Friday, October 11, 2013.
Is tomorrow night’s tilt between Boise State and Utah State a de facto Mountain Division championship game in the Mountain West? Well, yes. If USU wins, it paves the way to the conference championship game. The Aggies would have a two-game lead on the Broncos and own the tiebreaker. Their remaining games are versus New Mexico, Hawaii, UNLV, Colorado State and Wyoming, and those final two against the Rams and Cowboys are in Logan. Boise State’s drama the rest of the season would be reduced to bowl speculation.
If Boise State wins, it has momentum, and it owns the tiebreaker against the Aggies. The Broncos’ remaining Mountain West games are against Nevada, Colorado State, Wyoming, San Diego State and New Mexico. Not that they’re all sure things, but if Boise State can win in Logan tomorrow night, it will show it’s capable of winning all the rest. Did you know? Utah State has won 13 straight conference games dating back to the WAC.
‘Twas a time that Boise State fans could dominate the stands at Romney Stadium in and create a home atmosphere. Take 2007, for example. There were 8,000 Bronco fans in Logan for Boise State’s 52-0 win over the Aggies. That was then, and this is now. There aren’t 8,000 tickets available to blue-and-orange people, as USU is gunning for its unprecedented third consecutive sellout of 25,500. However, at last check there were still tickets available.
One facet of the Boise State offense in the spotlight tomorrow night will be the passing game. It’ll be hard to run a lot on Utah State, but the Broncos may be able to throw despite the Aggies’ Mountain West-leading pass efficiency defense rating of 117.4. The Aggies have been giving up some deep balls, including completions of 60 and 43 yards last week by BYU’s Taysom Hill, who’s been kind of a passing-challenged guy. Hill threw for a career-high 278 yards in the Cougar win. Boise State’s Joe Southwick has a pass efficiency rating of 153.1, which—interestingly—is about a point better than Fresno State’s Derek Carr, and just four points behind USU’s now-injured Chuckie Keeton.
Boise State’s string of years with a marquee season opener will reach seven with the news that the 2015 season will begin against Washington in Bronco Stadium. The date will be either Thursday, September 3, or Friday, September 4, depending upon which of its feature spots ESPN wants the game in. The Broncos-Huskies matchup was originally scheduled for September 19. Beginning in 2009, Boise State has faced Oregon, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Michigan State and UW in succession to open the season on national TV. That will continue with Ole Miss next year and now the Huskies again the following season. Who’s going to fill that original date on Washington’s schedule? Utah State will play at Husky Stadium September 19, 2015.
Air Force had San Diego State on the ropes last night before the Aztecs rallied with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to top the Falcons, 27-20. The loss dropped the Falcons to 0-5 in Mountain West play. Elsewhere in the conference, there aren’t any games that’ll set your hair on fire tomorrow. But there will be some enlightenment. San Jose State’s and Colorado State’s seasons are at a crossroads as the Spartans and Rams play in Fort Collins. New Mexico and UNLV are trying to prove they’ve turned the corner. The Lobos will have a tough time doing that at Wyoming tomorrow, although the Cowboys do struggle to stop the run. The Rebels should nail their fourth win of the season, as they host Hawaii. Nevada, who visits the blue turf next week, has a bye (as does Fresno State).
Idaho punter and placekicker Austin Rehkow got the positive headlines following the otherwise forgettable 61-14 loss to Fresno State last Saturday. The Vandals hope they earn some more standard kudos when they visit Bryan Harsin’s Arkansas State Red Wolves tomorrow. Rehkow, the true freshman from Veradale, WA, was named the Ray Guy National Punter of the Week after averaging 51.1 yards on seven punts against the Bulldogs. Five of his boots topped the 50-yard mark. Idaho would prefer he not have to rack up that many punts in Jonesboro. Rehkow is averaging 47.5 yards per punt for the season. He’s 5-of-10 on field goals with a long of 41 yards.
Man, has the world view of Austin Pettis changed the past two years. The former Boise State star had a nondescript rookie year in 2011, which ended with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s PED policy. Pettis came on last season, and now he’s the guy St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford depends on. “You can’t say enough good things about Austin Pettis,” Bradford told ESPN.com. “I’ve said it since OTA’s. He’s so smart; you can put him all over the field. He knows every route that everyone’s supposed to run, and I can trust him. Of Pettis’ 22 catches this season, 14 have gone for first downs and four more have gone for touchdowns. Over the past two seasons, Pettis has 52 catches with 38 of them going for a first down or a touchdown. Sounds familiar to followers of Boise State. The Rams play at Houston Sunday.
Troy Merritt isn’t going to make the cut at his first PGA Tour event in two years. Yes, the stage is a little different now. Merritt struggled to a seven-over 78 yesterday in the first round of the Frys.com Open, the opening event of the reconfigured PGA Tour season for 2013-14. Merritt, the former Boise State star who earned his way back to the big circuit through the Web.com Tour Finals, bogeyed four of the first six holes on the CordeValle Country Club course in San Martin, CA.
While Portland is building, Utah is rebuilding as the Blazers and Jazz go into their exhibition game tonight at CenturyLink Arena. The new household names in Salt Lake City are going to be guys like Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke. Entering his fourth season, Hayward is already a grizzled veteran. Burke, the NCAA Player of the Year out of Michigan, was the ninth overall pick in the NBA Draft in June. Utah routed the Golden State Warriors 101-78 Tuesday night despite the absence of departed veterans Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, DeMarre Carroll, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley. The Jazz will see Williams and Watson tonight in Boise, wearing Blazers uniforms.
Other notes: The Idaho Steelheads play their first exhibition game against Utah tonight in Logan before returning to CenturyLink Arena to play the Grizzlies tomorrow night in the “season ticket holders only” game. Boise’s Brian Scott makes his first NASCAR start tomorrow in the Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Scott, who’ll be driving his No. 33 Shore Lodge car, earned his keep in the Nationwide Series this year with three top-five finishes, including a second-place result in Richmond, VA., last month. And the Boise State wrestling team will be ranked to begin the 2013-14 season. The Broncos, an affiliate member of the Pac-12, debuted at No. 20 in the Preseason InterMat College Rankings. They open the season November 2 at Wyoming’s Cowboy Open.
This Day In Sports…October 11, 1991:
Chip Beck, who just two weeks earlier was playing in the Albertsons Boise Open, ties Al Geiberger’s PGA Tour record by shooting a 59 in the third round of the Las Vegas Invitational. Beck birdied 13 of the 18 holes in matching Geiberger’s feat at the 1977 Memphis Classic. Despite the record round, though, Beck would finish third in the 90-hole Las Vegas event. There have been four 59’s since, from David Duval, Paul Goydos, Stuart Appleby, and—last month at the BMW Championship—Jim Furyk.
(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.)