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Four-down territory for Bronco Nation

Four-down territory for Bronco Nation

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on October 12, 2012 at 7:24 AM

Friday, October 12, 2012.

Coach Chris Petersen implored Boise State fans to bring their lungs against BYU three weeks ago, and the blue turf atmosphere was as loud as it’s ever been.  Petersen says he doesn’t feel he needs “to keep beatin’ this drum, and (the fans) get it.”  He’s talking about tomorrow’s pivotal game against rival Fresno State.  This time, fans may have to reach back for a little something extra, as the Bulldogs love to go for it on fourth down.  "I like kind of getting out there and getting seven (points) right away," Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said.  "And so, if we're across the 50, we're going to look at it every time.  If it's less than five (yards for a first down), it's something that we're really going to look at very hard.  I don't know if it's a message, that's just going to be our signature.”  The Bulldogs are 9-of-15 on fourth down conversions this season.

What’s the timeline on further expansion at Bronco Stadium?  I’ve said all the way along that attendance beyond the BYU game this season will tell us if it’s sooner rather than later.  It’s going to be a beautiful day for football, Fresno State is a hungry rival, and tomorrow’s game is a hugely important one in the Mountain West race.  There are still tickets remaining—can Bronco Nation make a statement and fill ‘er up?  This year’s expansion to 37,000 is the third at Bronco Stadium since 2008.  Tomorrow’s crowd size will provide clues on the next one.

Tomorrow marks the last currently-scheduled game between Boise State and Fresno State.  Whoever wins the Milk Can will be able to lock it away for awhile.  Continuing the series seems like a natural, as each team gets the other’s juices going.  When the Broncos move to the Big East, they’re guaranteed a game in California every other year in conference dates with San Diego State.  Maybe the Bulldogs can fill those alternate years.  As crucial as the Golden State is as a source of talent for Boise State, it’s important that the Broncos get in front of players’ families and friends there.  With the Big East planning on an eight-game conference schedule, that allows for four non-league games a year.  Boise State is full next season, but it does have one opening in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

This is the first time this century the Boise State-Fresno State game will not be telecast by ESPN.  Eleven years ago the Broncos made their regular season debut on the Worldwide Leader when they stunned the eighth-ranked Bulldogs on the road, 35-30.  The next season, ESPN cameras came to the blue turf for the first time in the regular season when Boise State routed Fresno State, 67-21.  It had been a tradition ever since.  But the Mountain West is a different TV animal.

You’ll see the No. 1 and No. 2 defenses in the country tomorrow in turnovers forced.  Fresno State has 18 takeaways and Boise State 17.  So which offense will do the best job of taking care of the ball?  Bronco quarterback Joe Southwick and Bulldog QB Derek Carr have each thrown three interceptions.  One thing D.J. Harper is known for is protecting the rock—Boise State’s sixth-year senior tailback hasn’t come close to coughing it up this year.  Don’t look to Fresno State senior tailback Robbie Rouse to turn the ball over.  Rouse, now the Bulldogs’ career rushing leader, has only lost six fumbles in the 828 times he has touched the ball in his career.

There are two games of interest in the Mountain West tomorrow.  One is the Battle of the Fremont Cannon between Nevada and UNLV in Las Vegas, although I think we all know what’s coming in that one.  The Wolf Pack won last year, 37-0.  New Mexico’s game at Hawaii will be intriguing. This is where the Lobos’ program can turn a corner as the triple-option is unleashed at Aloha Stadium.  Hawaii is one battered crew and is allowing 214 rushing yards a game.  New Mexico hasn’t dealt with the Island environment since 1998 when it was in the WAC with the Warriors.  But the Lobos are favored by three points—and if they win, they can almost taste a bowl.

With a victory finally under its belt, Idaho goes for two in a row when it travels to Texas State tomorrow.  The Vandals, 2½-point underdogs, are hoping they get it, because they don’t have a lot to look forward to.  After this week, the rest of Idaho’s slate features teams with winning records, not the least of which is 23rd-ranked Louisiana Tech a week from tomorrow in Ruston.  The Vandals close with San Jose State, BYU, UT-San Antonio, and Utah State.  A check on quarterback Dominique Blackman after his first five games: 65 percent completions, 1,250 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions.  It’s the picks that are weighing down Blackman’s 120.5 pass efficiency rating.

Speaking of Louisiana Tech, the undefeated Bulldogs can position themselves for a BCS-busting run with an upset of No. 22 Texas A&M tomorrow in Shreveport.  Their 58-31 win over UNLV last Saturday marked the fourth time in five games they have topped 50 points.  And it got La Tech into the Top 25 for the first time since 1999.  The Bulldogs are off to their best start since 1975, two years after a Division II national championship run that included a win over Boise State.

Opening Night’s coming up tonight, inaugurating the Idaho Steelheads’ 16th season.  And a guy who played for the Steelheads about halfway through the club’s history will serve as captain when the puck drops tonight against the Utah Grizzlies in CenturyLink Arena.  Ben Ondrus brings a measure of experience and leadership that new coach Brad Ralph feels is the right fit inside the Steelies dressing room.  Ondrus played his first four professional games in Boise 10 seasons ago, the Steelheads’ final campaign in the old WCHL.  The 30-year-old forward has appeared in 472 games in the AHL and in 52 for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL, but he’s never played a game in the ECHL.

The Boise State men’s basketball team conducts its first official practice of the 2012-13 season at 5:00 this afternoon.  Coming off a season that started 8-1 and finished 5-16, the Broncos are older and should be wiser, returning four starters and a group of talented freshmen who are now talented sophomores.  “To me they do look a lot more mature than they did last year,” said coach Leon Rice.  Working with a lot of the same faces is huge for Rice.  “This is the first year we’ve really got some continuity,” Rice said.  “Guys understand drills, understand terminology, and now we’re all on the same page.”  Boise State has one exhibition game this fall, and it’s two weeks from tonight in Taco Bell Arena against Saint Martin’s.

Last season’s leading scorer, Australian Anthony Drmic, is back for his second year after a rather action-packed summer.  Drmic played for the Australian Boomers, the Aussie national squad from which the Australian Olympic team was chosen.  But a week into training camp, Drmic was nailed by appendicitis and was sidelined a month.  Then, just before he returned to Boise from Down Under, he rolled his ankle.  Drmic professes to be ready to go now (the appendicitis was easier than the ankle).  And after a year, Drmic has adjusted to American college basketball.  “Everyone plays about the rim here—it’s ridiculous,” Drmic said.  “Some of the guards are ridiculously quick.”  Homesickness has never been a problem, though.  “I’ve lived away from home (playing hoops) since I was 16 years old,” he said, adding that his family will visit Boise over the holidays.

This Day In Sports…October 12, 1976:

The defending world champion Cincinnati Reds score four runs in the seventh inning and three more in the bottom of the ninth—two on successive homers by George Foster and Johnny Bench—to beat Philadelphia and complete a sweep of the National League Championship Series.  The Big Red Machine would sweep the New York Yankees in the World Series and lay claim to being one of the greatest teams ever assembled.

(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.)