Tuesday, October 2, 2012.
It’s become a rite of fall: Boise State mixing and matching at tight end (and fullback, for that matter) due to injury. Coach Chris Petersen confirmed a key one yesterday after Gabe Linehan left the game at New Mexico Saturday. “I don’t know if it’s going to be a month…or longer,” said Petersen. Linehan had been dealing with an ongoing hamstring issue that finally became too much. He was the Broncos’ top tight end as a blocker and receiver, although he has only one catch this season for 23 yards. Fortunately for Boise State, there is depth at that position. Chandler Koch will take the lead, backed up by Holden Huff, Connor Peters and Hayden Plinke. Huff is the leading receiver among tight ends with five catches for 76 yards. Sophomore Kyle Sosnowski, the former Capital High star, has been rehabbing an injury since fall camp.
Boise State knows this improvisation drill at tight end and fullback. Usually it has to do with feet. Chris O’Neill broke his foot about this point of the 2008 season, Richie Brockel had the same thing happen in 2009, and Tommy Gallarda had the same thing happen in 2010. Last year, fullback Dan Paul injured his groin the week before the Georgia game and used the redshirt year he had available, moving Chandler Koch into the backfield. Depth this year doesn’t mitigate the importance of Linehan’s injury. “Those tight ends are responsible for a lot—I mean a lot,” said Petersen. “Besides quarterback, that’s probably the hardest position in our offense to learn.”
Boise State does get one player back for Saturday morning’s game at Southern Miss. Geraldo Boldewijn returns to the active roster this week after a four-game NCAA suspension for receiving impersmissable benefits from his former high school host family. What kind of impact will Boldewijn have? “No idea,” said Petersen. No one wants to predict after last year’s pattern. Boldewijn returned from his first NCAA suspension at this time last season and played his first game at Fresno State. He started with a splash, making three catches for 33 yards and two touchdowns. Then Boldewijn had 16 receptions for 233 yards and no TDs the remaining eight games of the season. Petersen did say Boledwijn has contributed the past month. “He’s been great on the scout team,” Petersen said. “He’s done a really, really nice job.”
Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick met the media yesterday and sounds like he’s responded to coaches trying to even his keel. Yes, he had a good game at New Mexico. But Southwick has learned a lot from being under the microscope the past month. “When things aren’t going good, don’t get down on yourself—don’t listen to the outside noise,” Southwick said. “When things are going good, don’t listen to the outside noise still.” Southwick said he was able to enjoy Shane Williams-Rhodes’ 180 spin move that turned into an eight-yard touchdown. “That was sweet,” said Southwick, adding that it was a run-pass option, but he noticed the cushion being given SWR. “I tried to get it out of my hands quick so he could do something. And he did something.”
There was surprisingly little talk in Petersen’s press conference about the defense’s struggles against the New Mexico triple-option. The coach did mention one key issue. “We had chances to tackle better—to slow down their drives,” said Petersen. He also lamented Boise State’s two second half fumbles that led directly to Lobo touchdowns, saying they “cut the defense’s throat.” I talked to Tom Moore, Kellen’s and Kirby’s dad and former long-time coach at Prosser High in Washington, Sunday morning at the airport. Said the elder Moore, “I don’t care what anyone says. The triple-option is very, very hard to prepare for.”
The absence of Jay Ajayi in the second half in Albuquerque was just what many assumed it was: ball security emphasis once the game got tight. “There’s usually certain packages, certain plays we rep during the week,” said Petersen. “We say, ‘we want these guys in these.’” The Broncos didn’t get to Ajayi’s packages after halftime, when he had accumulated 118 yards and a touchdown in just two minutes and eight seconds of possession time. The momentum turned quickly in New Mexico’s favor in the third quarter. “When it gets to be crunch time, D.J.’s going to be in there.” Maybe Ajayi has had some fumbles in practice? We don’t know.
New Mexico defensive coordinator Jeff Mills had his own theory on the 13-year Boise State phenomenon when we met with him Friday. Mills, whose brother coached under Skip Hall at Boise State, was on Chris Tormey’s staff at Idaho from 1995-99 and watched as the Vandals surprised the Broncos with the overtime two-point conversion for a 36-35 win in 1998. Mills feels that play was so ingrained in the Broncos—and especially coach Dirk Koetter—during the offseason that it was the fuel that powered them when this incredible era began in 1999. He remembers the steely-eyed Koetter leading Boise State onto the field at Martin Stadium in Pullman at the end of the season for the 45-14 win that earned the Broncos their first bowl berth. Mills sees that dagger two-point conversion as the catalyst.
Koetter is getting a lot of praise in his current job as Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator. The Falcons are 4-0 for the first time in eight years, and Matt Ryan is looking like an elite NFL quarterback. Koetter has made Ryan the true centerpiece of Atlanta’s attack, and big plays have followed. He’s leaning a lot more on wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. And he has the Falcons taking care of the ball. Atlanta leads the NFL in turnover margin at plus-10.
There are many prayers and thoughts locally for Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who has been diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia. Pagano coached under Skip Hall at Boise State in 1987-88. It was there he met Tina Heffner, older sister of Bronco wide receiver Terry Heffner. Pagano ended up marrying Tina, a Bishop Kelly graduate like her brother. It was Tina who was concerned about unusual bruising recently on Pagano’s body and urged him to see a doctor. They have three daughters, Tara, Taylor and Tori, and two granddaughters, Avery and Addison. And they have lots of family in Boise.
On the pro transactions front, former Boise State star Chris Carr is set to sign with the San Diego Chargers this week. Carr had a tryout last week with the New York Jets, who didn’t sign him. Wonder if they’re regretting that ‘bout now. And former Bronco hoops standout Coby Karl is back from Europe and has been signed to the training camp roster of the Portland Trail Blazers. Despite Portland’s new single-affiliation setup with the Idaho Stampede, Karl is unlikely to be a candidate for a D-League assignment by the Blazers. At the age of 29, they didn’t bring the one-time Stampede guard in to develop him.
You won’t be able to tell who the Idaho Steelheads are this season without a program. But you can get a head start at open practices from 10 a.m. to noon today and tomorrow. There will be only two players on the ice who played for Idaho last season, defenseman Deron Cousens and center Ron Meyers. Two other returnees slated for the Steelheads are in the Texas Stars’ training camp, forward Jacob Cepis and defenseman Matt Case. One more player in the Steelies’ camp has experience in Boise, forward Ben Ondrus (2002-03). Beyond that, go ahead and start memorizing coach Brad Ralph’s new crew.
This Day In Sports…October 2, 1972, 40 years ago today:
Former Idaho Vandal pitcher Bill Stoneman throws his second career no-hitter as the Montreal Expos blank the New York Mets, 2-0. Stoneman would become president of the Anaheim Angels late in 1999 and would be a key figure in the Boise Hawks’ change in affiliation. Stoneman would not agree to Hawks president Dan Walker’s request for a guarantee that Tom Kotchman manage in Boise for two more seasons, and the Hawks moved their affiliation to the Chicago Cubs organization after the 2000 season.
(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.)