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Sometimes the opponent plays into it

Sometimes the opponent plays into it

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on October 29, 2013 at 7:35 AM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 29 at 4:06 PM

Tuesday, October 29, 2013.

While cataloguing the areas in which his team needs to improve yesterday, Boise State coach Chris Petersen said there was one thing many were overlooking.  “I think BYU has a really good team,” Petersen volunteered at the outset of his press conference.  He noticed the slight toward the Cougars after the angst over Texas following their 40-21 win over the Longhorns last month.  “How about we give them some credit?”  Then it was back to what ailed the Broncos.  For one: “Our red zone offense isn’t effective enough.”  Another had to do with his admiration for BYU’s swarming defense: “You watch us—we might have one or two guys to the ball.”  And yet another concerned guys fumbling while fighting for extra yards, Shane Williams-Rhodes in particular.  “I think he should find a crease and hit it,” said Pete.  “And I think the same thing with Jay (Ajayi).”

Oh those turnovers.  “You go from 46th in the country to 76th in the country in turnovers in one game, I don’t know if there’s much more to say after that,” Petersen said.  True, Boise State has not forced a turnover since the fourth quarter of the win at Utah State.  The Broncos were plus-4 in turnover margin after the USU game—they’re now minus-1.  “Every time we’ve played a really good team, we’ve done a really good job with (turnovers), created some things early, give ourselves some momentum,” said Petersen.  “We just got ourselves in a hole (at BYU), and it’s too hard to dig out.”

Tackling was a painfully obvious issue in Provo, especially in the first half.  “A lot of it has to do with guys you’re playing against—BYU has some pretty good players out there,” Petersen noted.  There was a small margin for error against the Cougars.  “If you’re not just right, and everybody’s not getting off blocks,” he said.  The Broncos need to swarm the ball like their defenses of the past.  “It can’t be put on just one guy,” said Petersen.  “You saw a lot of open field (against) just one guy.  Well, it’s a hard thing to do.”

Dan Hawkins said something interesting on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday.  He said NFL scouts are as impressed with Boise State’s practice regimen as anybody’s anywhere.  So to hear Petersen express concerns about the Broncos’ practice productivity was surprising.  “We don’t get that many reps in practice,” said Petersen.  “That’s why we need to start fast, whether it’s an individual drill or a team drill, it all just matters.  I think we could do better, there’s no doubt,” Petersen said.  “Good teams practice really, really well—at all times.”  So are the Broncos missing that traditional chip they’ve always had on their shoulder?  “I don’t know,” he said.  “We’ll see how we finish here.  The kids are working hard—they care about what we’re doing.  Now we just gotta go translate that out on the field on Saturdays.”

If Boise State wins out, it wins the Mountain Division and plays in the Mountain West championship game.  Thing is, the same is the case for Colorado State.  So the Broncos can’t look at the last four games of the regular season as a package yet.  A CSU win would give the Rams sole possession of first place in the Mountain Division pending their game against Utah State November 23.  “Definitely,” said offensive guard Spencer Gerke when asked if this game is extra important.  “We can’t (afford to) lose to those guys.  One game at a time.”

If you turn back the clock 5-7 years, the WAC’s three premier programs were Boise State, Nevada and Hawaii.  Fresno State had hit the doldrums by then.  You think the misery index is rising in Bronco Nation right now with BSU at 5-3?  It’s peaking for the Wolf Pack and the Warriors.  Nevada, at 3-5, is in danger of missing a bowl game for the first time in nine years after falling to rival UNLV—and with a game at Fresno State up next.  Hawaii, just six years removed from an undefeated regular season and a trip to the Sugar Bowl, is 0-7 and is now 3-16 under Norm Chow.  The announced crowd for the Warriors’ 35-28 loss to Colorado State Saturday night was 29,752, and you can be sure there were far fewer fans actually there.  UH finances are in crisis mode and depend on football to cover a big budget.  Attendance is a major problem.

I read the Las Vegas Review-Journal account of the UNLV win over Nevada that brought the Fremont Cannon back to Las Vegas for the first time since 2004.  Except in Vegas, it’s not “Nevada.”  It’s “UNR.”  Even the newspaper there refuses to call the school anything but UNR.  Now, it’s really being rubbed in.  It’s a habit that apparently extends to anyone who considers the Wolf Pack a disliked adversary.  In fact, Boise State radio analyst Pete Cavender, the former Bronco offensive lineman, never calls Nevada “Nevada.”  Cavender’s from Elko, and I think there’s a burr somewhere in his saddle.  It’s always “UNR” or “Reno.”  Always.

The St. Louis Rams had to muddle through with Kellen Clemens at quarterback in place of the injured Sam Bradford last night, but the game ended in thrilling fashion with Clemens throwing an incompletion on fourth-and-goal from the Seattle one-yard line.  The Seahawks escaped with a 14-9 victory.  Former Boise State star Austin Pettis, who had two catches for 33 yards, was the target a few plays earlier, but Clemens’ throw for a potential winning touchdown was just out of Pettis’ reach after he had cut away from the coverage of Seahawks corner Richard Sherman.  Pettis now has 27 catches for 286 yards and four touchdowns on the season.

Boise State was 49th in the nation among 345 Division I men’s basketball teams in rebound margin last season at plus-4.3, up from plus-2.9 in 2011-12.  But coach Leon Rice wants to take that up another notch, so he has a plan.  “My son was watching this movie and it just came to me,” said Rice yesterday, pulling out a photo of a once-dead individual who has come alive and is getting in Brad Pitt’s face.  “This is our rebound mentality, right there.  Who could keep the zombies off the boards?  Nobody.  Right?  Am I right?  So, that's our new motto of how we rebound.  Like the zombies in ‘World War Z.’”  Alrightee then.  The Broncos’ “Heat Up the Hardwood” event is tomorrow night. 

While Boise State opens the wrestling season at the Cowboy Open Saturday at Wyoming, senior Jake Swartz will be competing at the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic.  Swartz, ranked sixth nationally at 184 pounds, was selected by the NCWA for the U.S. Marines-sponsored event at George Mason University Saturday.  He’ll take on Maryland’s Jimmy Sheptock, who edged him 3-2 in the second round of the NCAA Champiosnhips in March.

This Day In Sports…October 29, 2003, 10 years ago today:

At the time we wondered how significant this would be.  Well, it’s turned out to be pretty significant indeed.  Six months after the third and final retirement of Michael Jordan, LeBron James makes his much-anticipated NBA debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The 18-year-old phenom was impressive, scoring 25 points with nine assists and four steals in a 106-92 road loss to the Sacramento Kings.

(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.)