What's up - or what's down - with the Boise State running game? Consistency, that's all. The Broncos were held to 101 yards on the ground against UC Davis. That seems shocking, but it's really not if you read between the lines.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009.
What's up--or what's down--with the Boise State running game? Consistency, that's all. The Broncos were held to 101 yards on the ground against UC Davis. That seems shocking when you look at their 214 yards per game going into that contest, but if you take away eight explosion plays in the Bronco rushing attack this season, that's kind of the way it's gone so far. BSU just didn't have any of those explosion moments last Saturday.
Over the first five games, the Broncos have had eight rushing plays go for 25 yards or longer, averaging a staggering 49.8 yards on them. The other 177 runs have averaged 3.7 yards a carry. Versus the Aggies, BSU netted just 3.1 yards per tote, and its longest run was only 13 yards by Jeremy Avery. The Broncos are hoping for a better sprinkling of those 10 to 15-yard bursts that have been a staple of their running game over time--a staple of any good running game.
That brings us to the Tulsa game a week from tonight on ESPN. The Golden Hurricane may have allowed 45 points at Oklahoma, but it's given up just 29 points combined and two touchdown drives in its four victories. And what Tulsa does best is stop the run. The Hurricane hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown all season and yields just 95 yards a game. In its 27-10 win at Rice last week, Tulsa accumulated four sacks and 12 tackles for loss. What makes it a little mysterious is the competition. In the four wins, the Hurricane has faced three teams ranked below 100 in total offense--and the fourth was a Division I-AA team.
What we do know is that a sellout crowd of 30,000 is likely at Tulsa's Chapman Stadium next Wednesday for the ESPN telecast. "We're going to need (fans) out here," coach Todd Graham said. "There needs to be a very loud and adverse place for Boise to come to." That's the same welcome the Broncos got at Bowling Green. They had better get used to that.
Boise State's Kellen Moore did not take over the national pass efficiency lead this week after Hawaii's Greg Alexander fell from grace last week (and eventually onto the season-ending injury list). With his big day against Washington, Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen snuck by with a 179.3 rating, compared to Moore's 176.6. Florida's Tim Tebow is third. Idaho's Nathan Enderle, meanwhile, has jumped all the way up to 21st on the list.
Who's leading the WAC in punt returns? It's not Boise State's Kyle Wilson, who hasn't gotten untracked in that department this year because of the way teams are kicking to him. But it is the Broncos' Chris Potter, who has just enough runbacks to qualify. Potter has returned six punts for 87 yards, a 14.5-yard average. Wilson is at 8.7 yards per return. Wilson, of course, sat out last week's game against UC Davis. And the week before at Bowling Green, he was forced into four fair catches and no returns, with the Falcons choosing to kick high and short to negate the man who took three punts back for touchdowns last year, tops in the nation.
Let's make a case for this being Idaho's best start in its history. The record, 4-1, isn't the best-ever, but the accomplishment is. The Vandals started 7-0 in 1994--and 6-0 in 1992 and 1993, with wins at Colorado State and Utah, respectively. But the rest of the non-conference schedules and the Big Sky slate don't measure up to today's competition. Idaho did start 4-0-1 in 1924 with wins over Oregon, Washington State and Oregon State. But that was, well, 1924. The same is the case with 1905, the Vandals' only undefeated season at 5-0. The victories that year came over Lewiston High, Montana State, Washington, Washington State and Whitman. Let's leave 2009 in a class by itself at this point. The Vandals look to go 2-0 in the WAC when they go to San Jose State Saturday.
The Boise Burn may be history, but their favorite son in the NFL is making headway in Indianapolis. Kyle DeVan, signed as a free agent by the Colts after the Burn's third game of the season last spring, is now in a rotation at the right guard spot with Indy starter Mike Pollak. "We think he's earned it," said Colts coach Jim Caldwell. "We were looking for an opportunity to get him in to play against some very talented guys. He's been practicing well and he's been performing well. We decided to put him in and give him an opportunity to play." The Indianapolis front office is adept at finding diamonds in the rough for its offensive line.
The Idaho Steelheads go from Darrell Hay to Darrell May in training camp this year. Hay, the popular defenseman who spent six seasons in Idaho, starting with the Steelheads' 2004 Kelly Cup championship, is now playing in Norway. May is a rookie who's trying to make the team as a center and right wing out of the University of British Columbia. He also spent five seasons in the Western Hockey League. May and the Steelies get a couple test runs this weekend against the Utah Grizzlies with exhibition games Friday night in Logan and Saturday night in McCall.
The Idaho Stampede will have a little continuity from the Bryan Gates years, as Joel Abelson will stay on as assistant coach under new head man Bob MacKinnon. Abelson joined the Stampede last year as the replacement for Ray Lopes, who was hired by Don Verlin at the University of Idaho. The D-League is a good fit for Abelson--he's been around the "developmental" aspect of the NBA for years, previously working under Joey Meyer with the Tulsa 66ers and in NBA player training programs.
This Day In Sports...October 7, 1984, 25 years ago today:
The late Walter Payton becomes the NFL's all-time leading rusher. Payton rushed for 154 yards in the Chicago Bears' 20-7 win over New Orleans to surpass Jim Brown's career mark. "Sweetness" ended up with 16,726 yards in 13 seasons; Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith eventually broke Payton's record. Not all roses for Chicago that day, though, as the San Diego Padres beat the Cubs in the final game of the National League Championship Series to extend the Cubbies' World Series-less streak to 39 years.
(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 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He also handles color commentary on KTVB's telecasts of Boise State football.)