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Back on a familiar screen near you

Back on a familiar screen near you

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on September 13, 2013 at 7:17 AM

Updated Friday, Sep 13 at 7:17 AM

Friday, September 13, 2013.

Boise State is back on ESPN tonight in the first chapter of its new relationship with the network.  ESPN controls the TV rights to all Bronco home games now, and the new era begins with an early Mountain West intra-divisional game against Air Force.  This will be the 57th time Boise State has appeared on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC.  The Broncos have gone 47-9 on the Worldwide Leader since they made their debut with a win over Louisville in the 1999 Humanitarian Bowl.  Boise State really started to become a national brand in 2004, when it rode its first top 10 BCS ranking into seven ESPN/ESPN2 appearances.

ESPN viewers across the country will be expecting offense from Boise State.  That’s mainly what they’ve seen the past 14 years.  Will they get it?  If they haven’t been following along the past two weeks, they’ll be surprised by the Broncos’ new up-tempo attack.  They’ll like it if it’ll score lots of points.  We’ll get a better idea tonight where this offense is.  It faced the perfect storm at Washington—a UW defense infused with energy from a crowd exhilirated over the grand re-opening of Husky Stadium.  Last week the offense functioned a lot more smoothly, helped by a Tennessee-Martin unit that silver-plattered a few things.  Tonight it’s a conference game against a smart defense.

Tiki Barber said last week on CBS SportsRadio (and KTIK), “I’ve said this for years—it’s more on the wide receivers to get open than on a quarterback to read the defense.”  Boise State’s wide receivers did a much better job of creating space against Tennessee-Martin, and Joe Southwick fit a couple deep throws in there, including the 54-yard touchdown to Aaron Burks.  He says he adjusts his touch on the bombs depending on who he’s throwing to.  “You’ve got to ‘KYP’—know your personnel,” said Southwick.  “Everybody has a little something different about him.”  It looked like a more traditional Boise State attack.  “Not a whole lot has changed,” Southwick maintained.  “We still have everything there.  It’s just simplified in the way we teach it.  It think what we’re doing from a teaching standpoint is going to bring everyone along so much quicker.”

Every single completion last week by Boise State went to wideouts.  Not a single catch by a tight end or a running back.  “A lot of that is just coverage-dictated,” said coach Chris Petersen.  But the Broncos would like to do the dictating tonight against Air Force.  The tight ends are an interesting study.  Disaster seems to strike there every year.  From 2008-10 (in sequence) there were Chris O’Neill, Richie Brockel and Tommy Gallarda, each with a broken foot.  In 2011 it was Dan Paul and his groin.  Last year it was Gabe Linehan and his hamstring.  This year it’s former Capital Eagle Kyle Sosnowski and his knee—for the second straight season.  Yet there are four solid tight ends listed on the Boise State depth chart.  In order: Linehan, Holden Huff, Connor Peters and Jake Hardee.  Linehan and Huff each had a reception at Washington, and that’s it.

Utah State plays its home opener against Weber State tomorrow, which is neither here nor there.  But Lafe Peavler of the Deseret News is already making his case for Utah State winning the Mountain Division title.  Here are Peavler’s key points.  “Chuckie Keeton is by far the best quarterback in the Mountain Division.  The only quarterback in the conference that can compete is Fresno State's Derek Carr.  We should see these two (the Aggies and Bulldogs) go toe-to-toe in the inaugural Mountain West Conference Championship Game.  Boise State, the once-unstoppable team (in conference play, at least), suddenly looks quite mortal.  Plus, the Aggies get to face the Broncos at Romney Stadium instead of on the dreaded Smurf Turf.  The bottom line is that Utah State should be favored in every conference game from here on out.”

