Monday, October 29, 2012.
For many years, when Boise State faced a third down, fans felt really good about the Broncos’ chances of converting it. That hasn’t been the case this year, as BSU went into Saturday’s game at Wyoming at 42 percent in third down conversions. So the 12-of-14 performance in the 45-14 win in Laramie had to feel good, especially to one Bronco. I'd say Saturday was Joe Southwick’s best performance of the season, considering what he did when. It wasn't Southwick's best statistical day, but when he needed some big throws, he made them. On third down, Southwick was 6-of-7 through the air. The Broncos needed two yards, they got five. They needed seven, they got nine. They needed eight, they got 12. All told on third down passing plays, Boise State had a cumulative 53 yards to go, and Southwick threw for 71. The biggest gain was a 19-yard strike to Geraldo Boldewijn on third-and-five.
Boise State's streak of shutting out the opponents in the first half for five straight games ended Saturday, and it wasn't a fluke. Wyoming piled up 151 yards on its first two possessions, averaging 5½ yards per play and converting six of seven third down conversions. To say the Bronco defense then got a handle on things would be an understatement. The next five Cowboy possessions netted one yard—a tenth of a yard per play. Wyo was 1-of-6 on third down conversions during that stretch, and quarterback Brett Smith's effectiveness took a serious dip.
Depth has been Boise State’s friend this season—never more than now. The Broncos will have to rely on that to play at a high level the rest of the year, but they can’t afford any more injuries. The maladies came fast and furious on defense Saturday. With Lee Hightower already missing from the secondary, down went cornerback Bryan Douglas with what appears to be a serious knee injury. Nickelback Dextrell Simmons left with an undisclosed ailment, and defensive end Kharyee Marshall, who’s struggled to stay healthy during his career, exited with a leg injury. Defensive tackle Greg Grimes came out as well. In Simmons’ case, Boise State’s depth was vividly evident when backup Corey Bell scooped up a fumble and ran 19 yards for a third quarter touchdown.
I talked Friday (and again in Saturday’s pregame shows) about rising expectations for Jack Fields, the true freshman running back from El Paso. Turns out Fields didn’t even make the trip to Wyoming because of an injury. That left the workload to D.J. Harper and Jay Ajayi, and they did not disappoint, rushing for 105 and 49 yards, respectively. Harper scored two touchdowns and Ajayi one. But wait, let’s include Shane Williams-Rhodes in there with his 46 yards on three carries, including a 28-yard blast for a TD. Williams-Rhodes and Grant Hedrick, who scored in the fourth quarter, became the first two Broncos other than Harper and Ajayi to log a rushing touchdown this season.
Here's an underappreciated Boise State achievement out of Saturday’s game. The Broncos clinched another winning season. Often this program is talked about in terms of its rapid rise through the FBS in the new century. Check out the history, though. This is Boise State's 45th season as a four-year school, and there have now been winning seasons in 39 of them. The Broncos have had only five losing seasons and one .500 campaign. But this has to be an appreciated achievement: Boise State now has 15 consecutive winning seasons. Not to mention 80 victories for Chris Petersen (against seven losses) and a 48-game winning streak in the month of October.
Every time you think Boise State is actually in this season’s BCS bowl conversation, another team becomes an issue. The Broncos moved from 21st to 19th last night in the BCS Standings, helped by the polls again and hampered by the computers. They leaped all the way to No. 14 in the Coaches Poll and No. 17 in the Harris Poll. But Boise State is 23rd in computer rankings, dragged down (as it will continue to be) by strength of schedule. A non-AQ team must win its conference title and finish in the top 16 of the BCS Standings—and ahead of an AQ conference champion—to get an automatic bid to a BCS bowl. The Big 10 has been looking cooperative, but here’s Nebraska, debuting in the BCS Top 25 this week one spot behind the Broncos at No. 20.
Boise State remains undefeated in the Mountain West and controls its destiny in the conference race. If the Broncos win out, they capture the crown. Three teams are locked in second place with one loss, and one of them is this week's opponent, San Diego State. The Aztecs got by UNLV Saturday night in Qualcomm Stadium, 24-13. The score's a bit deceiving, as San Diego State rolled up 506 yards of total offense. The others chasing the Broncos are Fresno State and Air Force. The Bulldogs rallied past gutsy New Mexico, 49-32, and the Falcons effectively knocked Nevada out of title contention by rushing for 461 yards and rolling over the Wolf Pack Friday night, 48-31.
The sometimes maligned but often admired Titus Young hit one of his high points yesterday, catching a one-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford with 20 seconds left to give Detroit a 28-24 win over Seattle. The former Boise State star also hauled in a 46-yard bomb from Stafford for another score. Benefitting from the absence of injured Nate Burleson, Young led the Lions with nine catches for 100 yards and two TDs, the first time he's hit the century mark in his NFL career. Elsewhere, Billy Winn had a big game in Cleveland's 7-6 squeaker over San Diego. Winn recovered a Ryan Mathews fumble to end one Chargers first half possession and put the next one in a hole with a first down sack of Phillip Rivers.
Well, they can say it’s always darkest before the dawn. Idaho just needs to know when the sun’s going to come up. One week after firing coach Robb Akey, the Vandals have kicked starting quarterback Dominique Blackman and linebacker Conrad Scheidt off the football team for violating team rules. Spokane Spokesman Review correspondent Josh Wright reports that Blackman and Scheidt were booted for failed drug tests—a third one for Blackman, according to Wright. Idaho also suspended tight end Taylor Elmo indefinitely for his tweets blasting athletic director Rob Spear for firing Akey. All this as the 1-7 Vandals prepare for their first game under interim coach Jason Gesser this Saturday in the Kibbie Dome against 6-2 San Jose State.
The Idaho Steelheads maintained their healthy scoring pace over the weekend, but somebody finally matched them Saturday. After a 6-2 pounding of Ontario Friday night, the Steelheads traveled to Utah and lost to the Grizzlies in a 5-4 shootout, ending a five-game winning streak. Utah also finally matched rookie goalie Josh Robinson, who had won the first two starts of his pro career. It was a game more reminiscent of last season, as Robinson made 42 saves during a peppering of Grizzlies shots. His netminding cohort, Tyler Beskorowany, clocked 40 saves in the Friday victory over the Reign. Two Steelies had multiple-goal nights in the two games, with Austin Smith tallying twice Friday and Adrian Foster scoring his first two goals as a Steelhead Saturday. Idaho and Utah play again this Friday night, this time in CenturyLink Arena.
The Idaho Stampede roster has its first two players penciled in for 2012-13, and they come directly from the team's new single-affiliation agreement with the Portland TrailBlazers. The Blazers waived Demonte Harper and Dallas Lauderdale Saturday and have assigned them to the Stampede. Both were undrafted free agents in 2011 who played last season in Europe. Harper is a 6-4 shooting guard out of Morehead State, while Lauderdale, nicknamed "Fort," is a 6-8 power forward out of Ohio State. Portland also waived former Boise State and Stampede star Coby Karl Saturday but did not assign him to Idaho.
This Day In Sports…October 29, 2004:
In a record fourth regular season appearance on ESPN from Bronco Stadium, Boise State destroys Hawaii, 69-3, for its 19th straight victory (and 13th straight on the ESPN family of networks). BSU also kept Warrior quarterback Timmy Chang from breaking college football’s career passing yardage record, intercepting him four times and leaving him 14 yards short. The biggest Bronco highlight was a school-record 85-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jared Zabransky.
(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.)