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The Broncos, riding a fine line, finally go over the edge

The Broncos, riding a fine line, finally go over the edge

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on November 5, 2012 at 8:31 AM

Updated Monday, Nov 5 at 5:12 PM

Monday, November 5, 2012.

When San Diego State’s Colin Lockett gathered in the opening kickoff four yards deep in the end zone, I reckon a healthy portion of the 36,084 fans on hand were rooting for him to bring it out.  After all, the Boise State special teams had been routinely stuffing kickoff returners inside the 25-yard line, often inside the 20.  But 104 yards later (100 officially), the crowd had witnessed a bad, bad omen.  As someone in the stands behind me said, “Game on.”  Way to establish a rivalry, Aztecs.  You can point at a 100-yard second half by the Boise State offense that included six yards rushing.  Or the injuries and suspensions.  But the inexplicable special teams failures stick out like a sore thumb in the Broncos’ 21-19 loss.

After the heroics by Lockett came a couple bad Boise State punts—one by Trevor Harman and one by Joe Southwick—then the infamous one by Harman that was blocked and led to an eight-yard San Diego State touchdown drive.  The Broncos’ net yardage per punt Saturday night was 19 yards.  The yield on kickoff returns?  Almost 38 yards per runback, when it had been less than 18 going into the game.  Boise State usually earns a lot of what they call “hidden yardage” due to special teams, but not on Saturday.  Average starting field position for the Broncos was on their own 23-yard line; for the Aztecs it was their own 43.  Then there were the two-point conversions.  Boise State, after going 3-for-3 in the previous eight games, was a glaring 0-for-2 Saturday night.

Boise State’s dream of making a BCS bowl is squashed again.  But would it have really been a fit this year?  I could list the Broncos’ actual offensive statistics after their 276-yard effort against San Diego State, but the national rankings tell the story.  After being top 10 in scoring, total offense and pass efficiency the past two years (when they were also denied a spot at the BCS table), the Broncos are 66th in scoring, 88th in total offense, and 67th in pass efficiency.  And they’re 64th in rushing offense.  A team from an AQ conference team may have been able to sneak into a BCS bowl with numbers like this and not cause a stir, but not a non-AQ team without a signature victory.  On many levels, it was not meant to be this year.

The two-touchdown point spread favoring Boise State seemed reasonable considering the performance of the previous two weeks.  The Bronco offense was especially starting to look like its old self at Wyoming, moving the chains and contributing some dagger big plays.  But for quarterback Joe Southwick, after two steps forward it was one step back against the Aztecs.  His 20-of-31 passing line (64.5 percent) was a bit deceiving.  Southwick’s misses were noticeably off the mark, and the Broncos managed only 164 yards on those 20 completions.  To be fair, though, his 20-yard strike to Matt Miller at the three-yard line on fourth-and-15 in the fourth quarter was nails.

Through all that, Boise State hung onto its spots in the Coaches and Harris Polls yesterday.  But the Broncos did indeed drop out of the BCS Standings for the first time since 2007.  Boise State was No. 23 in the Harris Poll and No. 24 in the Coaches Poll, the two voting components of the standings.  But the Broncos’ average computer ranking was 36.75.  They had been ranked in the BCS Standings for 41 consecutive weeks, the longest streak in the country.  Boise State plummeted out of the AP Poll and is, in fact, now ninth in line to get back in.

Boise State’s going to give another California kicker a try.  The latest is Tyler Rausa, who has committed to the Broncos out of Riverside City College and is slated join the program in January.  Considering recent history, we refrain from hyping Gausa.  Boise State, seeking a replacement for the graduating Kyle Brotzman two years ago, got a verbal from Southern Californian Matt Goudis, who reneged and committed to Michigan, then reneged again and committed to Miami.  Maybe a blessing in disguise there.  The Broncos then went after Jake Van Ginkel and signed him, and that’s been nothing but trouble.  Van Ginkel is, in fact, suspended again.  And Sean Wale was part of the 2012 recruiting class and is redshirting, but he is seen primarily as a punter.  Placekicking has been a major headache for the Broncos since the tail end of the 2010 season.

Doug Martin had one 200-yard game in his Boise State career—that was a little over a year ago at Colorado State.  It was 200 yards on the nose.  What Martin did yesterday in Oakland was stunning.  He became the first player in NFL history to score three rushing touchdowns of 45 yards or more in a single game in Tampa Bay’s 42-32 win over the Raiders.  Martin’s long TDs went for 45, 67 and 70 yards as he ran for a franchise record 251 yards, the 10th-best mark in league history.  The Bucs rookie had a fourth score from one yard out to put the game away in the fourth quarter as he played in the city of his birth, cheered on by a contingent of family and friends from his childhood home in Stockton.  Martin is now the the NFL’s third-leading rusher this season.

Idaho couldn’t have written a better script to begin its first game under interim coach Jason Gesser Saturday.  San Jose State fumbled the opening kickoff and the Vandals recovered.  Two plays later Idaho was in the end zone with a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game.  But that would be the Vandals’ only touchdown of the day, and the Spartans went on to a 42-13 victory.  Logan Bushnell and Taylor Davis combined to go only 17-of-37 for 207 yards, one interception, and Bushnell’s TD pass to Najee Lovett.  But there will be no Chad Chalich sightings in the final three games of the season.  Gesser said last week he had talked to Chalich, and the Coeur d'Alene High grad said he wanted to remain a redshirt the rest of the season.

We’ll see if November has kick-started for the Idaho Steelheads now that they have the grizzly off their backs.  The Steelheads denied Utah goalie Andrew Engelage a league-leading sixth win with a 3-2 win Friday night at CenturyLink Arena, their first over the Grizzlies in four tries in the young season.  Kael Mouillierat tallied twice for the Steelheads, with each goal assisted by Justin Dowling.  Mouillierat and Dowling are both riding seven-game point streaks since October 17.  Idaho, which hasn’t lost in regulation in its last seven games, stays home for games against the Bakersfield Condors this Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

You can’t draw a lot from an exhibition game, but Boise State’s Ryan Watkins’ re-dedication in his junior year seems to be for real.  Watkins scored 14 points and pulled down a team-high nine rebounds in just 23 minutes in the Broncos’ 75-55 exhibition win over Saint Martin’s Friday night.  Watkins logged double figures in only three Mountain West games last winter.  Igor Hadziomerovic led the team with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting against Saint Martin’s.  Boise State looks ahead now to its season opener this Sunday afternoon against Texas Southern in Taco Bell Arena.

New Idaho Stampede coach Mike Peck is targeting a certain type of player for his first run at professional basketball, and he feels he got a bunch of them in the D-League Draft Friday night.  "The Stampede and Trail Blazers are saturating this organization with character,” Peck said.  "We will work hard, play hard and do things together."  The top pick has a good pedigree as he seeks to work his way back to the NBA.  Justin Harper, a 6-9 forward out of Richmond, was selected 32nd overall by Cleveland in the 2011 NBA Draft, and his rights were then traded to Orlando.  Harper played 14 games for the Magic last season. 

This Day In Sports…November 5, 2011:

Boise State’s Kellen Moore becomes the winningest quarterback in college football history as the Broncos beat UNLV in Las Vegas, 48-21.  He picked up his 46th victory, eclipsing the record held by former Texas star Colt McCoy.  Moore put an exclamation point on the milestone night by throwing five touchdown passes for the fifth time in his career, and 12,000 Bronco fans ventured down to Sam Boyd Stadium to see it. 

(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.)