Monday, October 14, 2013.
It was clear from the first possession Saturday night that Shane Williams-Rhodes was a centerpiece of the Bronco game plan at Utah State. Joe Southwick completed passes to Williams-Rhodes on the first two plays from scrimmage—for a minus-six yards. And Boise State started the game with a three-and-out for the fifth time in six games this season. But the rest of the way, Williams-Rhodes had 11 grabs for 156 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos’ 34-23 win in Logan. His 13 total catches tied for sixth-best in school history and were the most since Tim Gilligan set the school record with 16 at Louisiana Tech 10 years ago. Williams-Rhodes’ net yardage total of 150 was the result of the 5-6, 157-pounder being used to stretch the field, really for the first time in his young career.
Certainly Utah State missed Chuckie Keeton Saturday night. Big-time. But that doesn't explain what the Boise State offense was able to do to USU. That defensive unit is the picture of health compared to the Aggies’ hospital ward of an offense, yet the Broncos were able to put up more points than any of Utah State's other six opponents this season. Only Utah had more yards than Boise State’s 447 against the Aggies, by three. Utah State held USC to 270 yards and 17 points in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It was a confident if slightly uneven performance by Boise State in a game that had a lot riding on it.
Take away a bad decision or two (the deep throw attempt to Matt Miller was worse than the pick-six), and Joe Southwick was on-point for Boise State. The senior quarterback threw for a career-high 335 yards and two touchdowns—and had to endure a slew of drops. Southwick’s 30-of-44 stat line could have been more like 34-of-44. Miller, who had just two catches for 11 yards, did not look himself on this night. But Southwick used his other weapons, including those not initialed SWR. Eight different players caught passes, three of them tight ends (Holden Huff, Connor Peters and Jake Hardee). And there was even a completion on a screen pass to Jay Ajayi covering eight yards. It was Ajayi’s first reception since the Washington game.
It was not Boise State’s best night of the season on special teams. Dallas Burroughs managed just 39 yards on his three kickoff returns. And once the Broncos were penalized for holding on a kick return, starting a drive at the nine-yard line. Interestingly enough, the Bronco offense converted it into a touchdown on a drive of 91 yards. Then you had the infamous sequence at the end of the first half as Utah State called timeouts when Boise State tried the kneel-down beginning at the 51-second mark. Trevor Harman had his punt blocked. The saving grace was Charles Leno’s block of the Aggies’ ensuing field goal attempt. The other positive would be kicker Dan Goodale, who hit both of his field goal tries—including a career-long 39-yarder—and put six of his seven kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
Boise State picked up three points in the Coaches Poll, its first “honorable mention” nod since the loss at Fresno State. As for the Bulldogs, they dropped a spot last week in the Coaches Poll despite a 61-14 win at Idaho. This week they’re up three positions to No. 19—and they didn’t even play. Fresno State is up four spots in the AP Poll to No. 17. Elsewhere in the Mountain West, bowl eligibility hopes increased for two teams in particular Saturday. And neither plays Boise State this season. UNLV beat Hawaii 39-38 on a field goal as time expired, giving the Rebels their first four-game winning streak in 13 years. And San Jose State outlasted Colorado State 34-27 to even its record at 3-3.
Bryan Harsin picked up where he left off in the Bronco-Vandal rivalry in 2010. The former Boise State offensive coordinator and current Arkansas State head coach established the Red Wolf-Vandal rivalry and celebrated ASU’s homecoming with a 48-24 win Saturday night. The schools will be conference foes in the Sun Belt next year when the Vandals’ season of independence is past. The concern right now at Idaho is the health of quarterback Chad Chalich. The freshman from Coeur d’Alene left the game after two possessions with a shoulder injury. With backup Josh McCain already out, senior Taylor Davis came in and had a hand in a 17-point rally that pulled the Vandals to within a touchdown in the first quarter. But Davis’ old accuracy problem cropped up again, as he was just 14-of-39 on the night (36 percent). Idaho has a bye this week.
