Thursday, August 29, 2013.
Second verse, same as the first? Borrowing from the Herman’s Hermits song “I’m Henry VIII I Am.” That was about King Henry VIII. If you’re looking at Saturday’s Boise State-Washington game as a chess match, the Huskies have a king (Kevin King), and they have a bishop. Sorry. Bishop Sankey was a thorn of immense proportions in the Las Vegas Bowl with his 205 rushing yards and 279 all-purpose yards. “It’s all about fundamentals,” said Bronco defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe. “We did a good job swarming him, but we didn’t finish. We’ve been emphasizing tackling a lot.” Beyond that, expect Boise State’s front seven to play the perimeter differently Saturday night. Sankey ran free on the outside in Vegas, as he did against numerous teams last year. His 1,439 yards on the ground for the season were the third-most in UW history.
Washington doesn’t have to play Sankey exclusively at tailback Saturday. Be prepared for the reinforcements. Dwayne Washington is a redshirt freshman and is built like Jay Ajayi. Washington (I guess we can call him UW’s DW) moved from wide receiver to tailback during his redshirt year and doubles as a sprinter and long jumper on the Husky track team. The fact that he beat out Jesse Callier for the No. 2 spot (at least on the depth chart) is saying something. Callier, listed as No.3, began last season as the starter but suffered a season-ending injury early in the opener. That’s what created the opportunity for Sankey. Callier played in all 13 games as the backup tailback two years ago.
If Boise State’s going to stop the run Saturday night, it’s going to have to do something it didn’t do in the season opener last year. Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell is a painful memory for the Broncos, having bulled his way for 210 yards on 44 carries with two touchdowns in East Lansing. Boise State’s offense was struggling as it was against the Spartans, but it had no chance with the defense unable to get out of drives. Washington looks for a combination of long possessions and its new no-huddle to suck the life out of the untested newcomers on the Bronco D.
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times has penned a column about the pent-up frustration lingering from the end of Washington’s 2012 season—the 18-point lead that was blown in the Apple Cup, and the Las Vegas Bowl loss. “For eight months, the Huskies have stewed, knowing that a handful of plays changed the complexion of their season,” writes Brewer. “Keith Price has relived the late-game interceptions. The defense has relived missed assignments in critical situations. The offense has relived field-goal drives that should’ve been touchdowns. Few teams understand the thin lines that separate bad, good and great as well as these Huskies.”
There’s nobody Washington would rather see to christen the new Husky Stadium than the Broncos. Adds Brewer, “No. 19 Boise State serves as an ideal opponent Saturday. The Broncos are the last team Washington faced at the bitter conclusion to last season. The Huskies have an opportunity to make a clear statement about how much they’ve grown. The chips on their shoulders are noticeable, and they refer to them often, but is it just preseason chatter? Or will the final two games of 2012 create a significant culture change that propels the Huskies from mediocrity?”
The college season actually opens tonight. And ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski is in heaven, having come up with “College football's 100 greatest things.” First of all, I totally buy in to his perspective. Writes Wojciechowski: “What's the best compliment ever paid to Lambeau Field? That it has a college football atmosphere. The NFL gets more TV eyes, but college football gets more hearts. College football has its problems—lots of them. But every fall I renew my wedding vows with the game. What can I say? I'm a romantic.” And with that, we’ll report that No. 61 on Wojciechowski’s list is “Boise State’s blue turf.”
Boise State probably won’t sell out its home opener next week against Tennessee-Martin, and the Broncos will hear about it. But if Fresno State has won back the San Joaquin Valley after winning a share of the Mountain West championship last year, it won’t necessarily show tonight. And the Bulldogs should hear about it. Flush with high expectations, Fresno State is hosting a BCS school to open the season. Rutgers is no Tennessee-Martin. But despite a “white-out” promotion and a lot of hype, a crowd in the mid-30,000’s is expected tonight at 41,031-seat Bulldog Stadium. Fresno State’s average last season was 30,915 per game.
There are four other Mountain West teams playing tonight, with Utah State’s game at Utah easily the feature. The Aggies will be gunning for back-to-back wins over the Utes for the first time in 16 years (USU shocked Utah 27-20 last year in Logan). There’s one more matchup between the Mountain West and Pac-12 this evening, as USC visits Hawaii. The Trojans are favored by more than three touchdowns at Aloha Stadium. Also, UNLV takes its road woes to Minnesota. The Rebels haven’t won away from home in almost four years. And San Jose State gets what it hopes is a tuneup against Sacramento State of the Big Sky.
It’s a long way from Butte, MT, to the No. 1 headset on the sidelines, but Paul Petrino is there now. For the first time, he’ll be fully in charge of a football team when Idaho faces North Texas Saturday night. “Since I was a little kid,” he said, “I saw myself as a head coach. This is what I’ve been training to do since I could walk.” Petrino has spent the last 23 years as a position coach and offensive coordinator, with stops at Carroll College, Idaho, Utah State, Louisville (twice), Southern Mississippi, the Atlanta Falcons, Illinois, and Arkansas (twice). Four different times he’s been on a staff headed by his brother Bobby.
Coming off his best night in the NFL, Kellen Moore gets one more preseason chance with Detroit tonight against Buffalo. Then the former Boise State great will count down until Saturday, when the final NFL cuts come down. Will the Lions keep three quarterbacks again this year, or won’t they? Moore’s not the only one looking to shine. All 32 NFL teams play tonight to wrap up the preseason. Other former Broncos who would seem to be on the bubble include Chase Baker in Minnesota and Richie Brockel in Carolina.
The Boise Hawks’ bats were timely last night, keying a 10-6 victory over Salem-Keizer at Memorial Stadium that propelled tham back into sole possession of first place in the Northwest League South Division. Jacob Rogers and Yasiel Balaguert each clubbed their eighth homes runs of the season, and Justin Marra hit his sixth. Rogers and Balaguert went deep back-to-back in the third inning. But the hottest stick was in the hands of Kevin Encarnacion, who went 4-for-5 and is now batting .367. If Encarnacion had enough at-bats to qualify for the NWL batting race, he’d be leading by almost 50 points. Boise has now won six of their last seven games—there are five games left in the regular season.
Graham DeLaet begins play today in the second leg of the PGA Tour playoffs at the Deutsche Bank Championship near Boston, and he has reset the needle. “It would be nice to win the FedEx Cup playoffs,” DeLaet told the Canadian website Slam Sports. “Going into the playoffs, the goal was to get to (the Tour Championship), but after this week, I think I can kind of aim a little bit higher than that,” he added. DeLaet jumped to No. 7 in the FedExCup standings after tying for second at The Barclays last week. His former Boise State teammate, Troy Merritt, tees off today at the Hotel Fitness Championship in Fort Wayne, IN, the first stage of the Web.com Tour Finals.
This Day In Sports…August 29, 1998, 15 years ago today:
The New York Yankees beat the Seattle Mariners 11-6 for their 98th win in 134 tries, clinching a post-season spot the earliest in the team’s storied history. The Yankees would win 114 games in ’98, the most in American League history until the M’s eclipsed that in 2001. The Yanks would add another 11 in the post-season for a total of 125—a major league record.
(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.)