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The guy got it right away, and he’s got it again

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant

KTVB.COM

Posted on October 22, 2012 at 7:31 AM

Monday, October 22, 2012.

Jerrell Gavins came to Boise State as a fish out of water in 2009.  He had gone from South Miami High School in Florida to El Camino College in Southern California to the Treasure Valley in Idaho.  With his dreadlocks (since shorn) and his 5-9 frame, he looked like a mini-Kyle Wilson.  Gavins learned from Wilson, and learned quickly—and found himself starting in the Fiesta Bowl in the Broncos’ special made-for-TCU defensive scheme.  By 2011, Gavins was a starter and made three interceptions in Boise State’s first three games.  Then came the injury that ended his season. 

This season started slowly for Gavins, who played as his knee permitted and shared time at cornerback with sophomore Bryan Douglas.  But Saturday was Gavins’ day, as he made his first pick since the Tulsa game last year, an acrobatic over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone in the second quarter.  On UNLV’s next possession, Gavins grabbed a fumble and raced 16 yards for a touchdown to give Boise State a 25-0 lead and essentially put the game out of reach in the Broncos’ 32-7 win.  Safe to say Gavins is back to 100 percent, a good omen for Boise State’s stretch run.

With his 59 yards Saturday, D.J. Harper established a career-high for season rushing yards in his unusual six years at Boise State.  Harper now has 608 after running for 557 yards last year.  Those numbers may seem modest, but they're a product of backing up Ian Johnson and Doug Martin, sharing time with Jeremy Avery, and seeing his season ended in 2009 and 2010 three games into the schedule with knee injuries.  Through it all, Harper’s touchdown total is not modest.  He scored two more rushing TDs against UNLV and has moved into a tie for fifth on the Bronco career list with 32.  Harper trails only Johnson, Brock Forsey, Martin and Cedric Minter.

What a way to see a shutout go by the wayside.  Backup quarterback Grant Hedrick, who had lost a fumble while running the wildcat during Boise State’s first possession of the game, came on in mopup relief in the fourth quarter.  And it happened again.  This time, it was just after UNLV had failed to successfully complete a 20-play drive when it missed a 22-yard field goal.  There were serious thoughts of a shutout at that point, but Hedrick coughed it up again on a scramble, and the Rebels’ Kenneth Perry scooped it up and ran it in from 30 yards out.  Just goes to show—as coaches always say—live game action can’t be simulated in practice.  Hard lesson for Hedrick.

The Black-Out worked.  In fact, the first-time promotion actually drew a larger crowd to Bronco Stadium than the game against rival Fresno State the week before.  There were 36,012 fans for the UNLV game, and easily more than 90 percent of them wore black.  Boise State made the right move by making it a daytime event.  Arizona State and Oregon State also conducted black-outs over the weekend, but theirs were at night, and all that black attire disappeared into the darkness in Tempe and Corvallis.  I saw those letters to the editor protesting that black is a Vandal color.  I think that was the furthest thing from anybody’s mind.  For fans it was like, “It’s a happenin’, and I’m participatin’.”

Last week the computer rankings helped Boise State in the BCS Standings; this week they hindered the Broncos.  Boise State moved up one spot to No. 21 on the BCS list last night despite climbing to No. 18 in the Coaches Poll and No. 19 in the Harris Poll, the two that affect the standings.  The Broncos’ average computer ranking was 20th last week—this week it’s 24th.  UNLV’s effect on their strength-of-schedule was pretty clear, and it won’t get any better with Wyoming coming up this week.  Among other non-AQ schools, Ohio is No. 23 in the BCS Standings and Louisiana Tech is bubbling under at 26th.  But agonizing over the “what ifs” of a BCS bowl is still premature.  Boise State was also No. 21 in the new AP Poll.

Two things of significance transpired late Saturday night in Reno.  Boise State moved into sole possession of first place in the Mountain West when Nevada blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead and was taken into overtime by San Diego State.  The Wolf Pack scored a touchdown in their overtime possession to go up 38-31.  Then the Aztecs followed suit—but went for a two-point conversion and got it for a 39-38 victory.  Earlier in the game, San Diego State quarterback Ryan Katz broke his ankle, ending his college career.  So it’ll be backup Adam Dingwell calling the signals when the Aztecs come to the blue turf November 3.

The past three days have been packed with news out of the University of Idaho.  Yesterday the school announced the firing of coach Robb Akey after 5½ seasons.  Akey’s infectious personality had worn thin with the UI administration and many fans in the face of mounting losses—and the Vandals’ 12th losing season in the last 13 years.  The clear highlight of the Akey area was the 2009 season, when Idaho went 8-5 and won the Humanitarian Bowl in a thrilling 43-42 win over Bowling Green.  But Idaho has lost 14 of its last 17 games, leaving Akey with a career record of 20-50. 

Jason Gesser, who two years ago was a high school coach, will be the Vandals’ interim head coach.  The former Washington State star quarterback was promoted to offensive coordinator at Idaho this season.  Who will the Vandals be able to attract considering the losing culture and the uncertainty surrounding independence (athletic director Rob Spear’s masterful assemblage of a 2013 schedule notwithstanding)?  Whoever it is, he will have to understand that FCS football could be in Idaho’s future two or three years from now.

On to the straw that broke the camel’s back in Akey’s firing.  Often the threshold for a solid balanced offense is 200 yards both rushing and receiving in a game,  Louisiana Tech doubled that on Idaho Saturday night in an epic show of offensive fireworks that ended in a 70-28 Bulldog victory.  La Tech put up a staggering 408 yards rushing and another 431 passing in rolling up a school record 839 yards, the most in the FBS this season.  The Bulldogs’ Kenneth Dixon rushed for 232 yards and six touchdowns and averaged 13.8 yards per carry.  It was the third time this season Idaho has allowed more than 60 points.

Two touchdowns to touch on yesterday involving former Boise State stars.  Doug Martin scored his second NFL TD, and it doubled as the longest run of his young pro career with Tampa Bay.  Martin broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and bolted 36 yards in the Buccaneers’ 35-28 loss to New Orleans.  He had 16 carries for 85 yards and three receptions for 37 yards on the day.  And Austin Pettis scored his first NFL touchdown, pulling in a 13-yarder from Sam Bradford in the Rams’ 30-20 loss to the Packers.

Ten days ago, Idaho Steelheads coach Brad Ralph focused on the positives he saw after the Opening Night loss to the Utah Grizzlies.  Ralph apparently knew what he was talking about, because he’s got some obvious positives now.  The Steelheads swept their three-game series at Colorado, capping it Saturday night with a 6-1 thrashing of the Eagles.  The six goals were tallied by six different players, and one of them was not Kael Mouillierat.  But Mouillierat has been a key ingredient on the offensive end for the Steelies, collecting two assists in the rout and five in five games for the season.  Rookie goaltender Josh Robinson has provided a solid changeup behind starter Tyler Beskorowany—Robison turned away 35 of 36 Colorado Saturday for his second victory.  Idaho returns to CenturyLink Arena Wednesday and Friday to host the Ontario Reign.

This Day In Sports…October 22, 1977:

In a showdown between the top two teams in the Big Sky, Boise State beats Northern Arizona, 26-13, at Bronco Stadium.  Freshman tailback Terry Zahner became the first Bronco ever to rush for 200 yards in a game, going for 205 against the Lumberjacks.  Amazingly, a fellow true freshman would break that record the same season when Cedric Minter ran for 210 yards against Cal Poly.

(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.)

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