Friday, August 16, 2013.
Chadd Cripe’s analysis of Boise State season tickets in the Statesman the other day caused quite a firestorm. The Broncos have hit the wall in sales this season, down 2,200 from last year to less than 22,000 with three weeks to go until the home opener. And for every issue to be sliced and diced, there’s a point-counterpoint. The home schedule is less-than-desirable this year. But if Boise wants to be considered a football town, the opponents won’t matter. Attendance is still phenomenal in relation to other Mountain West schools. But that’s not who the Broncos want to be compared to. They want to be among the nation’s elite, and that has to be about selling out the stadium.
This is not the first time you’ve heard this, but yes, there are plans to get Bronco Stadium over the 50,000 mark in capacity. Someday. But there sure as heck isn’t any timeline on it. Just ask Chris Petersen. If Boise State’s going to make itself attractive to a power conference, it needs to show the potential for more stadium expansion and keep up with college football’s arms race. This is a crucial time if the Broncos are to have any chance of being included when the big boys break away from the rest of the FBS. If fans can’t afford tickets anymore in our low-salaried state, that’s one thing. But if they simply don’t want to pay the higher prices, then the future’s not important to them.
Fresno State is feeling like it’s heading in an opposite position. The Bulldogs’ shared Mountain West championship last year has energized the fan base in the San Joaquin Valley. “Everywhere we go, that’s all people want to talk about—‘how’s the team look,’” said quarterback Derek Carr. Fresno State averaged 30,915 fans per game last season (think back 10 years, and it’s hard to believe Boise State far out-distances Fresno State in attendance). But the Bulldogs got to that number by drawing just 27,513 for Colorado in September—and seeing the crowd count climb to 36,240 for the home finale against Air Force. “When Bulldog Stadium’s rockin’, there’s not a lot of places like it,” said Carr. I’ve played at Oregon, I’ve played in Boise, I’ve played at Wisconsin, Nebraska—and when Bulldog Stadium’s goin’, it’s up there with all those."
When you see what’s happening around us, Boise State’s plan for a “half practice/half scrimmage” Sunday night at Bronco Stadium makes sense. You have the cornerback position summarily decimated at BYU during fall camp. And at Washington, there’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ pinkie finger (surgery yesterday, by the way) and the undisclosed leg injury to starting defensive end Cory Littleton. Because of a lack of depth at a few positions—defensive line in particular—the Broncos are in preservation mode. But you’ll see enough snaps Sunday to get a feel for the defensive tackle and cornerback spots, both of which are under the microscope.
Dick Harmon of the Deseret News theorizes that BYU’s new offense is the culprit in the Cougars’ rash of injuries. “Is it possible BYU’s offense is going too fast, too hard?” Harmon wonders. “One goal of this trendy no-huddle attack is to stress the defense, wear it out, and fatigue defenders all over the field. It may be working too well. Guys are dropping like flies.” BYU has seen season-ending ACL surgeries to corners Trent Trammell and Jordan Johnson and a season-ending pectoral surgery to nose guard Tuni Kanuch. Nagging injuries to two other nose guards have left the Cougars with only two healthy players at the position.
Kellen Moore didn’t see much of the field last night in Detroit’s 24-6 preseason loss at Cleveland. The former Boise State great was 3-of-5 for just 13 yards, while his competition in Lions training camp, Thaddeus Lewis, was 4-of-6 for 38 yards. Moore played two series in the fourth quarter and Lewis one. If Detroit keeps three quarterbacks again this season (and there’s no guarantee it will), Moore will have a chance to further hone his craft with the Lions. Then he’d be in position to become Matthew Stafford’s backup next year, as Shaun Hill’s contract ends after this season. But that’s assuming Kellen would beat out Lewis.
Also in the Lions-Browns game, Boise State alums Billy Winn and Tommy Smith logged a tackle apiece for Cleveland. Elsewhere last night, Boise State alum Shea McClellin was stellar before he took a seat with the rest of the regulars in Chicago’s 33-28 win over San Diego. The 2012 first round draft pick had four tackles, including a sack of Philip Rivers that caused a fumble recovered by the Bears. And Richie Brockel had one catch for 15 yards in Carolina’s 14-9 loss to Philadelphia.
Idaho holds its second scrimmage of fall camp tomorrow morning, and one thing the Vandals don’t have to worry about is their kicking game. They’ve been set at kicker and punter for a long time, with four-year starters Trey Farquhar and Bobby Cowan the most recent stalwarts at those posts. Now the next generation is coming through—all rolled into one guy in the form of Austin Rehkow, a true freshman. Rehkow set a Washington state record last year when he booted a 67-yard field goal for Central Valley High in the Spokane area. He connected on a 44-yarder last Saturday in Idaho’s first scrimmage. Former Eagle High kicker Jace Johnson, incidentally, left the Vandal program during spring football.
Great pitching and potent hitting seldom work together like this. The Boise Hawks clocked their third straight rout of Eugene last night, beating the Emeralds 8-3. The Hawks broke it open with a four-run third inning, keyed by Lance Rymel’s first home run of the year, a two-run shot. On the mound, Dillon Maples was getting it done with quite the quality start, pitching five innings of one-hit, no-run ball and striking out nine. Maples’ record jumped to 5-0, while his ERA dropped to 0.96. This is the same Dillon Maples who was sent to Boise to get things straightened out after an 0-2 mark and an 8.31 ERA at Kane County in long-season Class A. Boise now checks out for the annual Western Idaho Fair road trip, an 11-game journey beginning tonight at Tri-City.
There’s at least an outside chance Justin Holiday, the Idaho Stampede’s leading scorer last season, will return to the club this fall. Holiday was released by the Philadelphia 76ers this week, and if he isn’t picked up by another NBA club, the Stampede will continue to hold his D-League rights. Holiday, a 6-6 guard, was called up from the Stampede on April 1 last year and averaged 4.7 points in nine games for the Sixers. He ended up in Philly partly because his brother, Jrue, was an All-Star point guard there. But Jrue was traded to New Orleans in a draft night deal in June.
Not a good day for Troy Merritt yesterday at the News Sentinel Open in Knoxville, TN. The former Boise State standout double-bogeyed the second hole, a par three, and posted two other bogeys on the front nine en route to a three-over 74. It would take a miracle for Merritt to make the cut now. He went into the tournament at No. 67 on the Web.com Tour money list as he tries to hang onto top 75 status that would get him into the Web.com Finals next month.
This Day In Sports…August 16, 1965:
After five increasingly successful seasons and about to enter a sixth, the American Football League awards its first expansion franchise to Miami. The team would be named the Dolphins and would debut in 1966. Two years later, with the AFL-NFL merger already announced and interleague play set to begin in 1970, the AFL expanded again, awarding a franchise to Cincinnati. The Bengals began play in 1968.
(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.)