Monday, October 24, 2016.
Bryan Harsin has stressed how difficult it is to win football games week-to-week, and Boise State has done it the hard way in improving to 7-0. But how about winning year-to-year? With their 28-27 victory over BYU last Thursday, the Broncos clinched their 19th straight winning season. It’s the nation’s third-longest streak behind Florida State (39, and about to be 40) and Virginia Tech (23, and about to be 24).
And if you think this is just a product of Boise State’s remarkable new-century run, consider that this is Boise State’s 49th season of football as a four-year school, and the Broncos have had winning seasons in 43 of them. Yes, just five losing seasons, with one .500 campaign. That is really hard to do. I remember then-coach Dirk Koetter imploring players and fans to mark the spot in 1998 when the first one in the current streak was achieved—the school’s first winning season in Division I-A.
Boise State is still living dangerously, but it’s still undefeated. And now the Broncos control their own destiny, as they are the top-ranked team in the Group of 5 following Houston’s upset loss at SMU Saturday night. Well, they don’t officially control it, as the first College Football Playoff rankings, the ones that will determine the New Year’s Six Bowl participants, don’t come out until a week from tomorrow. Boise State, up one spot to No. 13 in both polls, probably has to win out (we know a victory in the Mountain West championship game is a must). The “other Broncos,” from Western Michigan, are ranked 20th in both polls at 8-0, and one-loss Navy is No. 23 in both.
Sports Illustrated’s series of “Greatest” books has moved on to college football, with the new book’s top 10 lists threading through programs, coaches, players position-by-position and more. This week’s edition of SI shares its expert committee’s take on the Top 10 Bowl Games of all-time. No. 3 is Boise State’s upset of Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. The only two to top it? Miami’s landmark 31-30 victory over Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl, and the 2006 Rose Bowl that decided the 2005 national championship when Texas overcame USC 41-38.
Wyoming ran all over Nevada Saturday night, and the table is set for a showdown against Boise State for the Mountain West’s Mountain Division lead this week in Laramie. In Cowboy land, they’re calling it “the biggest home game in more than 20 years.” The Pokes rushed for 403 yards in their 42-34 win in Reno, 289 of them from star running back Brian Hill, who was reportedly throwing up before and during the game with the flu. Wyoming is 3-0 in Mountain West play for the first time ever.
Elsewhere in the Mountain West, the Broncos will have to be all-in on the road not only this week, but also November 12 at Hawaii. The surprising Rainbow Warriors ended Air Force’s 15-game home winning streak with a 34-27 win in double-overtime Saturday in Colorado Springs. And the misery quotient in the San Joaquin Valley finally cost Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter his job. The Bulldogs fired their coach yesterday after a 38-20 loss to Utah State dropped them to 1-7 on the season. This will be Fresno State’s third straight losing season after the Bulldogs shared a Mountain West title under DeRuyter in 2012 and won a championship outright in 2013.
Idaho was up against one of the Sun Belt’s best defenses Saturday, and that’s what won out in Appalachian State’s 37-19 victory. The Vandals were kept out of the end zone until four seconds remained in the game but stayed in it much of the way, thanks to four field goals by Austin Rehkow. Matt Linehan threw a pick-six to the Mountaineers’ Clifton Duck in the third quarter, though, giving App State a 20-6 lead—and the margin never got closer. Linehan tossed three interceptions on the day, but his eight-yard TD pass to Buck Cowan was the first touchdown allowed by the Mountaineer defense since September 24. The Vandals are now 4-4 and have two more games on the road before returning to the Kibbie Dome. They need two more wins for bowl eligibility.
It was the most exciting one yet since the return of college football in Caldwell. Trailing by 14 points in the fourth quarter Saturday, College of Idaho rallied to tie Southern Oregon, propelled by an electric 80-yard touchdown run by Darius-James Peterson. Then it became the first overtime game in Coyotes history. The Raiders kicked a field goal to end their possession. And in the Yotes’ half of the first OT, Peterson hit old reliable Marcus Lenhardt for a 14-yard TD and sent Simplot Stadium into a frenzy. Peterson, the true freshman from Kentfield, CA, rushed 25 times for 228 yards and three touchdowns and added 215 yards and two scores through the air. It was wild throughout, as the teams combined for 1,175 total yards–including 574 yards of offense by the Yotes–the third highest total in program history.
From the outhouse to the penthouse. Has anyone done it faster than Jay Ajayi? A week after rushing for 204 yards for Miami, the former Boise State star went for 214 yesterday to lead the Dolphins to a 28-25 win over Buffalo. Ajayi became just the fourth player in the Super Bowl era to post back-to-back 200-yard rushing games. It’s the first time it’s happened in 14 years, since Ricky Williams did it for Miami in 2002. The other two to accomplish the feat: Earl Campbell in 1980 and O.J. Simpson in 1973 and 1976. All three of Ajayi’s predecessors were also Heisman Trophy winners. A reporter asked Ajayi an “if I had told you” question after the game. Said Ajayi, "I wouldn't have called you crazy because it's something that I envisioned for myself. I want to see myself on that level. (But) I believe I still have a lot of work to do.”
If you like goal-scoring, Boise was the place to be over the weekend. The Idaho Steelheads and Utah Grizzlies combined for 23 of them as they split a pair in CenturyLink Arena’s season-opening weekend. Friday night the Steelheads won 8-4, matching their highest goal total all of last season (that also happened to come against the Grizzlies). Utah edged the Steelies 6-5 in overtime Saturday night after building a 4-1 lead going into the third period. Idaho scored 13 goals over the two nights, and only one Steelhead, Kyle Jean, tallied twice. Jean’s goal Saturday night was part of the wild third-period rally that sent the game into OT. Intersectional hockey ensues Wednesday night, as the Reading Royals visit for the start of a three-game set.
NBA teams have to cut their rosters to 15 players today, and James Webb III is ready for whatever move the Philadelphia 76ers make. The former Boise State star, who signed with the Sixers as a free agent after the NBA Draft in June, could be headed for the team’s D-League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers. "I'm open to anything, honestly," Webb told Philly.com last week. "If you can be a part of an organization, that's more than a lot of people (can say). Plus, you can get called up at any moment." Beat reporter Keith Pompey writes that Webb’s “athleticism has been on display in the scrimmages that have been open to the media. He has a knack for crashing the boards and scoring putback dunks.”
This Day In Sports…October 24, 1992:
The Toronto Blue Jays become the first team outside the United States to win a World Series. The Jays beat the Atlanta Braves in six games, but the final one wasn’t decided until the 11th inning, when 41-year-old Dave Winfield doubled home two runs and Toronto held on in the bottom of the 11th for a 4-3 victory. There was another first, as Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston became the first African American manager to win a World Series.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)