Wednesday, October 5, 2016.
It’s Andy Avalos’ turn. After two years of Boise State frustration against the triple-option—and its passing game tenticles—Avalos gets his shot as defensive coordinator against New Mexico. The Broncos face the first of the Mountain West’s two most maddening offensive schemes when they face the lobos Friday night in Albuquerque. UNM’s triple-option is just the beginning. Before surviving 60-49 on the road two years ago, Boise State allowed a record 505 rushing yards to New Mexico, a staggering 437 of them in the first half. The Lobos averaged 10.3 yards per carry, a Bronco single-game record by more than two yards.
If you missed my trivia question on Sunday Sports Extra this week, here goes. True or false: New Mexico had more passing yards than rushing yards in its 31-24 shocker at Albertsons Stadium last November. The answer is...true. Why else would I ask that question? The Lobos rushed for 195 yards—and passed for 218 on just nine completions. That's 24.2 yards per completion, as UNM got the Bronco defense to bite on triple-option play-fakes and continuously had receivers break free downfield. Now Boise State gets a second chance on Friday. I’m excited to see what Avalos puts together for the defense this week. Discipline, discipline, discipline.
At least going into the New Mexico game, Boise State has this rush defense thing buckled down. The timing is good. In the six non-option games since the loss to Air Force last year, the Broncos have allowed just 70.2 rushing yards per game and 2.3 per carry. They’ve given up a grand total of two touchdowns on the ground, both by Oregon State's Ryan Nall a week and a half ago. Boise State has held opponents under 100 yards rushing in five consecutive games, including all four this year with that brand spankin’ new defensive line. The Broncos aren’t going to hold New Mexico under 100—the Lobos rank second nationally with a rushing average of 347 yards per game.
Brian Fremeau of ESPN Insider has a list this week of the 10 teams most likely to remain undefeated for the rest of the season. He has Boise State with a 34.4 percent likelihood to win out (up slightly from 33.3 percent last week). Writes Fremeau: “Boise State didn't advance its (cause) significantly with a win over Utah State, but it's the last Mountain West team on this list after San Diego State lost. The Broncos are the projected favorite in each of their remaining games, but two of those matchups are near toss-ups. A home game against BYU on Oct. 20 and a road trip to Air Force on Nov. 25 are both potential pitfalls. Our model gives the Broncos only a 38 percent chance of winning both, and a 15 percent chance of losing both.” The “other” unbeaten Broncos, Western Michigan, are given a 47 percent chance of winning out.
Idaho has a bonafide chance to get back on the winning track in this one. Louisiana Monroe is favored by 4½ points in Saturday’s Sun Belt contest in the Deep South, but the Warhawks gave up more points in its two games against Power 5 schools than Idaho did. ULM is 2-2, with a 59-17 loss at Oklahoma and a 58-7 defeat last week at Auburn. There will be opportunities on offense for the 2-3 Vandals, picking themselves up after last Saturday’s 34-13 loss to Troy. Louisiana-Monroe allowed 688 yards against the Tigers, including 410 on the ground.
Two years ago, this was a very intimidating task for College of Idaho. Carroll College, a six-time NAIA national champion in the new century, came into Caldwell and drilled the Coyotes 69-12. Then last year, C of I brought down the Saints 35-21 to finish the season. On Saturday the Yotes face the program that has been a small-college rock star—but has now fallen on hard times. Carroll, which is coming off a bye week, has lost three in a row. Last time out they fell 34-14 at home to Southern Oregon, the week before the Yotes lost just 31-27 to the Raiders on the road last Saturday.
Ryan Finley goes against his old offensive coordinator, one of ‘em, anyway, as North Carolina State hosts Notre Dame Saturday. The sophomore graduate transfer (still hard to believe there is such a thing) from Boise State has led the Wolfpack to a 3-1 record and is 11th in the country in pass efficiency with a 171.4 rating. Finley has completed 72.4 percent of his throws with nine touchdowns and no interceptions. Mike Sanford Jr. has to be impressed. Sanford, the former Bronco offensive coordinator, now runs the Fighting Irish attack.
All former Boise State star James Webb III can ask for is a chance in the NBA preseason. The Philadelphia 76ers opened their preseason schedule last night in Boston against the Celtics, and Webb played 12 minutes in a 92-89 victory. He scored three points, on a make from beyond the arc, and added a rebound and an assist. Webb, who went undrafted last June, suffered a “non-displaced fracture of the second metacarpal in his right hand” during the NBA Summer League in July. Now he’s healthy and competing for a Sixers roster spot. Webb is projected to end up in the D-League, though.
As the the National League Wild Card game approaches tonight in New York, there’s one very effective former Boise Hawk on the Mets pitching staff who has flown under the radar. After missing virtually all of the 2015 season, Jerry Blevins made 79 appearances this year, almost half the Mets’ games, going 4-2 with two saves and a 2.79 ERA. He pitched a third of an inning Saturday as the first man in for starter Bartolo Colon as the Mets clinched the Wild Card with a 5-3 win at Philadelphia. Blevins was outstanding for the Hawks in 2004, the last time they won a Northwest League crown. He was 6-1 with a 1.62 ERA.
The Idaho Steelheads will take the ice for the first time tomorrow as training camp begins at CenturyLink Arena. One of the more stark differences between this team’s camp roster (which will officially be released today) and the squad that finished last season is size. Of the players on contract right now, according to Steelheads brass, the average height and weight is 6-2, 202 pounds, with five players measuring over 6-4. Last spring’s season-ending average was 6-0, 193 pounds. It was a focus of coach Neil Graham to get bigger on the ice this season.
This Day In Sports…October 5, 1996, 20 years ago today:
Boise State plays only its third game ever against a Pac-10 school, this one against Arizona State in Sun Devil Stadium. The Broncos scored first on a touchdown pass from Tony Hilde to Andre Horace, but the Sun Devils then put up eight unanswered touchdowns in a 56-7 ASU win. Senior quarterback Jake Plummer, the former Capital Eagle, played a little more than a half in the middle of Arizona State’s Rose Bowl season.
(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.)