Tuesday, October 9, 2012.
Okay, so Boise State beat Fresno State the past two seasons by a combined score of 108-7. The Broncos have topped the Bulldogs 10 of the past 11 years, and many of the games were not close. But guess who’s not the lead man in red anymore? "Sure, they've had our number the past few years, but they've never beaten the 2012 Bulldogs and that's who they're getting ready to play—this team, not the past teams.” That’s new Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter in the Fresno Bee. The Pat Hill era probably went a couple seasons too long—for everyone concerned—but now it’s over. The Bulldogs are a strong 4-2. They lost by 17 points at Oregon (the Ducks’ closest game this season), and by one point at Tulsa. This ain’t your mama’s Fresno State.
For DeRuyter, the challenge is psychological this week. "We've got to get our guys to understand that there's nothing magical about that (blue) turf,” he said. “They're a very good football team, got excellent players and are very well coached, but we've got guys that when we play our brand of football we can play with anybody on our schedule." Quarterback Derek Carr has a well-documented Bronco flag on his wall given to him by brother David, a former No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Boise State shocked Fresno State with David at the helm in 2001, and he wants Derek to keep the flag up until he beats the Broncos. Carr’s only a junior, but Saturday could be his last chance, as the two schools aren’t currently scheduled to play again. "You already know that I'm excited about that game," said Carr. "They've been circled on my calendar for a long time."
Carr completed 17 of 30 passes for only 126 yards with no touchdowns and one interception last year against Boise State. But the plodding offense of the Pat Hill years has been replaced by an exciting, no-huddle spread attack, and Carr looks a lot more like his brother now. Check out Carr’s number’s this season: 68.5 percent completion percentage, 1,816 yards, 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
If this is the end of the Boise State-Fresno State rivalry as we know it, what a way to go out—in a pivotal matchup to preserve a share of the Mountain West lead in the battle for the Milk Can. Is there more juice around the Bronco Football Complex this week? Boise State left tackle Charles Leno initially wouldn’t bite yesterday. “Our next game is our biggest game,” said Leno. “This is our Game of the Week.” Really? Isn’t there a little extra on this one? Leno eventually relented. “It’s Fresno,” he said.
Coach Chris Petersen confirmed yesterday that senior wide receiver Mitch Burroughs will be out for an extended period of time with the injured wrist he suffered at Southern Miss. Petersen lamented the loss of the multi-faceted senior, his work ethic and his attitude. “Someone else is going to have to carry the flag, and that’s the bottom line,” said Petersen. What about Burroughs is he going to miss the most? “We just miss him,” Petersen said.
While depth helps Boise State immensely at the wide receiver spot in Burroughs’ absence, Chris Potter becomes the sole focus as punt returner now. “Chris will major in that now,” said Petersen. But there has to be someone behind him. “We’re always working a couple guys (at that spot).” Petersen wasn’t at liberty to say who they might be. The names that are likely to be bandied about, though, include Burroughs’ brother, Dallas, and Shane Wiilliams-Rhodes. But Petersen puts an absolute premium on hanging onto the ball on returns, so there may be additional names bandied about.
There’s been a lot of talk about the freshmen contributing for Boise State this season. Let’s talk about a senior. Darren Koontz has been a classic dues-payer, a fifth-year senior who was seldom-used until this season. “It’s fun to see all my hard work pay off—just to get settled in there and not worry about it,” said Koontz. “It feels good.” Koontz played a lot down the stretch in the win at Southern Miss, recording two sacks. The second one came on the Golden Eagles’ last gasp fourth-and-17 at the Bronco 22-yard line with a minute and a half left. Koontz is one of 13 Broncos remaining who played in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl victory over TCU.
The roster churn has begun for the Idaho Steelheads. Four players were released yesterday, but nine players from AHL training camps are headed to Boise, including familiar names such as goaltender Tyler Beskorowany, forward Tristan King, defenseman Matt Case and forward Jacob Cepis. The NHL lockout has made young draft choices and fringe free agents available to AHL clubs, which in turn are sending more AHL players to the ECHL. NHL teams were able to stow some of their young talent before the lockout, and guys without contracts could make arrangements on their own. That’s even happened with ECHL teams—the Alaska Aces have four NHL-ers on their roster right now. It’ll be interesting to see the makeup of the Steelies for Opening Night Friday.
The ECHL’s 25th Anniversary season begins on Friday with eight games in seven states, including the Idaho Steelheads and Utah Grizzlies in CenturyLink Arena. The league began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states—now it features 23 teams in 16 states. For seven seasons the roster also included one Canadian province before the Victoria Salmon Kings folded after the 2010-11 season. The San Francisco Bulls join the ECHL this year, giving the Western Conference nine teams, while the Evansville IceMen, Fort Wayne Komets and Orlando Solar Bears come in as new entries in the Eastern Conference.
One of the core guys will be missing when the Idaho men’s basketball team opens practice Friday. Kyle Barone has been suspended indefinitely by coach Don Verlin for an unspecified violation of team rules. Barone, a 6-10 senior center, tied for the Vandal lead in scoring last season with 12.9 points per game and topped the team in rebounding at eight per game.
It’s very rare that an Idaho athlete lands in “Faces In The Crowd” in Sports Illustrated. And I would bet this is the first one ever from the sport of rugby. But Rose Bernheim, who hails from Mountain Home Air Force Base, is included in the weekly feature in the current issue of SI. Bernheim is a junior fullback on the Norwich University women's rugby team and broke the school career try-scoring record last month in a 34-15 win over Army. Bernheim is a member of the USA U-20 national team and was named a USA Rugby Division II All-American last season while helping the Cadets to a 20-2 overall record.
This Day In Sports…October 9, 1989:
The San Francisco Giants win their first pennant in 27 years, ending Chicago’s latest World Series dream. The Giants beat the Cubs 3-2 at Candlestick Park to take the National League Championship Series, four games to one. Will Clark hit .650 in the NLCS to win MVP honors, leading the Giants into a Bay Bridge Series against the Oakland A’s—one that would be interrupted for 10 days by the Loma Prieta earthquake.
(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.)