Monday, September 17, 2012.
Boise State’s 39-12 win over Miami (Ohio) Saturday afternoon was just the tonic for the Broncos, for their own peace of mind, and for 2012 season impetus. They needed the offensive line to help get the running game going, and they did. They needed to see significant progress from Joe Southwick at quarterback, and they did. They needed to correct their tackling problems, and they did. The coaching staff had to get back to that cohesiveness that has been its trademark in the Chris Petersen era, and it did. With hungry BYU coming to the blue turf this Thursday after its emotionally draining loss to Utah, the Broncos took the step they needed.
The centerpiece of Boise State’s triumph over Miami was sixth-year senior D.J. Harper. Two weeks after being held to eight yards at Michigan State, he rushed for 162 yards, finally eclipsing his career high five years after doing a number on Fresno State with 153 yards as a true freshman in 2007. It was Harper’s fifth career 100-yard game. He rushed for three touchdowns to boot and got a fourth on a TD reception. Harper also scored on a two-point conversion. That gave him 26 points, the third-most in a single game in Bronco history. The only ones ahead of him are the two guys who scored five touchdowns in game, Ian Johnson against Oregon State in 2006 and Jon Helmandollar versus Louisiana Tech in 2004.
I talked last week about pass efficiency rating being a statistical priority for Boise State coach Chris Petersen. It’s funny how it all came together for Joe Southwick Saturday. To recap, a rating of 130 is average, 150 is good, and 170 is great. Southwick’s number at Michigan State was subterranean at 87.7. But his completion percentage went from 48 versus MSU to 77 against Miami (Ohio), and his passing yards jumped from 169 to 309 on the same number of attempts, 31. So Southwick’s pass efficiency rating for the day zoomed to an impressive 174.7. His season rating is now 131.9. He’s up to average. The next step is to reach good.
Raise your hand if you had to look up No. 40 in your program Saturday. You weren’t alone. You discovered that it was Armand Nance, a defensive tackle who burned his redshirt year and was inserted into the game early by Boise State. Nance made four tackles, one-and-a-half for loss, symbolizing the evolution that’s taking place with the Broncos. There are true freshmen who are already becoming regulars (I called them “peachfuzz primos” on Sunday Sports Extra last night). Jack Fields was another—he had 49 hard-fought yards on 13 carries to complement Harper. And, of course, there’s Shane Williams-Rhodes, the 5-6 dynamo who showed his stuff on the fly sweep with four carries for 23 yards and caught his first pass on the blue turf.
Boise State still has some convincin’ to do among the coaches. The Broncos reappeared in the AP Poll at No. 24 after the win over Miami. But BSU is now second in line to get in the Coaches’ Top 25—the Broncos were first among the “others receiving votes” in both polls last week. Amazing that Wisconsin, at No. 24, has hung onto its ranking among the coaches despite the loss at Oregon State and the missed field goal by Utah State that saved the Badgers Saturday. Also, Michigan State dropped to 21st in AP and 20th in the Coaches Poll after being stifled 20-3 by Notre Dame.
Doug Martin scored his first NFL touchdown yesterday, an eight-yard scamper that gave Tampa Bay a 17-6 second quarter lead over the New York Giants in MetLife Stadium. But the Giants did a good job of taming the former Boise State star in general, holding him to 66 yards on 20 carries while exploding for 25 fourth quarter points in a 41-34 victory. Another former Bronco scored his first NFL touchdown—a guy who never had a TD at Boise State. Seattle safety Jeron Johnson scooped up a blocked punt and danced three yards into the end zone to begin the Seahawks’ 27-7 pounding of the Cowboys. Also, Kyle Wilson got the start in place of the injured Derrelle Revis for the Jets at Pittsburgh and made seven tackles, but he and his secondary mates couldn’t stop Ben Roethlisberger in a 27-10 Steelers win.
