Wednesday, October 12, 2016.
Boise State is 5-0, and amazingly, the Broncos are doing it with a significant deficit in turnovers. The margin at New Mexico was plus-one—that thanks to Raymond Ford's excuse-me interception on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half. It was only the third turnover forced by Boise State this season, the fewest in the Mountain West. The Broncos have lost six turnovers, so the margin for the season is minus-three. That's 10th in the conference. Sooner or later, turnovers are going to make a difference. That doesn’t mean all heck can’t break loose in a positive way for Boise State in the coming weeks. And not to forget that the Broncos have scored touchdowns on two of their three takeaways.
“I still believe wholeheartedly you have to win the turnover battle,” said coach Bryan Harsin of this 2016 oddity. “If you’re turning the ball over two or three times and the defense isn’t getting them, it’s going to catch up with you,” Harsin said. “When we’re not getting something done the way we want, we emphasize it. And we are emphasizing it.” Boise State has turned the ball over only once since the first half at Oregon State, and that was on a fumbled punt return against Utah State. But to be undefeated with only three takeways in five games is remarkable. Only one team in the FBS has forced fewer turnovers: Toledo with two.
Look downfield Saturday night when Colorado State punts for the first time. Will Cedrick Wilson trot out as Boise State’s return man? Akilian Butler muffed his second punt of the season in the first half at New Mexico. He recovered that one, but it didn’t keep Harsin and special teams coach Kent Riddle from making a switch to Wilson late in the second quarter. “Ced was kind of havin’ a game, and his confidence was really high,” said Harsin. Wilson called a fair catch on the first Lobos punt headed his way. On the second one early in the second half, Wilson peeled off a 17-yard return. The Broncos’ net punt return yardage for the season is now…17 yards.
Colorado State will give Boise State a heavy dose of senior linebacker Kevin Davis Saturday night. Davis is the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week after helping the Rams turn things around against Utah State last Saturday. He registered seven tackles, an interception, a fumble recovery and a quarterback hurry in CSU’s 31-24 come-from-behind win over the Aggies. The fumble recovery came after the Rams had scored to narrow USU’s lead to 24-17 early in the second half, giving the ball back to the Colorado State offense near midfield. Then came the interception, with the Rams leading by seven with under a minute to play, sealing the victory. You’ll notice Davis on the blue turf—he wears No. 33.
GAME DAY GUIDE: Boise State vs. Colorado State
Maybe the Homecoming salute to the 2006 Boise State team that won the Fiesta Bowl over Oklahoma will generate enough buzz to sell some tickets Saturday night, because there are still 5,000 on the block. There’ll be upwards of 50 players appearing from that undefeated team, and in honor of them the current Broncos will wear their Fiesta uniform combination—white jerseys, orange pants, and blue helmets complete with the throwback Boise State logo. That will up the energy quotient. And hey, this year’s team is No. 15 in the country. That should fill a few of the available seats, shouldn’t it?
Oddsmakers are coming around as Idaho appears to be surging. The Vandals are favored by six points against New Mexico State Saturday in the Kibbie Dome. The Aggies are 2-3—unbeaten at home and winless on the road. NMSU’s two wins were grinders in Las Cruces, as they rallied for a 32-31 upset of rival New Mexico last month and defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 37-31 in double-overtime last week. Idaho’s defense has been opportunistic in its 3-3 start. The Vandals are allowing 480.5 yards per game, 117th in the country. But their turnover margin this season is plus-two, tied for 41st in the FBS.
The second go-round of the 2016 season begins Saturday for College of Idaho, who is 2-4 with five games left in the Frontier Conference. The next three opponents are ones the Yotes have already faced. This week they play at Montana Western, who handed them a 26-13 loss on Opening Day at Simplot Stadium. Turnovers are kind of a running theme today. In the Yotes’ case, the margin is plus-one. It’s just that there have been so many of them on both sides of the ball. C of I has lost four fumbles and recovered four fumbles. Through the air, the Coyotes have thrown 11 interceptions and picked off 12, tied for first in the Frontier Conference.
The New York Giants could really have used Darian Thompson Sunday night in Green Bay. But the former Boise State star missed his third consecutive game with a sprained foot. NJ.com reports that the injury “won't require surgery, but Thompson remains in a walking boot and is being evaluated on a week-to-week basis.” The rookie safety out of Boise State made seven tackles over his first three NFL games for the Giants. Injuries further jumbled the Giants secondary during the 23-16 loss to the Packers. Cornerbacks Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie both exited the game in the second quarter with groin injuries (although Rodgers-Cromartie did return). Former Bronco corner Donte Deayon is still on the NYG practice squad. Maybe he’s raising his hand.
The Boise Hawks thread didn't look so hot early last night for the Chicago Cubs. Starter John Lackey was chased by San Francisco, who built a 5-2 lead and carried it into the ninth. It was there that the Giants bullpen did what it has been doing since the All-Star break: implode. After Kris Bryant scored the first run of the inning to make it 5-3, former Hawk Willson Contreras singled in the two tying runs. Then Boise alum Javier Baez singled in the winning run as the Cubs stunned the Giants 6-5 to advance to the National League Championship Series. It was the biggest comeback in a postseason elimination game in big league history.
The Idaho Steelheads have added a pair of goaltenders to their roster this week, and they split time last night in the annual “season ticket holders only” game at CenturyLink Arena. Henri Kiviaho, who played for the Steelheads two seasons ago, and 6-5 Landon Bow, who spent the past four seasons in the Western Hockey League, only had to make 14 saves. But two other Utah Grizzlies shots made it through, and the Steelies lost 2-1. The games that count begin on Friday.
This Day In Sports…October 12, 1976, 40 years ago today:
The defending world champion Cincinnati Reds score four runs in the seventh inning and three more in the bottom of the ninth—two on successive homers by George Foster and Johnny Bench—to rally past Philadelphia 7-6 and complete a sweep of the National League Championship Series. The Big Red Machine would sweep the New York Yankees in the World Series and lay claim to being one of the greatest teams ever assembled.
(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.)