Monday, September 16, 2013.
Joe Southwick was in a zone Friday night in Boise State’s 42-20 win over Air Force. If he can bottle that up, who knows what can happen with the Broncos from here on out? Southwick’s 27-of-29 passing performance set a school record at 93.1 percent, breaking Jared Zabransky’s standard set against Utah State on Senior Day in 2006. And add in Grant Hedrick’s 2-of-2, and Boise State’s 29-of-31 ledger for 93.5 percent broke the FBS record for pass percentage in a single game, a 30-year-old mark set by UCLA against Washington in 1983.
The most impressive drive of Southwick’s night came on the final possession of the first half after the workmanlike Falcons had taken a 17-14 lead. The Broncos were faced with a first-and-22 at their own 13-yard line after a chop block penalty. Southwick completed a 15-yard strike to Geraldo Boldewijn on third-and-15 for a first down. Then Boise State was saddled with a first-and-25 at its 46 following another chop block infraction, and Southwick hit Aaron Burks for 22 yards on the next play to get the Broncos out of trouble. The drive ended with the first rushing touchdown of Southwick’s career to give BSU a lead it would not relinquish.
As the rain cascaded down at halftime Friday, everyone wondered if that would foster some fumbles after the intermission. It did, setting up atonement night for Boise State’s Jay Ajayi. The sophomore tailback had a solid first half against Air Force, rushing for 52 yards and a touchdown while averaging almost 7½ yards per carry. Then Ajayi fumbled on consecutive carries on the opening possession of the third quarter. The first one was recovered by teammate Marcus Henry, the second by Air Force’s Gavin McHenry, wasting a crisp 76-yard drive. But for Chris Petersen, that was two strikes, not three. Ajayi kept playing, and post-fumble he ran for 54 more yards and three more touchdowns, becoming the first Bronco since Doug Martin in 2010 to rush for four TDs in a game.
Air Force looked like its old self in the first half, methodically marching down the field while keeping the ball out of Boise State’s hands. The Falcons scored on all three of their drives while rushing for 139 yards. The Broncos tried to stay at home as taught against the option attack, but one block here and one block there was springing the Air Force runners, primarily quarterback Jaleel Awini. But in the second half, Boise State held the Falcons to 49 yards rushing and 3½ yards per play. Oh, and three points. The youth movement at linebacker looked positive—two of the biggest hits of the night came from freshmen LBs Ben Weaver and Tanner Vallejo. Weaver was delivering some serious contact out there, sharing the team lead by racking up nine tackles.
You can call him ol’ reliable, even though he’s only a junior. Boise State wide receiver Matt Miller registered his second career 100-yard game, 112 yards to be exact, on a career-high 10 catches against Air Force. That gives Miller 149 career receptions, moving him past Jay Swillie and Eric Andrade into seventh place on the Bronco all-time list just three games into his junior year. He is 80 catches behind the leader, Austin Pettis.
The crowd was good Friday night, announced at 36,069. But Bronco Stadium wasn’t full, and Boise State wants it to be. This should help: a limited number of discounted tickets for the Broncos’ remaining home games, with the exception of Nevada. There’ll be some $10 tickets available in the north end zone and some $25 tickets in sections 101, 111 and 130 for the Southern Miss, Wyoming and New Mexico, beginning this morning.
With Fresno State’s game at Colorado postponed by the horrific flooding in Boulder, the Bulldogs were able to turn their attention to this week’s showdown with Boise State two days early. There are two schools of thought regarding the effect this has on Fresno State. The Bulldogs retained their health—and their freshness—for the Broncos. But they could have used the competition from a Pac-12 opponent to overcome the second-half sleepwalking they did the previous week in a 41-25 win over Cal Poly. Meanwhile, the unplanned bye week, combined with losses by others, has vaulted the Bulldogs into the Coaches Poll at No. 25. They’re still second in line to get in the AP Top 25. Boise State continues to receive votes in both polls.
There’s the old adage that the greatest improvement in a football team usually comes between the first and second games of the season. For Idaho it was between Game 2 and Game 3, as the Vandals came tantalizingly close to an upset of defending MAC champion and Orange Bowl participant Northern Illinois Saturday in the Kibbie Dome. Idaho had leads of 21-7 and 28-14 in the first half and tied the game 35-35 on a one-yard fourth-quarter run by James Baker, who had 73 yards on 19 carries. But NIU star quarterback Jordan Lynch, kept out of sync by the Vandal defense much of the day, led two scoring drives, one after a Baker fumble, to put the game away. The Vandals lost three fumbles in the game, the other two by quarterbacks Chad Chalich and Josh McCain. The Idaho offense woke up, though, to the tune of 438 total yards against a stout defense.
Doug Martin got it going again yesterday, but the Tampa Bay offense couldn’t find enough of the end zone in a 16-14 loss to New Orleans yesterday. The former Boise State star rushed for 144 yards on 29 carries, eight of them during the Buccaneers’ final possession when they were cradling a 14-13 lead. But the Bucs missed a field goal with 1:10 left, and the Saints made one with five seconds left for the win. Other local NFL highlights from Week 2, Austin Pettis had a career-high eight catches for 78 yards and a touchdown for St. Louis in a 31-24 loss to Atlanta. And Quintin Mikell had seven tackles for Carolina in its 24-23 loss at Buffalo but left the game in the second half with an ankle injury.
Graham DeLaet isn’t done at the BMW Championship, but he doesn’t have much room to move when the third leg of the PGA Tour playoffs resumes today after being postponed by weather. DeLaet is one-under for the tournament and is tied for 43rd in the Lake Forest, IL, event. But the former Boise State star has the comfort of knowing his No. 5 FedExCup ranking going into the tournament won’t be affected much by today’s finish. Troy Merritt’s status in the Web.com Tour Finals changed markedly when he missed the cut Friday at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship. Merritt dropped from No. 16 to No. 29 on the Web.com Finals money list, but he’s still above the cut line for the final 25 PGA Tour cards available. There’s one event to go, the Web.com Tour Championship beginning a week from Thursday.
Quality big men are hard to come by for mid-majors, so it’ll be interesting to monitor David Wacker with Boise State during the middle part of this decade. Wacker, a 6-9 senior center from Converse, TX, has committed to the Broncos, according to Scout.com. Wacker gave his verbal after his official visit. Scout.com, which rates Wacker a three-star recruit, says he was also being courted by Nebraska, New Mexico and Western Kentucky.
The fall tournament schedule for the Boise State tennis team kicked off with a big win by No. 1 player Andy Bettles. The Englishman began his senior year by winning the Midland Racquet Club Intercollegiate Individual Championship in Midland, TX. Bettles dominated Soren Hess-Olesen of Texas in the title match 6-2, 7-5. Bettles has a preseason Division I ranking of No. 21, while Hess-Olesen is No. 10.
This Day In Sports…September 16, 1993, 20 years ago today:
Dave Winfield of the Minnesota Twins gets the 3,000th hit of his career off a fellow future Hall of Famer, Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley. Winfield accomplished the feat in the Metrodome, making him the first player to collect his 3,000th hit indoors. Winfield was also the first player to be drafted by an NBA, NFL, and MLB team, being selected by all three leagues in 1973. On this day in 1996, another Hall of Famer, Paul Molitor, registered his 3,000th hit.
(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.)