Thursday, October 11, 2012.
There are legions of fans and pundits across the country saying that Boise State doesn’t deserve to be in the Top 25, that the Broncos don’t have a quality win, that their low national ranking on offense will catch up with them. Now we’ll find out what kind of a team they really have against Fresno State Saturday. The point spread started at nine points and quickly dipped to seven, as disbelievers took the points. Boise State’s only game against a ranked opponent was at Michigan State, and it was a loss. And the Spartans are long gone from the polls. The Broncos’ best win was against BYU in a game that saw them go without a touchdown.
So regarding those offensive stats, what is the truth? Southern Miss coach Ellis Johnson said, “Don’t be fooled by the numbers” after last week’s Boise State victory, saying the Broncos went for the jugular after every turnover—and that’s all they needed to do. On the other hand, they converted just 18 percent of their third down conversions against a team that had been giving up 51 percent. Boise State rushed for only 109 yards versus a Golden Eagles squad that had been allowing 222. Lack of production in the run game on first down has been a problem, leaving the Broncos in second-and-long too often. Their longest runs on first down last week were not by running backs—they were 12 yards by Mitch Burroughs and eight by Joe Southwick. And Burroughs isn’t on the field this week.
Now on the docket is the first truly potent offense Boise State has faced this season. The Broncos scored 40 points for the first time last Saturday—Fresno State is averaging almost that many (39.5). It’s been a statistical role reversal. Boise State’s offensive numbers sound like the Bulldogs’ numbers used to, and vice versa. Fresno State’s offense is 19th in the nation in scoring and 20th in total offense at 494 yards per game. It’s amazing how well the Bulldogs have adapted to coach Tim DeRuyter’s new spread offense. But all their playmakers have bought in, especially the wide receivers. Sometimes there are five of them on the field at the same time.
Fresno State won on the road for the first time last week. And it’s not a coincidence that the Bulldogs had something they didn’t have in their two losses. Star receiver Rashad Evans had to sit out the first four games of the season because of eligibility problems, but man has he made a splash since he came back two weeks ago. In the past two games, Evans has 14 catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns. Then again, the Bulldogs have three other receivers with four or more touchdown catches apiece already: Davante Adams, Isaiah Burse and Josh Harper. Sounds like echoes of Austin Pettis, Titus Young and Tyler Shoemaker.
Boise State, with all its warts, is still 4-1 and is still in the Top 25. The warts are starting to wane, though, and it’s due largely to the development of the Broncos’ freshmen. The recruiting classes of the Chris Petersen era have been increasingly strong, and there’s payoff this season. It takes time, but you’re seeing the development of players like Sam Ukwuachu, Tyler Gray, Darian Thompson, Jay Ajayi, Jack Fields, and Holden Huff before your very eyes. They’ll have to take another step Saturday.
The NCAA is sticking with its original decision, and Boise State has one more season after this to operate with 82 football scholarships, three under the FBS limit. The Broncos had appealed the scholarship ruling handed down by the NCAA earlier this year, one of the penalties related to the school’s violations uncovered from 2005 to 2009. Rather than exercise an additional appeal to which Boise State is entitled, president Bob Kustra says the university will accept the decision as final. The shame of it is the public perception, since so much time has gone by. Take this line from the AP story: “The NCAA cited major violations by the football program and other sports last year and placed the school on probation for three years and imposed other sanctions.” The major violations were in the women’s tennis program. In the football program, it was Couch-Gate.
It’s hard to pay much attention to Idaho State anymore. The Bengals so desperately want to recapture their lost fan base in Eastern Idaho. But they come home to Holt Arena this week to face UC Davis after losing on the road last week 77-10 to a Portland State team that came in at 1-4. ISU, which allowed 437 rushing yards to the Vikings, fell apart when things got out of hand, committing two personal fouls which resulted in player suspensions by the Big Sky. Senior quarterback Kevin Yost is anxious to get back on the field against the Aggies. “I think we’re ready to go,” Yost told the Idaho State Journal. “We just put it behind us and we’re ready to move on. We’re ready to go.” What else can he say?
A good start would make a huge difference to the Idaho Steelheads this season. Because a bad start a year ago led to a losing season—and a change of coaches. The Steelheads opened last October with a 4-1 win on the road at Utah, then were sent reeling with a six-game losing streak. The Steelies begin with the Grizzlies again this year, but this time it’s in CenturyLink Arena as Brad Ralph makes his debut as head coach tomorrow night.
Former Boise Hawk Ryan Flaherty made history last night in the American League Divisional Series. Flaherty and fellow Baltimore Oriole Manny Machado became the first rookie teammates ever to homer in the same big league postseason game. Both players hit solo shots, and those two runs kept the O’s ahead 2-1 until the bottom of the ninth when Raul Ibanez pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez and hit a home run of his own to tie the game. Ibanez did it again in the bottom of the 12th as the Yankees walked off with a 3-2 win and a two games-to-one lead in the series. Flaherty, a first round draft pick of the Cubs who played for Boise in 2008, hit six homers in 153 at-bats for Baltimore during the regular season.
Defensive play of the night in the Oakland-Detroit game last night came from Boise alum Josh Donaldson. With former Hawk Jerry Blevins on the mound in the seventh inning, Donaldson fielded a sharp grounder in foul territory beyond third base and threw from his knees to first for the out. Blevins pitched two perfect innings to keep the A’s within shouting distance as the Tigers held a 2-1 lead that was extended to 3-1. Then in the ninth, Donaldson doubled and scored the tying run before the drama was capped by Coco Crisp’s walk-off RBI single in the 4-3 Oakland victory.
Weiser gets a shout-out in the New York Times this week. With postseason baseball returning to the nation’s capital for the first time in almost 80 years, there’s been a lot of attention on the olden days in D.C. There was a story in the Times yesterday about Walter Johnson’s daughter, 89-year-old Carolyn Thomas. Late in Johnson’s career, the Senators brought home Washington’s lone World Series championship, with the “Big Train” pitching the final four innings of Game 7 in 1924, a 12-inning 4-3 victory over the New York Giants. The profile talks about a room where Thomas watches ballgames—kind of a shrine to her father. A collage of photos includes one of Johnson posing in the uniform of the Weiser Kids, the Idaho town team for which he pitched in 1906 and 1907 before the Senators signed him.
This Day In Sports…October 11, 1975:
The University of Idaho dedicates the Kibbie Dome with a game against rival Boise State. The arena had functioned for several years as “New Idaho Stadium” before the roof was added—it came about thanks to a donation from William Kibbie and contributions from student fees. On the field that day, the Broncos and Vandals tied, 31-31. Then on this day in 1980, Cedric Minter went over the 4,000-yard mark in career rushing and scored four touchdowns in a 44-21 BSU win over Idaho at Bronco Stadium.
(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.)