Tuesday, October 11, 2016.
Focus and national rankings. They do not go hand-in-hand at Boise State. Coaches are very careful to keep them separate, and so it goes now for the Broncos. The major polls, delayed a day by Hurricane Matthew postponements, both jumped Boise State up to No. 15 yesterday after its 49-21 win at New Mexico, giving it a 5-0 start. In the national media, this Bronco team will start to be analyzed in relation to squads from the Kellen Moore era and the first Fiesta Bowl run. Hey, Boise State may even get 45 seconds on Bronco GameDay—perhaps under the heading, “They’re baaaaaaaaack.” It’s difficult for 18-23 year-old guys to ignore that kind of stuff, but they must. That’s why you hear the modern version of the “one game at a time” theme. These days it’s known as “going 1-0 this week.”
The cards fell in Boise State’s favor over the weekend. You had Washington State drilling Stanford 42-16 and Oregon State edging Cal 47-44 in overtime. BYU’s 31-14 thumping of Michigan State in East Lansing helps the Broncos’ overall strength-of-schedule and adds intrigue to a date on the blue turf a week from Thursday. Bruce Feldman lof FoxSports.com has Boise State all the way up at No. 10. “I was tempted to throw 5-0 Nebraska in here, but I'll go with Boise, who has an explosive offense,” writes Feldman. “The 5-0 Broncos haven't faced the roughest schedule but their 31-28 Week 2 win over Wazzu is starting to look a lot better.”
Houston, which had been the far-and-away leader among Group of 5 schools, dropped to No. 12 on the AP list and No. 13 in the Coaches’ Poll after its 46-40 loss at Navy Saturday. The Cougars could stay ahead of the Broncos in the rankings the rest of the way, but in the end it may not matter. The New Year’s Six representative from the Group of 5 is the highest-rated champion from those five conferences. Houston really needs Navy to lose now in AAC play. Probably twice. The Cougars could tie the Midshipmen if they win out and somebody else beats Navy, but that’s too convoluted to think about. Houston’s wait has been extended—the AAC game between Navy and East Carolina, originally scheduled for Thursday, has been postponed to November 19 because of expected flooding in North Carolina this week.
I was one of those who felt Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien was pressing a bit versus Oregon State and Utah State. That may have been harsh, since we now know that Rypien lost one grandmother a month ago and the other last week. He was very close to them. At New Mexico, he was playing for them when he threw for 391 yards and five touchdowns, and he’s been named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week. It had to be a tough call for the conference, as Bronco wide receivers Cedrick Wilson and Thomas Sperbeck also had to be at the top of the board. Wilson and Sperbeck split the five TD catches and became the first pair of Broncos to top the 150-yard mark in receiving in the same game in 13 years.
Boise State is 5-0 for the first time since 2011. The Broncos are also one of just 11 undefeated teams remaining in the FBS. But Boise State is now the only squad that has not trailed in 2016, with Miami having fallen by the wayside Saturday. That’s an amazing feat. That continues the run we mentioned last week; it’s only the second time in BSU’s FBS era—and the first time since 2009—that the Broncos have gone through the first five games of the season without trailing.
Colorado State will revert back to Nick Stevens at quarterback this week when it serves as Boise State’s homecoming guest. CSU true freshman Collin Hill suffered a torn ACL during a 19-yard run against Utah State Saturday and will miss the rest of the season. Hill had shown a lot of promise since winning the starting job three games into the season. Stevens had lost the job after struggling early, especially in the Rams’ opener versus Colorado (a 41-7 loss that doesn’t look quite as bad now). Stevens directed the two touchdown drives that rallied CSU to a 31-24 win over the Aggies. He was 8-of-10 for 60 yards in the Rams’ 41-10 loss to the Broncos last season in Fort Collins.
The Mountain West’s Mountain Division talk has been all about the big regular season finale between Boise State and Air Force in Colorado Springs on Thanksgiving weekend. Anyone care to circle October 29 now? That’s when the Broncos have to travel to Laramie. Wyoming upended the previously undefeated Falcons in War Memorial Stadium Saturday. The Cowboys forced Air Force to go to the air more than it would like and forced Nate Romine into his first three interceptions of the season. It might be too early to circle November 12 on your calendar, but Hawaii has won two straight since switching full-time to quarterback Dru Brown.
Boise State men’s basketball fans will get a first look at a virtually new Bronco squad Saturday at an open scrimmage in Bronco Gym at 4:15 p.m. Coach Leon Rice is anxious in particular for you to see senior James Reid, the transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock who sat out last season. The 6-3 guard from Bend, OR, previously played two seasons at College of Southern Idaho. Rice has raved about Reid as a leader. “One of the best leaders I’ve been around,” Rice said this summer. He didn’t use the term “glue guy” when singing the praises of Reid at yesterday’s Bronco Athletic Association luncheon. But he did compare Reid’s attributes to those of former Broncos Jeff Elorriaga and Rob Heyer. Those were “glue guys.”
Now let’s do the former Boise Hawks thing with last night’s (er, this morning’s) dramatic 6-5 13-inning win by the Giants over the Cubs in Game 3 of the NL Divisional Series. Two were indelibly involved. With San Francisco having taken a 5-3 lead into the top of the ninth, Kris Bryant launched a game-tying two-run homer that bounced off the top of a billboard in leftfield. Then in the bottom of the ninth, Albert Almora made an incredible diving grab of a sinking Buster Posey liner, preventing the winning run from scoring and doubling Brandon Belt off first base to send the game into extra innings. Tonight, the Cubs put the ball in the hands of Boise alum John Lackey in another effort to eliminate the resilient Giants.
The Idaho Steelheads dropped the first of their two exhibition games against the Utah Grizzlies last night, falling 3-2 at the Olympic Oval in Kearns. Key returnee Kyle Jean and newcomer Will Merchant scored for the Steelheads. The Steelies and Grizzlies play at CenturyLink Arena tonight in the annual “season ticket holders only” game.
This Day In Sports…October 11, 1991, 25 years ago today:
Chip Beck, who just two weeks ago was playing in the Albertsons Boise Open, ties Al Geiberger’s PGA Tour record by shooting a 59 in the third round of the Las Vegas Invitational. Beck birdied 13 of the 18 holes in matching Geiberger’s feat at the 1977 Memphis Classic. Despite the record round, though, Beck would finish third in the 90-hole Las Vegas event. There have been four 59’s since, from David Duval, Paul Goydos, Stuart Appleby, and—at the 2013 BMW Championship—Jim Furyk.
(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.)