Scott Slant

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Push comes to shove again: stop the run

by tscott


Posted on September 17, 2009 at 7:42 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 22 at 11:08 AM

The most noticeable difference in the Fresno State offense this year is quarterback Ryan Colburn flinging it all over the field. But reason numero uno that it's happening is the Bulldogs' old bread and butter.

Thursday, September 17, 2009.

The most noticeable difference in the Fresno State offense this year is quarterback Ryan Colburn flinging it all over the field. But reason numero uno that it's happening is the Bulldogs' old bread and butter. They've been running the ball with devastating effectiveness over the first two games, racking up 489 yards. That has put the defenses of UC Davis and Wisconsin on their heels and has allowed Colburn to strike almost at will. A fully healthy Ryan Mathews, who was injured and missed last November's 61-10 loss to the Broncos on the blue turf, is averaging seven yards a carry. And freshman Robbie Rouse is getting 7½ yards a pop. Dem's formidable apples.

Boise State has always been stout against the Fresno State rushing attack. Last year the Broncos allowed less than 2½ yards a carry, and the Bulldog offense was hung out to dry. And that was at a time that injuries had already taken a toll on the BSU defensive line--Jarell Root and Shea McClellin were already out, and Mike T. Williams was lost to a knee injury during that game.

This year's D-line has been phenomenal over the first two games, holding opponents to 69 yards rushing combined and 1½ yards per attempt. The starting tackles, Billy Winn and Chase Baker, have taken it up a notch. And defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has gotten very creative with his four ends, Root, McClellin, Ryan Winterswyk and Byron Hout. Wilcox has Root and Hout sometimes alternating between three-point stances and standing, moving starts at the snap, adding to offensive confusion.

Some general scene-setting for the annual Battle of the Milk Jug between Boise State and Fresno State: it may turn out to be a tussle for a vat of hot chocolate. It's a good thing BSU's been able to practice on toasty blue turf this week, because the high in Fresno tomorrow is supposed to be 98. You would expect a sellout for a game like this at 41,000-seat Bulldog Stadium, and they may yet get it. Last season's game against Wisconsin, a rare matchup between two ranked teams in Fresno, didn't sell out until the day of the game. This one's shaping up the same way. Fresno State is asking fans for a white-out to add to the atmosphere for ESPN. Speaking of which, a Scott Slant reader points out that tomorrow at noon ESPN Classic is showing Boise State's milestone 35-30 upset of Fresno State in 2001.

All this attention is being paid 'round these parts to what's up with BYU. After all, it's the Cougars who are perched ahead of Boise State as the nation's top-ranked non-BCS team. But Bronco fans would do well to pay attention to Utah this week. And why wouldn't they? The Utes gun for their 16th straight victory when they face Oregon at Autzen Stadium. BSU needs the Ducks to play well from here on out--and that's doubly true this week. By the way, LeGarrette Blount was back on the Oregon practice field yesterday as a scout team running back.

Have you ever seen Chris Carr run east-west instead of north-south on a kickoff or punt return? Me neither. But that's what Baltimore coach John Harbaugh identifies as one of the things that personify the Ravens' special teams woes right now. Carr, the former Boise State star signed as a free agent by Baltimore in the offseason, had two punt returns for just three yards and three kickoff returns for only 21 yards last Sunday in a 38-24 win over Kansas City. He was brought in for his runback skills--Carr is Oakland's career leader in kickoff returns. Carr was also picked up as a nickel in the secondary, though, and he contributed four tackles to the Ravens' cause. Baltimore plays at San Diego Sunday.

It's not often that the Albertson's Boise Open welcomes back its defending champion, but Chris Tidland will be back on the Hillcrest Country Club course as he tees off at 12:55 on No. 1 in the first round today. Tidland took the 2008 title with a blistering final round 64, earning him a four-stroke victory. But he finished 28th on the Nationwide Tour money list, three spots out of automatic PGA Tour card status. This season Tidland is a lock for "The 25" and a place on the big tour next season--he's currently second on the money list. By the way, this will be Tidland's eighth appearance in the Boise Open. His first was back in 1996.

The feature local players in this year's Albertson's Boise Open, Tyler Aldridge and Troy Merritt, tee off at 8:40am on No. 1 and 1:55pm on No. 10, respectively. Aldridge finished second at the Utah Championship last week, and Merritt won the Mexico Open Labor Day weekend in only his 12th Nationwide Tour start. One of the intriguing sidebars this time is the professional debut (in a PGA Tour-affiliated event) of Sam Saunders, grandson of Arnold Palmer. Saunders earned a sponsor's exemption, but it wasn't due to family ties. He starred the past three seasons at Clemson. Saunders is the last to go this afternoon--at 2:55 on No. 10, in a group with another big-time amateur making his pro debut, Rickie Fowler.

The competition will be fierce out there this week, as 14 players from "The 25" in 2008 are entered at Hillcrest. They've spent most of the season on the PGA Tour, but the playoffs for the FedExCup are down to 30 golfers, and they're available. The group is led by last year's Nationwide Tour Player of the Year Brendon de Jonge.

Detroit picked up former Boise Hawk Jarrod Washburn from the Mariners at the end of July to bolster its starting rotation. As the Tigers make their run toward the postseason, they'll probably have to find a new face for Washburn's spot. The 35-year-old lefthander allowed four runs in the first inning of an eventual 11-1 loss to Kansas City Tuesday night and was lifted when it became obvious that his ailing left knee wasn't going to hold up. The defeat dropped Washburn's record to 9-9 in a season that looked like it was going to produce his first winning record since 2004. He's 1-3 with a 7.33 ERA since joining the Tigers.

Northwest Nazarene University track standout Ashley Puga is one of nine finalists for the 19th annual NCAA Woman of the Year award. The honor goes to a senior student-athlete based on achievements in service, leadership, athletics and academics. We're talking all NCAA divisions here--this is a big deal for NNU. All nine finalists will be honored and the winner will be announced October 18 during a banquet in Indianapolis. Puga is a nine-time Division II All-American and a two-time national champion in the 800 meters.

This Day In Sports...September 17, 1994, 15 years ago today:

Boise State's magical '94 season is kick-started in the third game of the year as the Broncos upset Nevada, their only Division I-A opponent, 37-27. Offensive coordinator Al Borges emptied the playbook, scoring touchdowns on a flea-flicker and a hook-and-lateral to beat a team that had pounded BSU the year before in Reno, 38-10. