Wednesday, September 26, 2012.
The culture was bound to change at New Mexico once the Lobos hired former Notre Dame coach and ESPN/ABC analyst Bob Davie to clean up their colossal mess. Maybe not this much this soon, though. New Mexico bears little resemblance to the team that ended the 2011 regular season with a 45-0 loss on the blue turf, especially now that the Lobos have dominated their in-state rival with last week’s 27-14 win at New Mexico State. “There's no question we put a lot into (that) game emotionally,” said Davie. Now they have to regenerate that energy against 24th-ranked Boise State Saturday. But New Mexico comes in 2-2. So Davie has already matched the win total of former coach Mike Locksley, who went 2-26 before being fired last September.
New Mexico likes to run the triple-option, primarily out of the pistol formation, although they didn’t utilize quite it as much last week. The key is, the Lobos are running the rock now. They rank 25th in the country in rushing, averaging 235 yards a game. For Boise State’s part, it’s trying to prevent a repeat of the Air Force game last season. No one’s saying the Lobos are the new Falcons, but New Mexico creates defensive assignment problems. “It’s going to be really tough,” said coach Chris Petersen about adjusting to a foreign offensive scheme. Last week the Bronco offense came under fire. “We could be having the same conversation about our defense next week,” Petersen said.
It would be shocking if New Mexico was able to gash Boise State with the run game the way Air Force did with 264 yards in Bronco Stadium last October. BSU just wants to make sure it isn’t on the short end of a game of keepaway. The Falcons held the ball for more than 36 minutes in that 37-26 Bronco win—that’s what helped make the game so close. The Lobos had a 16½-minute advantage in time of possession in their win in Las Cruces last Saturday, exactly the way Davie drew it up. This year’s Boise State offense can’t depend on getting a score on most possessions like those of the past. And when there aren’t many possessions in the first place, it can get scary. The Broncos have to move the chains.
It'll be interesting to see how the carries are divvied up this week among Boise State running backs. D.J. Harper had all but one against both Michigan State and BYU, managing just eight yards on 15 attempts at MSU but grinding out 112 yards on 31 carries versus the Cougars. In all he had 34 touches last Thursday. That’s a lot for a 5-9, 205-pounder. “I’d like to get him more,” said Petersen. “He produces.” But Petersen did acknowledge he needs to get some of the other guys involved earlier so he can pace Harper’s carries a little more. Jack Fields, who toted the ball 13 times against Miami (Ohio), didn't have a carry versus BYU. Jay Ajayi, who was suspended for the opener and sat during game two, had his first career attempt last Thursday. Otherwise, it was all D.J. You'd expect the distribution to look more like the Miami game Saturday.
Kickers have been under the microscope at Boise State since, say, late the night of November 26, 2010. And the beat goes on. Michael Frisina missed a 33-yarder in the first quarter against BYU last Thursday, and Petersen, who doesn’t like to kick ‘em regardless, abandoned three-pointers after that. So how is Michael Frisina doing now? “I think he’s fine as long as you guys stay away from him,” said Petersen. “And I mean that sincerely. He’s fine.” Petersen said he should have tried a field goal when the Broncos faced a fourth down at the 20-yard line in the second quarter. He chalked that up to his own stubbornness. Petersen contends he hasn’t lost confidence in Frisina. “He can make field goals. Part of the deal is to block out the outside noise and manage expectations.”
On the other hand, New Mexico kicker Justus Adams is the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week. Adams, a junior from Albuquerque, kicked the first two field goals of his career against New Mexico State. They were only from 24 and 29 yards out, but they came under pressure against a rival and kept the Aggies at arm’s length. Adams was also 3-of-3 on PATs.
There are now three former Boise State Broncos on the Arizona Cardinals roster. Korey Hall, cut by the Saints 2½ weeks ago, has been signed by the Cards, joining Daryn Colledge and Nate Potter in the Valley of the Sun. Hall could start Sunday against Miami. Other doings among Boise State products: tight end Tommy Gallarda is in line to get increased playing time for Atlanta this week, as Michael Palmer is out with an injury. Gallarda has played only special teams with the Falcons so far. And veteran cornerback Chris Carr is headed for a tryout with the Jets in the wake of Darrelle Revis’ season-ending injury. There’s a chance the Jets will sign Carr.
BYU quarterback Riley Nelson, while not blaming his poor performance at Bronco Stadium last Thursday on his bad back, says he was “only at 65 percent” on the blue turf. The throw-down sack on the Cougars’ first play from scrimmage by Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence probably didn’t help. But Nelson’s health will factor into coach Bronco Mendenhall’s decision on a starting quarterback Saturday against Hawaii. If Mendenhall doesn’t want to risk further injury to Nelson (or thinks 65 percent won’t get it done), he’ll start Taysom Hill. The freshman out of Highland High in Pocatello sparked the defense in the fourth quarter against Boise State, scoring BYU’s only touchdown in the 7-6 loss. Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman says they’ll probably decide on a starter today but won’t reveal it until gametime Saturday.
Idaho has lost 14 of its last 16 games, and it’s expected to be 15 of 17 after UI’s final payday trip of the season Saturday. The Vandals trek to North Carolina and are 22½-point underdogs. It’ll be a good test for running back Ryan Bass after he recorded his first 100-yard game at Idaho in last Saturday’s 40-37 overtime loss to Wyoming. Bass rushed for 121 yards on 19 carries against the Cowboys after totaling just 175 yards all of last season. There have been high expectations for Bass ever since he arrived as a transfer from Arizona State, and he appears to be finding his rhythm. The Vandal running game is getting an assist from a junior college transfer, James Baker, who racked up 75 yards on just 10 carries versus Wyoming.
Former Idaho Steelheads goalie Dan Ellis became a free agent at the end of the NHL season last spring. Now, with the NHL lockout locked in, Ellis is seeking to keep his skills sharp in the AHL by signing a professional tryout contract with the Charlotte Checkers. Ellis has been a backup the last two seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, but he suffered a groin injury in January and landed on injured reserve after appearing in only 10 games. He raised some eyebrows this summer when he e-mailed a Vancouver sportswriter, essentially lobbying for a backup job with the Canucks. Nothing came of it, though. Ellis, who was MVP of the Kelly Cup Finals when the Steelheads won their first championship in 2004, has an NHL career record of 72-57-15 with a 2.68 goals-against-average, .911 save percentage and 12 shutouts.
This Day In Sports…September 26, 2000:
Pocatello resident Stacy Dragila wins the first-ever women’s pole vault gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Sydney. Dragila vaulted 15 feet, 1 inch—just under her world record of 15’ 2¼” set earlier in the year. She edged the crowd favorite, Aussie Tatiana Grigorieva, before 110,000 fans at Stadium Australia.
(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.)