Friday, August 30, 2013.
Make no mistake, Boise State is heading into a very difficult situation tomorrow night in Seattle. The Washington Huskies signed the Broncos up as their opponents for the grand re-opening of Husky Stadium long before the Huskies knew they’d be facing Boise State in the 2012 Las Vegas Bowl. The anticipation of this event has been enormous anyway, a massive $280 million renovation of what the Seattle P-I calls “the finest piece of real estate in college football.” UW fancies itself as the superior program, and now it has vengeance added to the equation after the Huskies’ loss to the Broncos last December. By the way, the last time there was a re-dedication of a venerable old Pac-12 stadium was last year in Berkeley, when Cal christened the rebuilt Memorial Stadium. But Nevada threw cold water on that event, upending the Bears, 31-24.
The track has been removed at the stadium and the field lowered by four feet. The stands are now right on top of the sidelines all the way around, which will make it louder than ever before on the field. “That’s the biggest problem for the offensive line, more than anybody,” said left tackle Charles Leno Jr. “We have to make our calls.” Among offensive linemen, the tackles are furthest from the quarterback. Boise State has dusted off its ear-splitting artificial noise in practice. Coach Chris Petersen says it’s as good a replication of stadium noise as possible for his players. “They can’t hear—and they won’t be able to hear when they get over there,” said Petersen. “So it’s realistic.” He makes the point that once the players can’t hear anything, it doesn’t matter how much louder it gets.
All signs point to Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins not suiting up tomorrow night—that’s right, not. The Seattle Times reports this morning that the star tight end has indeed been suspended for the Boise State game by coach Steve Sarkisian. Furthermore, Seferian-Jenkins had reportedly been cleared to play after healing his fractured pinkie finger. Sarkisian did the right thing. But why didn’t he get it over with and announce it at the beginning of fall camp?
Speaking of suspensions, All-Mountain West defensive end Demarcus Lawrence was nixed from the Las Vegas Bowl by Boise State last December for a violation of team rules. The Huskies, therefore, haven’t seen him. His role will be key tomorrow night. Petersen doesn’t feel Lawrence is champing at the bit to face Washington in particular. “I think he’s just anxious to play, because he’s a football player,” Petersen said. “He just wants to play.”
How will Petersen view the 2013 season when it’s all said and done? If it’s anything like last year, all will be well in Broncoland. In the minutes following the end of the Las Vegas Bowl last December, Petersen was a proud papa. “I think, looking back on it now, really satisfying,” he said on his KBOI postgame show after the game. “Because it’s been really, really hard work.” Tomorrow marks the seventh anniversary of Petersen making his head coaching debut at Boise State against Sacramento State. Does he have the Opening Night drill down now? “I think it gets worse,” said Petersen. But seriously, folks. “It feels like it’s the same,” he said. There’s always the anxiety of knowing exactly what his team really has once it gets on the field. “It’s always sweaty palm time until about the third game,” he said.
When will the trickery come tomorrow night? Certainly there will be some. “They’re going to do something we haven’t seen—and same for us to them,” said Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick. Washington struck the Broncos with a halfback pass for a touchdown in 2007, a 16-yarder from Louis Rankin to Quintin Daniels. It was the Huskie’s second TD of the game, giving them a 14-0 lead and the ultimate winning points in their 24-10 win. Then in the Las Vegas Bowl, Boise State wide receiver Chris Potter executed the double-pass, tossing a 34-yard TD to Holden Huff to give the Broncos an 18-3 lead in their 28-26 victory.
Remember how long it took for Boise State to finally pick up a victory versus the Pac-10 (now the Pac-12)? Despite the torrid start to the new century by the Broncos, they didn’t get that first one until 2004, when they topped Oregon State 53-34 in Bronco Stadium. They lost to the Beavers 30-27 the following year, but things have been different since. If you include Utah (and what the heck, let’s include Utah), Boise State is 8-1 versus the Pac-12 under Chris Petersen. The only loss was the one at Washington in 2007.
