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Reality sets in with the Spartans awaiting

Reality sets in with the Spartans awaiting

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on August 29, 2012 at 7:29 AM

Wednesday, August 29, 2012.

Chris Petersen will tell anyone who will listen that he’s not pulling a Lou Holtz when he says Michigan State is Boise State’s toughest season-opening test of the past four years.  Maybe Oregon, Virginia Tech and Georgia went into their openers against Boise State with more renowned offenses, but none of them had a defense like the Spartans will bring Friday night.  MSU was sixth in the nation in total defense last year, allowing only 277 yards and 18 points per game, and it returns eight starters from that unit.  The Broncos have become known for opening the schedule in midseason form—well, never has that been more important than Friday.  And Petersen needs not remind you, but he will anyway: “Now we’re truly going into someone’s home court.”  The Georgia and Virginia Tech matchups were on semi-neutral fields; Oregon was in Bronco Stadium.

The Boise State offensive line will be under the microscope, facing a Michigan State defensive line that averages 6-4, 294 pounds and features projected first round draft pick William Gholston.  But Bronco O-line coach Chris Strausser has found a combination he likes.  Charles Leno Jr., who protected Kellen Moore’s blindside last year at right tackle, has moved to the left side to shield Joe Southwick’s blindside.  And Jake Broyles, who began 2011 as starter at right guard before a season-ending injury, returns to the starting lineup at right tackle.  “Most of those (O-line) guys have been in significant action,” said Petersen.  “We need to rely on those guys.”  And on Southwick’s decision-making.  “The problem is, (MSU is) very good at rushing the passer,” Petersen said.  “The ball’s going to have to be thrown on time, and it’s got to be accurate.”

Things you may not have known about Michigan State and Spartan Stadium.  Boise State plays at night all the time; MSU doesn’t.  Friday’s game will be only the 12th night game in the 89-year history of Spartan Stadium.  The last night game there—against Wisconsin last season—was one of college football’s best of 2011, as Kirk Cousins hit Keith Nichol with a 44-yard Hail Mary on the final play of regulation.  This will be the first time Michigan State has opened the season against a ranked opponent since 1998 against No. 15 Colorado State.  That also happens to be the last time the Spartans lost their opener (the Rams, in their final season in the WAC, won 23-16).

Boise State has thrived in some pretty impressive venues the past six years, so the Broncos should be able to avoid deer-in-headlights syndrome Friday in East Lansing.  But a good chunk of this BSU team hasn’t been on the field at a big-time facility like this.  Michigan State is christening its huge new south end zone scoreboard.  How huge is it?  The old one, built just 14 years ago, measured 567 square feet.  The new one is 5,300 square feet—almost 10 times larger.  And 130 feet tall.

On the front page of yesterday was a photo of Doug Martin.  Not because coach Greg Schiano had just named him Tampa Bay’s starting tailback over LeGarrette Blount (which he did).  But because the former Boise State star has become a Fantasy Football curiosity.  Eric Mack writes in his “Inside Fantasy Football” column: “Martin thoroughly outplayed LeGarrette Blount against the Patriots and looks like he might even be worth a late second-round (Fantasy) pick now.”  Mack lauds Martin for his blocking and pass-catching ability.  “As a healthy bell-cow in a running back-heavy Schiano scheme, Martin is a fantasy starter, if not a potential star,” says Mack.  “Blount is now nothing more than a handcuff pick, in Round 8 or later.”  Fantasy-speak.

One-time New York Jets first round pick Kyle Wilson appears primed to make an impact in his third NFL season.  It’s been a slow but steady climb since a shaky rookie year, but the former Boise State standout has been a relentless learner.  During the offseason Wilson, linebacker Bart Scott and running back Joe McKnight participated in mixed martial arts training.  “It was new, but I wanted to try it,” Wilson said on the Jets website.  “It was definitely a lot of hand-to-hand contact and that’s a good portion of what you do in football.”  Wilson nearly doubled his number of tackles last season over his rookie year with 41 and recorded the first two interceptions of his career.

Idaho’s captains for the 2012 season are all seniors: wide receiver Mike Scott, cornerback Aaron Grymes, and punter Bobby Cowan.  That accounts for a lot of the Vandals’ star power going into tomorrow night’s season opener against Eastern Washington in the Kibbie Dome.  Scott, a junior college transfer last year, has seen a rapid rise as a leader on this squad after topping Idaho last season with 55 catches for 691 yards and two touchdowns.  Grymes is the anchor of a secondary that will get a supreme test from Eagles quarterback Kyle Padron, the former starter at SMU.  And Cowan is the nation’s leading returning punter, having averaged 46.4 yards on a whopping 88 punts last season.  Idaho hopes Cowan’s not on the field too much tomorrow night.

The release of Idaho’s men basketball schedule yesterday shed some light on this year’s non-conference rivalry game against Boise State.  The contest will indeed be played at CenturyLink Arena instead of the Idaho Center.  The date is December 20, a Thursday night.  This should be a tough ticket—7,540 fans showed up at the Nampa venue on New Year’s Eve last year for the Broncos’ 76-73 win over the Vandals.  The Downtown Boise facility holds about 5,500 for hoops.

The Boise Hawks’ brief home run hiatus ended last night, carrying them to a 7-3 victory over Everett at Memorial Stadium.  The Hawks knocked a pair out of the park in the second inning to give them everything they needed.  Gioskar Amaya clubbed a three-run homer and Jeimer Candelario blasted a two-run shot.  It was the first homer for Candelario since July 16.  With Boise’s second-half record at 22-12, here’s something to consider: could the Hawks post a winning record overall this season after that ugly 13-25 start?  A sweep of the AquaSox this week would do it.

Had to throw this in for Giants fans—and Red Sox fans—because former Boise Hawk Tyler Colvin made them a little bit giddy the other night.  One of the most celebrated and scrutinized trades in big league history is the one consummated last weekend by Boston and the L.A. Dodgers, and one of the principles was veteran pitcher Josh Beckett.  Well, on Beckett’s second pitch as a Dodger Monday night, Colvin launched a home run off the facing of the third deck in right field, launching the Rockies’ 10-0 win.  Colvin, who starred for the Hawks the last time they won an outright division title in 2006, added a two-run triple in the bottom of the eighth, raising his season RBI total to 55 (he had another last night in Colorado’s 8-4 win).  He’s now batting .289 with 15 homers.

This Day In Sports…August 29, 1974:

A defining moment in basketball, as Moses Malone jumps directly to the ABA’s Utah Stars instead of honoring the letter of intent he signed with Maryland.  Malone was the first player to go straight to the pros out of high school.  Early entries into the NBA Draft became a problem in the mid-1990’s, and the current rule requiring players to be 19 years old and one year out of high school to be eligible for the draft was established in 2005.  Malone would go on to win three MVP awards in the NBA and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.

(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.)