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Minds in the fun zone, bodies in the end zone

Minds in the fun zone, bodies in the end zone

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on September 27, 2012 at 7:19 AM

Thursday, September 27, 2012.

The Boise State offense needs touchdowns, something it has gone without in two out of three games this season.  “It’s just details.  Red zone football, goal line football—those two things jump out,” said coach Chris Petersen of the Broncos’ offensive woes Monday.  Another thing jumps out to senior tight end Chandler Koch: the need to have fun again, especially in the red zone.  “We’re not playing loose enough, or as fast,” said Koch.  “We just get kind of tense down there—‘oh, we’re in the red zone.’  We put too much pressure on ourselves.  We just need to go out and play football.”  Petersen agrees, albeit from a different perspective.  “So much of it is momentum and confidence,” said Petersen.  “You start believing in each other and playing hard, and it works.”

There weren’t many Boise State fans who didn’t notice D.J. Harper straining to gain positive yards on the ground last Thursday (although he did bust off a 35-yarder against BYU).  But not all of them are considering the offensive line’s role in said struggles.  The Broncos haven’t used the absence of senior left guard Joe Kellogg as an excuse, but they don’t feel they should have to.  Boise State has nine O-linemen with starting experience and doesn’t feel there’s a big dropoff from the ones to the twos.  Former Bishop Kelly standout Spencer Gerke will have to get it done again Saturday in place of Kellogg.  Not to forget, for example, that Gerke did just that when he was thrown into the fire last year in the win over Georgia.

The one offensive line habit that has persevered into the 2012 season is lack of sacks.  Boise State has yielded just one, when Joe Southwick was taken down for a five-yard loss by BYU.  And that happened when Southwick held onto the ball a bit too long.  The Broncos have been in the top four in the country in fewest sacks allowed the past four seasons, leading the nation in 2009 and 2011 (they gave up only eight last year). 

Before the season New Mexico coach Bob Davie said, “There’s been so much damage done to this program over the past several years, we need fans to come out and help us.”  Saturday Davie gets to find out if they will.  The timing is perfect for the Lobos, coming off a 27-14 thumping of their in-state rival with a visit from the No. 24 team in the country coming up.  The weather should be ideal in Albuquerque, and they’re pumping this game up with a lot of peripheral events planned for fans.  New Mexico averaged only 20,027 last season at University Stadium, which holds over 39,000.  But the Lobos drew 28,450 for their opener versus Southern and are hoping to top 30,000 Saturday.

For months we’ve been saying Boise State’s move to the Big East in football is about the revenue, not about becoming a BCS school.  That’s a given, because after the Broncos’ first season in the new conference, there’ll be no more BCS.  Thing is, there will be five power conferences controlling the major bowl games, and the Big East will not be one of them.  There’s word that a seventh bowl will be added to the new postseason model, giving the highest-ranked team from among the Big East and current non-AQ conferences a guaranteed berth against a Pac-12 or Big 12 team.  Uh, doesn’t that make the Big East the same as the non-AQ leagues?  The Big East is still going to be the strongest of all of them.  But man, that new Big East TV contract had better be fat.

Maybe the move to the Big West in non-football sports next year helped land Boise State’s latest men’s basketball recruit.  The Statesman reports that 6-4 guard Darnell Taylor has committed to the Broncos.  Taylor is a sophomore at Saddleback College and played prep basketball at Crenshaw High in Los Angeles, so he’ll be playing a lot of road games in his backyard once he joins the Boise State program a year from now.  He averaged 13.3 points and 4.5 rebounds for Saddleback last season.

More names you might be getting to know as hockey season approaches.  The Idaho Steelheads have signed defenseman Craig Gaudet and forwards David Grun and Mike Towns as the opening of training camp approaches Monday.  Gaudet spent last season playing professionally in Norway after splitting his first pro season between the ECHL’s Alaska Aces and Ontario Reign.  Grun comes from the highly successful Minnesota-Duluth program, where he was a member of the 2011 NCAA national championship team.  Towns played for Knoxville of the Southern Professional Hockey League last season.

Two former Boise Hawks contributed last night as the Oakland A’s continue their improbable chase of not only a wild card berth, but first-place Texas in the American League West.  Josh Donaldson rapped a run-scoring single during a five-run first inning that led to a 9-3 win over the Rangers.  And Jerry Blevins, who’s been solid out of the bullpen for the A’s, threw 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.  Donaldson, a first round draft pick of the Cubs in 2007 who played for the Hawks that summer, went 2-for-4 on the night and scored two runs.  He’s batting .244 this season.  Blevins, who pitched for Boise in 2004 and 2006, now sports a 2.59 ERA in 60 appearances.  Oh yeah, the A’s narrowed the Rangers’ lead to three games with seven left to play.

Back to football—Idaho State hosts Sacramento State in Holt Arena Saturday, but which Sac State will the Bengals get?  The one that upset Colorado in Boulder three weeks ago?  Or the one that lost by 30 points at New Mexico State the week before?  ISU doesn’t care much as long as it plays well.  The Bengals look to get one of the great names in college football, Rodrick Rumble, fully untracked in the passing game Saturday.  Rumble set the Big Sky season record with 112 receptions last year, covering 1,348 yards.  He missed the first two games this season before making six catches last week in the 73-7 rout at the hands of Nebraska, but those covered only 39 yards.

A caller on KTIK’s Idaho SportsTalk said yesterday that Sawtooth Middle School’s Jim Core, better known as one of the replacement officials at NFL games, had his assignment for Week 4, assuming there was no settlement between the regular officials and the league.  Core might be glad there’s an agreement to bring the regulars back this week.  He was going to be sent to, of all places, Lambeau Field as the referee for the Packers-Saints game Sunday.  Oh would Core have received a warm welcome after what happened in Seattle Monday night (he wasn’t there).  And in the wake of the barbs from Drew Brees.  If you know Core, you understand that these replacements deserve some empathy for effort.

This Day In Sports…September 27, 1997, 15 years ago today:

Boise State suffers the worst loss in its history—a 58-0 shutout at Washington State.  The Cougars, in the middle of their first Rose Bowl season in 67 years, held the Broncos to 115 total yards—their second-lowest output ever.  It was (and still is) only the second shutout suffered by BSU as a four-year school.  Houston Nutt, in his only season as Bronco coach, gave the team a pep talk after the game, and it recovered to go 3-4 the rest of the season and beat Idaho in the Kibbie Dome for the first time in 16 years.

(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.)