Tuesday, September 18, 2012.
Every once in a while, Boise State coach Chris Petersen implores Bronco fans to bring their “A” game to the blue turf. Thursday night’s showdown against BYU is one of those times. At his press conference yesterday, Petersen was asked what he took from watching the end of the BYU-Utah game on TV Saturday night. “I know how important the crowd is,” said Petersen. “I’m 100 percent serious. If we can have our people as loud as they’ve ever been, I promise you it will help us.” It was rockin’ the last time these teams met, in Boise in 2004. BYU’s Matt Payne missed a 38-yard field goal with 19 seconds left to preserve a 28-27 Bronco victory.
There’s no doubt Bronco Stadium will be louder than it was last Saturday. Additional feet stomping the new metal bleachers in the end zones will ensure that. The Miami (Ohio) game had its moments, and it did mark the second-largest crowd in Boise State history at 34,178 (thanks to expansion). But it was indeed strange to see the north end zone stands only two-thirds full. Then again, they’re one-third larger this season. Also, the Redhawks were not a marquee opponent, and on a sunny 91-degree day it was brutally hot in the north end zone. Except for the day of the week, Thursday night’s game will provide a more traditional September Bronco setting: nice and warm, and very comfortable once the sun goes down. And it’ll pack in the largest throng ever in the stadium, with 37,000 likely.
Crowd noise has already become part of the scene-setter for this ESPN clash. BYU quarterback Riley Nelson made it such after the Cougars’ 24-21 loss at Utah. Nelson told the Deseret News, “If we start feeling sorry for ourselves, or walk around all morose, Boise State is going to put it on us. We're in their place. Some things we can take away from (Saturday's game) is we were exposed that we can't handle noise (from the fans). I've played up in Boise. I played there when I was at Utah State (in 2006). It's just as, if not more, noisy. That will be an emphasis this week in practice."
Boise State fans can now prepare to see a leftie quarterback very unlike the leftie they’re accustomed to. When Nelson comes in Thursday night, he’ll bring his legs with him. Nelson rushed for 393 yards last year, spending only about half of the season as the Cougars’ starter. He has 71 yards on the ground so far this year. “That’s part of his game,” said Petersen. “If he’s scrambling around, he’s going to put his pads down.” Petersen thinks part of Nelson’s toughness comes from coach Bronco Mendenhall bringing out the best in the senior. On the passing side, Nelson’s pass effiency rating is 134.2, three points better than the Broncos’ Joe Southwick.
Nelson is six years removed from his visit to the blue turf while a true freshman at Utah State. He led the Aggies in rushing that day with 45 yards in a 49-10 loss to Boise State. Nelson was all about USU at the time. He grew up in Logan, and his grandfather, Rod Tueller, spent eight seasons as Aggies basketball coach in the 1980’s. Nelson then went on an LDS mission to Barcelona, Spain, and during his time away changed his mind about USU and transferred to BYU. Nelson wants to avenge his 2006 loss, the Cougars want to avenge their losses to the Broncos in 2003 and 2004, and everybody in Provo wants to wash away the bitter taste of last Saturday’s crazy game in Salt Lake City.
One of the unforgetable images from last Saturday’s Boise State game was Southwick’s slide in the third quarter. On a scramble, half of Southwick said “slide,” and half of him said “dive,” and he got caught in the middle. He dropped to his knees, scraping along the blue turf for a couple yards. Where’s the Bactine, mom? Southwick came to the sideline thinking Petersen had yelled something about an open tight end on the play. Petersen said he exclaimed, “No, I could not believe you slid like that!” Southwick replied, “Yeah, that was bad, wasn’t it,” according to Petersen. “We were both just laughing,” said the coach. “It was a good moment.” Southwick’s knees bore the brunt. “He looked like a burn victim coming out to practice,” Petersen said.
In his six seasons as a Bronco, D.J. Harper has never garnered a conference Player of the Week honor. Until now. Harper shares this week’s award with Fresno State’s Robbie Rouse after his 162 yards rushing and four total touchdowns against Miami (Ohio). The 26 points Harper scored are the most by an FBS player this season. His season yards-per-carry average seems normal enough at 5½ yards per attempt. It’s just bizarre how he got there. Harper gained just half a yard per tote at Michigan State—and 10.1 yards per carry versus Miami.
The way things have been going, nobody should be surprised at this. But it appears the Big East is going to to be left out of what are currently the BCS bowl games (plus the new Champions Bowl) once the new order takes effect in 2014. ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy reports that the Orange Bowl is close to a deal that would place the ACC champion against either Notre Dame, an SEC or Big Ten team. The Big East will be left to align its champion with the best bowl it can find. Theoretically there are still spots in the Sugar and Fiesta Bowls, but those would be extreme long shots for a guaranteed slot.
New Idaho Stampede coach Michael Peck met the media and boosters for the first time yesterday. He talked a lot about hard work and its two-pronged byproduct: a winning team for local fans and callups to the NBA for Stampede players. This is an interesting hire, as Peck comes from Findlay Prep in Henderson, NV, one of the top high school programs in the country. But the key word here is development. Peck developed countless Division I players at Findlay, four of whom were NBA Draft picks. Now he’s charged with developing talent for the Portland Trail Blazers. After all, it is the NBA Development League.
Albert Almora, who was a key part of the Boise Hawks’ late-season surge this summer, is seen as one of the building blocks to the future for the Chicago Cubs, according to Patrick Mooney of Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Mooney cited Almora’s crash into the centerfield wall during Game 2 of the Northwest League Championship Series, writing, “That’s the kind of hard-charging player the Cubs projected when they made Almora the No. 6 overall pick in the June draft.” Almora hit a combined .321 with 19 RBI this season between rookie league in Arizona and the Hawks. Adds Mooney, “The Cubs think Almora is someone who will get it faster than most, and won’t have to repeat levels, because he has always responded to competition, whether it was playing for the elite travel teams in South Florida or winning five gold medals with Team USA.”
This Day In Sports…September 18, 1968:
One day after San Francisco’s Gaylord Perry no-hits St. Louis, Cardinals pitcher Ray Washburn returns the favor by no-hitting the Giants, 2-0. The big story the day before had been Perry out-dueling Cards great Bob Gibson, 1-0. Gibson was in the home stretch of the best season in his career and would finish with an ERA of 1.12. It was the best in the majors in 54 years, and nobody has come close since.
(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.)