Michael Putnam had a fine three days of golf at Hillcrest Country Club. He had at least of share of the lead of the Albertsons Boise Open each day on the way to posting the best three-round score in the tournament’s 23-year history. What he needed, though, was the lowest four-round score ever, and that’s what Luke Guthrie claimed yesterday to win the title. Guthrie carded a 6-under 65 and finished 22-under for the tournament, one shot better than the previous mark. He started the day down by two strokes but opened with a par-birdie-eagle and pulled away for a four-shot victory. It was Guthrie’s first win as a pro. Putnam was second in a group that included Richard H. Lee, Scott Gardiner and Steve Wheatcroft.
The winner’s share of $130,500 pushed Guthrie from No. 22 to No. 4 on the Web.com Tour money list. No more collegiate golf for Guthrie at Illinois, do you think? The Web.com top three remain the same, with Casey Wittenberg, Luke List and Ben Kohles all playing steady over the four days of the Boise Open. All is not lost for Putnam, as he jumped from No. 57 to No. 32 on the money list. Another strong showing could vault Putnam into “The 25,” the golfers that automatically earn PGA Tour cards for next season.
The NHL lockout, which became official Saturday night, surely wipes out the Dallas Stars training camp set to begin this week in Boise. It also negates the NHL exhibition game scheduled for a week from tomorrow night in CenturyLink Arena between the Stars and the Minnesota Wild. The game was almost sold out—the Idaho Steelheads have some options, including refunds, for ticket holders. They’ll make those official as soon as the game is officially cancelled.
Borah High grad Stephen Fife has certainly done enough to earn a major league victory, but he still doesn’t have one. In his first action since his latest call-up by the Dodgers (and his first for L.A. in a month and a half), Fife got the start yesterday against St. Louis. He allowed two runs on four hits while striking out a career-high nine at Dodger Stadium and left with the score tied 2-2. That’s how it stayed until the 12th inning, when the Cardinals pushed three runs across to win, 5-2. In four career starts, Fife is now 0-1 with a solid 2.49 ERA.
Back to football—there’s only one game worth mentioning in the Mountain West, Fresno State’s 69-14 pasting of Colorado. The Buffaloes are far worse off now than they ever were under Dan Hawkins. It was the Bulldogs’ second-biggest margin of victory in the last half-century. They put up 55 points in the first half alone, breaking a Mountain West record. Robbie Rouse became Fresno State’s career rushing leader on a 94-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and Phillip Thomas returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Maybe now the San Joaquin Valley will take notice. The announced crowd Saturday night in Bulldog Stadium was only 27,513. The Fresno State-Boise State game on the blue turf October 13 has just become a marquee matchup.
Idaho comes home from Death Valley with a school record $950,000 payout and a few good memories. They all came in a quarter-plus during the first half in what ended up a 63-14 loss to LSU. Vandal cornerback Gary Walker had an electrifying 94-yard interception return before being pulled down at the Tigers’ five-yard-line near the end of the first quarter. Idaho cashed in, starting the second with a four-yard touchdown pass to Mike LaGrone. The Vandals then mounted a seven-play, 81-yard drive, capped by a 22-yard pass to Jahrie Level to make it 21-14, LSU. The Tigers imposed their will from there in front of a crowd of 92,177. As for the payout, Idaho athletic director Rob Spear uses that as evidence why the Vandals need to try the independent route to remain in the FBS. The check for an FCS school, Spear says, would have been 50 to 60 percent smaller.
This Day In Sports…September 17, 1994:
Boise State’s magical 1994 season is kick-started in the third game of the year as the Broncos upset Nevada, their only Division I-A opponent, 37-27. Offensive coordinator Al Borges emptied the playbook, scoring touchdowns on a flea-flicker and a hook-and-lateral to beat a team that had pounded BSU the year before in Reno, 38-10. Nevada would go on to a 9-2 season, and Boise State would be 13-2 after a trip to the Division I-AA national championship game.
(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.)