Well, there we had Sunday Night Football on NBC, Washington at Dallas. And then we had the starting lineups—and there was a Cowboys’ cornerback, a former Boise State standout, saying, “Orlando Scandrick, Los Angeles, California.” Scandrick’s been doing that a long time. In an Idaho SportsTalk interview this summer, he insisted he was going to say “Boise State.” Oh well. Scandrick contributed to the Cowboys’ 31-16 win with an interception and two pass deflections.
Elsewhere in the NFL as it pertains to ex-Broncos, George Iloka racked up a career-high eight tackles in Cincinnati’s 27-24 overtime win at Buffalo. Doug Martin rushed 16 times for 67 yards in winless Tampa Bay’s 31-20 loss to Philadelphia. And Quintin Mikell suited up for the first time in four weeks for Carolina and got the start at strong safety, making five tackles in the Panthers’ 38-10 romp over Minnesota.
The Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz left their mainline players in longer than many expected Friday night in the Blazers’ 96-86 win at CenturyLink Arena. It’s not like the NFL preseason, thank goodness. Just when you thought Damian Lillard was done for the evening midway through the second quarter, he came back in, drove the lane, and threw down a tomahawk jam with 5½ minutes left in the half, one of the highlights of the night. A minute later Lillard drained a three-pointer, was fouled, and converted for a four-point play. Then his fadeaway 1.4 seconds before the intermission gave Portland a 52-43 lead at the break. Worth the price of admission. Lillard, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, played well into the third quarter and led the Blazers with 23 points.
Local fans were fortunate enough Friday night to watch Utah’s first round draft pick, Trey Burke, because that’ll be it for awhile. The 2013 NCAA Player of the Year out of Michigan suffered a broken finger on his shooting hand in the first half of the Jazz’s 106-74 loss to the L.A. Clippers Saturday night in Salt Lake City. There’s no clear timeline yet on the length of Burke’s stint on the shelf. He scored seven points and dished out five assists in 25 minutes of floor time in Boise.
The transaction wire overshadowed the Idaho Steelheads’ two exhibition games over the weekend. The Steelheads lost their money man between the pipes, Josh Robinson, who was recalled to Texas of the AHL. Robinson’s call-up represents a trickle-down effect after an injury to Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. There was some consolation for the Steelheads as defenseman Patrick Cullity, who played 39 games foir Idaho last season, was reassigned to the club from St. John’s of the AHL. Pat Nagle got the start in goal Saturday night for the Steelheads and stopped 21 of 23 shots in a 2-0 loss. The Steelies beat the Grizzlies 6-5 in overtime Friday night in Logan. The season opens with the same two teams facing off this Friday night in West Valley City, UT.
Brian Scott earned a nice paycheck as a reward for his debut on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit. Scott finished 27th in the Bank of America 500 Saturday night at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and pocketed $92,718. The Boise High grad started the race in the No. 19 position and told the Statesman his goal was a top 20 result. But he was competitive—and he did finish the race.
Former Boise Hawk Al Alburquerque was part of Detroit’s stellar pitching performance Saturday night in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. The Tigers lifted starter Anibal Sanchez after the sixth inning in the middle of a possible no-hitter against Boston and called on Alburquerque, who pitched a perfect seventh with two strikeouts. It was his first appearance in a week, when he was charged with the lone run in the A’s 1-0 walk-off win in the Divisional Series. This time it was 1-0 vindication for Alburquerque and Detroit—the Tigers didn’t allow a hit until there was one out in the ninth inning. Last night, however, Alburquerque put one of the runners on base later to be plated by David Ortiz’s dramatic grand slam that led to the 6-5 Red Sox comeback victory in Game 2.
This Day In Sports…October 14, 2003, 10 years ago today:
It wasn’t a record-setting inning per se, but it was historic in baseball lore. The Chicago Cubs, leading 3-0 and cruising toward their first World Series in 58 years, were five outs away in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against Florida. Minutes later, Wrigley Field fan Steve Bartman had knocked a foul ball away from being out number two, a big error had been added at shortstop, and the Marlins had scored eight runs to stun the Cubs. They couldn’t recover in Game 7, and their legions of followers may never get over 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.)