RENO, Nev. -- Nevada senior quarterback Colin Kaepernick hugged one of the Wolf Pack's assistant coaches in a lingering embrace after shocking third-ranked Boise State in an instant classic Friday night.
"Five long years," said Kaepernick, flashing his trademark mischievous grin.
They both knew what it meant.
Even before stepping foot on the Nevada campus five years ago, Kaepernick was flying under the radar with mind-boggling stealth. With the 6-foot-4 height and necessary intelligence that scouts drool over, his wiry frame -- and success on the baseball diamond -- left him in virtual recruiting Siberia.
Dan Hawkins, Boise State's head coach at the time, invited Kaepernick to walk on. So did Boston College, Clemson and Duke.
Then there was Ken Margerum, the San Jose assistant coach who resigned himself to the fact that Kaepernick was too good to play for the Spartans.
More Week 13: Full Scoreboard | Live Tweet | Latest Stories
Buy College Football Gear
But Nevada head coach Chris Ault and "pistol" offense architect believed he was perfect for his program.
Friday night, Ault's leap of faith with Kaepernick resulted in the sudden elevation of a program.
It wasn't sudden to Kaepernick, who grew two more inches since arriving at Nevada but played like a giant Friday with the game on the line.
He's been grinding at Nevada since taking a redshirt five years ago. He's been playing second fiddle to Boise State in the WAC since his redshirt freshman year when his first start was against the Broncos. In that game, Kaepernick tallied more than 400 yards of total offense before Boise State escaped with a 69-67 quadruple-overtime thriller.
"We definitely felt like we owed them one," Kaepernick said of conference nemesis Boise State. "There have been three games that have been real close the past three years and we let them slip away. But we finally put one in the bag tonight."
Three games? While the Broncos' exciting win in 2007 still rolls on ESPN Classic, the rest of the nation may have only noted Boise State's touchdown margin of victory in 2008 or a comfortable 11-point win over the Wolf Pack at home last season.
But Nevada was in every one of those games, burrowing itself into a deep hole each time that it couldn't fight its way out of.
Those losses stuck with Kaepernick. Before the season started, this game was circled on his calendar as the defining moment for his legacy at Nevada.
What a defining moment it was as he upstaged Boise State's Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, Kellen Moore, another player who has overshadowed Kaepernick during his career.
After Boise State's Doug Martin scored on an electrifying 79-yard scoring strike from Moore with 5:05 to play to give the Broncos a 31-24 lead, Nevada looked like it might come up short again.
Instead, Kaepernick directed a masterpiece of Joe Montana-esque proportions with the game on the line. He maneuvered Nevada 79 yards down the field in 14 plays, zipping a scoring strike to Rishard Matthews in the corner with 13 seconds left.
Kaepernick had to wait out two mind-blowing field goal shanks by Boise State senior place kicker Kyle Brotzman before his team's freshman kicker, Anthony Martinez, booted Nevada to a 34-31 overtime victory.
His numbers weren't jaw-dropping, but they were enough. Kaepernick finished the night 19-of-35 passing for 259 yards with a touchdown and 45 yards rushing with an 18-yard scoring scamper.
Lost amidst the handful of records Kaepernick has already set in his career at Nevada was a big one. Kaepernick and teammate Vai Taua broke former SMU tandem Eric Dickerson's and Craig James' NCAA record for most career rushing yards by a two teammates.
Any time you beat the No. 3 team in the nation on national television, you're not flying under the radar any more. And when you surpass an Eric Dickerson record? You just woke up a few NFL scouts that didn't even know there was a team in Reno, Nevada.
After the game, Kaepernick stated that this win was easily tops in his career at Nevada, but it meant something more tangible.
"It's just another win on our way to a WAC championship," Kaepernick said.
On paper, it will be a shared WAC title, split three ways between Hawaii, Boise State and Nevada. But nobody will remember it that way, least of all Boise State.
This was the night that Kaepernick exploded onto the scene in the minds of the nation. Yet for Kaepernick, it was five years in the making, the cruelest vengeance on BCS-bound Boise State.