Friday, October 25, 2013.
BYU is expecting to see a young, inexperienced quarterback take the field for Boise State tonight. Yes, those adjectives apply. Safe to say that’s one of the reasons oddsmakers have installed the Cougars as a one-touchdown favorite. Grant Hedrick can counter that by adding the adjectives cool, calm, collected and confident, but that’s a lot to ask. Hedrick is facing a team champing at the bit to beat the Broncos, who are 3-0 against BYU. Hedrick will be up against 60,000 rabid fans at Lavell Edwards Stadium. He’ll have to avoid being crossed up by a great Cougar defense, its lapses at Houston last week notwithstanding. Just remember that Hedrick doesn’t enter this daunting atmosphere as just any backup quarterback hidden on the shelf. He’s a coach’s son, and he was Oregon’s 4A Player of the Year in 2009.
I agree that there are similarities between Hedrick’s ascension to the Boise State starting spot and that of B.J. Rhode in 2002—broken ankle suffered by the incumbent, a predicted recovery window of 5-6 weeks, etc. But their situations are so different. Rhode was a senior backup filling in for a junior, Ryan Dinwiddie, who was going to return at midseason and take the Broncos the rest of the way. Hedrick is a junior backup filling in midseason for a senior, Joe Southwick. Even if Southwick returns for the last couple games of the season, Hedrick is the odds-on favorite to become the starter next year, and tonight’s start could mark the beginning of a 14-month journey. This is important stuff.
If this boils down to Hedrick versus BYU star linebacker Kyle Van Noy, look out. SI.com’s Chris Burke updated his NFL Draft Big Board this week, and Van Noy is No. 23, one spot ahead of Johnny Football. Writes Burke, “Van Noy's sack total is down this season—three total, thanks to a two-sack showing versus Georgia Tech—but he looks sharper as a total defender. He should be able to provide help in a variety of defensive sets at the NFL level, and I'd bet on him rediscovering his ability to find the QB sooner rather than later.” Does Burke define “sooner” as tonight? Van Noy has 26 career sacks, the second most nationally among active players. The senior needs eight more sacks this season to break the BYU career record.
With all the focus on quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Grant Hedrick, there’s been little wide receiver talk. But there should be. BYU’s Cody Hoffman has helped Hills’ rapid rise in the passing game, pulling in seven receptions for 156 yards in the wild win over Houston last week. Hoffman passed Dennis Pitta as the all-time receptions leader at BYU with 228, and his fourth-quarter TD catch tied him with Austin Collie for the school record with 30 receiving touchdowns. For the Broncos, this could be a big night for Matt Miller, who could bail out Hedrick in certain situations. Miller and Hedrick are roommates and already have a bond. This game could be the antithesis of Miller’s two-catch, two-drop night at Utah State two weeks ago.
There is a measuring stick going into the Boise State-BYU game tonight. The Broncos and Cougars played Utah State eight days apart earlier this month, and their offensive numbers are mirror images. BYU rolled up 438 yards and 31 points on the Aggies, while Boise State had 447 yards and 34 points. Of course (here comes that wild card again), the Broncos did their damage with Joe Southwick and 150 receiving yards from Shane Williams-Rhodes. Nobody knows quite what to expect tonight.
There are some basements Idaho would like to climb out of as it visits Ole Miss tomorrow. Considering the competition, the Vandals might find the door latched, though. They’re second-to-last in the country in total defense, yielding an average of 540 yards per game. Idaho also has a big fix to deal with on offense, as it still has allowed more sacks than any other team in the nation. Vandal QBs have been taken down 36 times. The Rebels’ pass rush has not been the best in the world, though, logging only eight sacks all season.
A couple NFL notes: Ian Rappaport of NFL.com reports that Tampa Bay is optimistic Doug Martin can return from his torn labrum in Week 10. Uh, this is Week 8. But the Buccaneers play just one game in the next 18 days after last night’s 31-13 loss to Carolina. Martin’s target would be a November 11 Monday Night Football matchup. Then again, Rappaport says if Martin suffers a setback, the Bucs will shut him down for the season. The St. Louis Rams have a bye this week, but wide receiver Austin Pettis is not laying low. The former Boise State standout will host his 2nd Annual Halloween Hangout and Costume Contest tomorrow in St. Louis, designed for 50 underprivileged grade school children. The kids get a lunch with Austin and a $10 gift card to play games with Pettis and other Rams players. Good for him.
The NBA Development League has tweaked its draft format in a fan-friendly way. The D-League has scrapped the hard-to-follow “serpentine” format that reverses the order of picks in each round. This year the Idaho Stampede get to choose fourth in the draft—and it’ll be that way throughout. The D-League Draft is scheduled for next Friday, and the Stampede have set up another draft party at Legends Sports Pub & Grill at the Boise Spectrum.
After one brief window in Boise, the Idaho Steelheads are already back on the road again, facing the Colorado Eagles tonight and tomorrow night. Like the Steelheads, Colorado is 1-1. It’s doubtful the Eagles have experienced as exciting a game as the Steelies’ home opener Wednesday night, the 3-2 win over San Francisco in overtime. Idaho will be without Hubert Labrie, who has been recalled to Texas of the AHL. The 22-year-old defenseman put up two shots on goal for the Steelies over the first two games.
Graham DeLaet rallied today on the other side of the world, clocking six birdies on the front nine at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A double-bogey on No. 12 brought him back to earth, but the former Boise State star still shot a five-under 67 and is tied for 13th in the 70-player field after two rounds. DeLaet had carded an even-par 72 in the first round after some early struggles. The $7 million CIMB Classic is the first official PGA Tour event in Asia.
What a way to take a loss. Former Boise Hawk John Lackey was solid through six innings in Game 2 of the World Series last night. The Red Sox righthander, making his first Fall Classic appearance in 11 years, had scattered four hits and had struck out five. Lackey was lifted when he put two men on with one out in the top of the seventh with Boston leading St. Louis, 2-1. Craig Breslow came in and loaded the bases. Then on a sacrifice fly by Matt Holiday that tied the game, Jonny Gomes’ throw to the plate got past catcher Jared Saltalamacchia. Breslow picked it up and tried to throw to third—and it sailed right into the stands. The Cardinals’ John Jay scored the go-ahead run, Daniel Descalso added another, and the Cards went on to win, 4-2, saddling Lackey with the loss.
This Day In Sports…October 25, 2003, 10 years ago today:
Boise State sets a school record for scoring in a game in a 77-14 romp over San Jose State in Bronco Stadium. The points parade eclipsed the 74 amassed in a shutout of Humboldt State in the first game played on the blue turf in 1986. The Broncos emptied the bench in the second half, and freshman quarterback Jared Zabransky came on to throw his first career touchdown pass. Coincidentally, it went 77 yards to former Nampa Bulldog Jerry Smith.
(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.)