“We’re saying we think this conference is talented,” said Petersen earlier this week. “But you have to go out and win some games to back it up.” Well, the Mountain West stubbed its toe on Opening Night, going 1-3 against BCS competition. But the one victory was a doozy—Fresno State’s 52-51 overtime triumph over Rutgers, a game that featured 10 lead changes. Utah State let a nine-point second half lead slip away against Utah, losing 30-26. UNLV trailed by three at the half—and 28 at the end in a 51-23 beatdown at the hands of Minnesota. And Hawaii succumbed to sluggish USC, 30-13. The MW also got a win from San Jose State, a 24-0 decision over FBS Sacramento State. All the Mountain West teams will be (or should be) pulling for each other this weekend. Still to come are Nevada-UCLA, Colorado State-Colorado and Wyoming-Nebraska.
Idaho begins its one season of independent football tomorrow night when it opens at North Texas. One theoretical drawback of independence is the lack of weekly awards, all-conference teams and league championships. There’s nothing anyone can do about the latter, but the other two items have actually been addressed. The seven independent teams nationally have banded together and will announce weekly offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week as well as All-Independent teams at the end of the season.
Kellen Moore was 10-of-18 for only 78 yards last night for Detroit, but he did throw for two touchdowns in the Lions’ 35-10 win over Buffalo. Moore’s in a good spot as the Lions decide whether to keep three quarterbacks again this year, but you never know. All we want to see is for Moore to take one regular season NFL snap. No Boise State alumnus has ever done that. Five former Bronco quarterbacks have played in regular season CFL games (Jim McMillan, Nate Sparks, Bart Hendricks, Jared Zabransky and Ryan Dinwiddie). Also of note among former Boise State standouts, George Iloka made three tackles for the Bengals, Jamar Taylor had two tackles for the Dolphins, including one for loss, Austin Pettis made one catch for 16 yards for the Rams, and Chase Baker finished the preseason strong with five tackles for the Vikings.
Last night the Boise Hawks lost the ground they had gained Wednesday, falling to Salem-Keizer 10-8 at Memorial Stadium. That dropped the Hawks back into a three-way tie atop the Northwest League South Division with the Volcanoes and Hillsboro, which defeated Eugene, 9-2. The Hawks twice battled back to tie Salem-Keizer, but a four-run sixth inning by the visitors was too much to overcome. The Volcanoes couldn’t slow down the sizzling Kevin Encarnacion, though. Encarnacion hit his seventh home run of the season and drove in four runs as his average nudged up to .368. Boise and S-K wrap up their three-game series tonight—Hillsboro arrives tomorrow. It’ll be a wild weekend.
I forgot that the Deutsche Bank Championship runs Friday through Monday because of Labor Day weekend. So former Boise State star Graham DeLaet tees off today at TPC Boston. One of DeLaet’s goals is to make the International team in the President’s Cup. If the teams were determined today, DeLaet would be in. The final lineups will be settled Monday. Meanwhile, Troy Merritt carded a two-under 70 yesterday in the first round of the Hotel Fitness Championship, the first stage of the Web.com Tour Finals. The one-time Bronco star is tied for 53rd.
Former Boise State standout Eric Roberson and playing partner Yasmin Schnack are scheduled today for their first round mixed doubles match at the U.S. Open. Roberson and Schnack face Janette Husarova and Filip Polasek of Slovakia. Roberson is the first former Bronco to play a Grand Slam tournament since Wesley Moodie, a men’s doubles specialist who made two major finals and won Wimbledon in 2005.
This Day In Sports…August 30, 1943:
Another birthday of note—Jean Claude Killy. The French ski champion dominated the sport in the late 1960’s, winning gold medals in all three alpine events at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble. Killy retired two months after the Games at the age of 24, but not before competing at a pro race in Sun Valley. He interrupted retirement for one season, racing on the U.S. pro circuit in 1972-73. Jean Claude Killy…70 years old today.
(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.)