Monday, April 15, 2013.
Shortening the quarters to eight minutes apiece in Boise State’s Blue & Orange Game (as has been done in the past) was a blessing in disguise Saturday night. Everyone was in a hurry to get out of the wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour in Bronco Stadium. The players stayed warm with tempo, as the offense went almost exclusively no-huddle during the 95-play session. “We know how to huddle. We can huddle. We’ve got that figured out,” coach Chris Petersen said. “I think it’s good to do some of that with the crowd out here—it changes things a little bit—and see how we operate.” It required the quarterbacks on the sidelines to be in mid-season form as they signaled in plays, but there were only two false starts in the game. The pace gave the offense the advantage over a short-handed defense in a 28-19 victory.
The most impressive individual stretch came in the first half, as Joe Southwick directed a 75-yard scoring drive that featured the next big thing at running back, Jay Ajayi. The sophomore from Plano, TX, reprised his tackle-busting role of last year, gaining 42 of his 69 rushing yards and finishing with a three-yard touchdown run. Ajayi averaged 6.3 yards per carry for the game. Southwick took charge during his possessions and was a breeze-affected 12-of-20 on the night for 113 yards. The senior quarterback’s best drive was an 82-yarder in a two-minute drill at the end of the first half, capped by a nice 25-yard scoring strike to Geraldo Boldewijn.
Despite the relentless wind Saturday evening, there were 9,146 in the stands, and they were treated to some climatological wonders. The ball was sailing on deep attempts thrown north to south. Southwick had Boldewijn open on a deep route and the ball flew over his head. Same thing happened to Jimmy Laughrea and Aaron Burks. And there was Dan Goodale’s final extra point of the evening, going south to north, capping the offense’s winning touchdown drive. Goodale’s kick went up and through the uprights—then the wind forced it almost straight down, with the ball landing on the walkway at the bottom of the north end zone stands.
The defense was missing four probable starters, with each position group represented as Bryan Douglas, Jeremy Ioane, Tyler Gray and Sam Ukwuachu were all out. That allowed an interesting dynamic to play out on the defensive line, though. Junior college transfer Deuce Mataele, one of the beacons of the spring, started the game at tackle, allowing Tyler Horn to move back outside to end in Ukwuachu’s spot. Horn intercepted Grant Hedrick (and inexplicably didn’t finish the return for a touchdown—I maintain the final score should have been 28-25). Mataele had six tackles, two for loss, and forced a fumble. Redshirt freshman defensive end Sam McCaskill also looked good, most notably sniffing out a screen pass and tackling Derrick Thomas for a loss.
Petersen liked the look of the Broncos’ emerging linebackers, especially the leader of the pack, junior Blake Renaud. “He’s played a lot for us, so it’s almost like he’s a starter coming back,” said Petersen. Renaud led the defense with eight tackles, looking very much at home at middle ‘backer. Redshirt freshman Ben Weaver, last season’s Bronco Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year, contributed seven tackles, and junior Travis Saxton out of Eagle High had a solid outing with six stops.
Scrimmage No. 3 didn’t have the number of snaps that the first two did at Idaho, but it was still a very lengthy session in the Kibbie Dome Saturday. The Vandal offense scored 10 touchdowns and the defense one in the 118-play affair. Chad Chalich and Taylor Davis were again the only two quarterbacks to play, and again Chalich got the best of it. The redshirt freshman from Coeur d’Alene was 27-of-40 for 319 yards and three TDs, while Davis was 15-of-25 for 212 yards but threw four interceptions. One of the picks was returned 61 yards for a touchdown by Maxx Forde, and another was taken back 84 yards by D’Mario Carter. Idaho wraps up spring ball with the Silver & Gold Game this Friday night.
Let’s arbitrarily name an Idaho Steelheads Player of the Week. It has to be Andrew Carroll, who saved the Steelheads from facing a pressurized Game 7 against Colorado in the ECHL Western Conference quarterfinals. Carroll, who hadn’t played in Boise in 12 weeks thanks to an AHL call-up, returned to CenturyLink Arena ice with two of the more important goals of Idaho’s season Friday night. With the Steelheads in a precarious 3-2 hole and the clock winding down, Carroll tied the game on a redirect goal with 2:52 left. He then won it 1:43 into overtime to give the Steelies the win and a four games-to-two triumph in the series. The Western Conference semifinals begin Friday night at Ontario, which made quick work of the Utah Grizzlies in a first round sweep that ended nine days ago.
It’s been an interesting five days for the San Diego State basketball program. A CBSSports.com report last Wednesday said Franklin would forego his senior season to enter the NBA Draft, but SDSU coach Steve Fisher said that was premature and that Franklin still may stay. The 2012 Mountain West Player of the Year was still said to be gathering evaluations from unbiased NBA scouts. “I don’t expect a decision until next week,” Fisher told the San Diego Union-Tribune. Well, Franklin couldn’t wait, and he announced Friday that he’s moving on. Various mock drafts predict Franklin to go in the middle to late first round, but he’s going to have to answer to his 28 percent three-point shooting this season.
While Adam Scott was becoming the first Australian to win the Masters yesterday, the Web.com Tour was wrapping up the WNB Golf Classic in Midland, TX. Former Boise State star Troy Merritt had a middling weekend, finishing tied for 52nd after a two-over 74 in the final round that included five bogeys and one double-bogey. Merritt’s been in the money in all four tournaments he’s played this year—there’s just not as much money on the Web.com Tour. He earned $1,955 yesterday and has $30,544 for the season.
The Boise State men’s tennis team bounced back from its disappointing 4-3 College MatchDay loss to BYU last weekend with a road sweep of UNLV and Fresno State. The Broncos labored in their 5-2 win over the Rebels Friday. “It wasn’t pretty, but to be honest, being pretty isn’t necessary as long as you bring the pork home,” explained coach Greg Patton eloquently. The victory over the Bulldogs was plenty pretty, though. Boise State won the doubles point and didn’t look back in a 6-1 thumping.
This Day In Sports…April 15, 1947:
More than 25,000 fans witness history as Jackie Robinson bats second and plays first for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking major league baseball’s color barrier. It was Opening Day at Ebbets Field, and the 28-year-old Robinson, signed by Branch Rickey, went 0-for-3 against Boston Braves starter Johnny Sain but scored the deciding run in the Dodgers’ 5-3 win. Now it’s time to go see “42” at a theater near you.
(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.)