Elsewhere in the Mountain West, A twist has been tossed into Fresno State’s game at Colorado tomorrow.  The devastating flash-flooding in the areas surrounding Boulder will have an effect on the atmosphere at Folsom Field.  The game is still scheduled to be played despite classes being cancelled at CU again for two days in the wake of a seven-inch deluge of rain in a 19-hour period.  There’ll be a lot of solidarity among the Buffaloes and their fans in support of the flood victims.  A little more adversity for the Bulldogs.  Plenty of adversity for Nevada, as we might not know until kickoff whether quarterback Cody Fajardo is good to go at Florida State.  And how about this: UNLV is favored tomorrow night.  The Rebels are picked to win by seven over Central Michigan.

Will Idaho fans see a larger dose of Richard Montgomery in the Kibbie Dome home opener tomorrow?  Coach Paul Petrino has hinted at that as the Vandals go into their clash with Northern Illinois as 28-point underdogs.  Idaho has to keep the ball out of the hands of the Huskies and star quarterback Jordan Lynch, and a running game will be imperative.  Montgomery, the 5-8 true freshman from Jacksonville, FL, tore it up in the Vandals’ fall camp scrimmages.  But he has just eight carries for 18 yards in the first two games.  Idaho’s two leading rushers last week at Wyoming were both quarterbacks, Josh McCain with 49 yards and Chad Chalich with 35.

Former Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin got plenty of face time last night when his Arkansas State Red Wolves hosted Troy on ESPNU.  You saw one of Harsin’s favorite plays from his Boise State days, the double-pass, set up a second quarrter touchdown that gave ASU a 20-7 lead.  But Troy rallied to take the lead with six seconds left in the half.  After three more lead changes after the break, Harsin’s Red Wolves got a 13-yard touchdown run from Fredi Knighten with just under four minutes left, and the Capital High grad had his first conference victory as a head coach, a 41-34 Sun Belt win.

Despite upending Atlanta last week, New Orleans is favored by only 3½ points at Tampa Bay Sunday.  The worry for the Buccaneers is that opponents are going to put everything into stopping Doug Martin—and daring quarterback Josh Freeman to beat them through the air.  The Jets used that formula last Sunday in their win over the Bucs, holding Martin to 65 yards on 24 carries.  "If I was the defensive coordinator, I'd do that also," Buccaneers right guard Davin Joseph told the Tampa Bay Times. "That's going to be the reality of the next 15 games, they're going to try to stop Doug Martin."  It might be tough for the former Boise State star to match the 1,454 rushing yards he had as a rookie.

It was a decent start yesterday for Graham DeLaet at the BMW Championship, the third leg of the FedExCup Playoffs.  The former Boise State star, No. 5 in FedExCup standings, shot a one-under 71 on the Conway Farms course in Lake Forest, IL.  DeLaet got his rhythm back with an eagle on No. 14 but finished with a bogey on 18.  He’s six shots behind first round leader Brandt Snedeker.  One other DeLaet note: he’s been invited to face off with Graeme McDowell a week from Monday in “The Match At Cabot Links,” a made-for-TV match play event in Nova Scotia the day after the Tour Championship ends.  “The production will capture the essence of match play and take a look into the personalities of the competitors beyond their role as PGA Tour professionals,” reads the press release for the event, which will air in Canada later this year.

The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship wasn’t as kind as the first two stages of the Tour Finals for Troy Merritt yesterday.  The former Bronco struggled to a two-over 73 on Ohio State University’s Scarlet course in Columbus.  Over his first 11 holes, Merritt endured a double-bogey, three bogeys, and just a single birdie.  He stopped the bleeding with two birdies toward the end of the round.

This Day In Sports…September 13, 2011:

The NCAA hands down its sanctions on Boise State after charging the university with a “lack of institutional control.”  The NCAA found 18 major violations over five years in five sports, including football.  The most serious penalties fell on the women’s tennis program, which was found to have played an ineligible player and given her improper benefits.  The football program, which over a multiple-year period had arranged for incoming freshmen to stay with teammates during summer workouts before enrolling, was docked three scholarships per year and three full-contact practices in spring football for each of the three years of probation imposed on the school. 

(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.)