and make something happen."
Said Mitchell: "Each game was a step. That Hawaii game was big because we got beat pretty handily the last time we were here (a 48-26 UH win in 2004)."
Although both trips here resulted in losses, Nevada's seniors have a kind of homefield advantage Saturday, Mitchell said.
"We know the environment, and there could be quote-unquote distractions if you let it be that way. Also, it's great to let our young guys be here. Because they're going to be here next year. This gives them a jump start or a head's up. They'll come in here (next year) and know how to handle the beach, handle all the fun things and still focus. I think it can be an advantage for us. But any Saturday, you come out 11-on-11 and anything can happen. Who wants it most."
Knight owls: UCF had its curfew moved from 2 a.m. to 11 p.m. and some of the special teams players were given extra running to do in practice because of missed bedchecks earlier in the week. No one was suspended for the game.
Ticket count: Around 16,500 tickets had been distributed by Tuesday, Hawaii Bowl Executive Director Jim Donovan said.
With a larger than normal number of free tickets distributed, the percentage of actual attendees will likely be lower than usual.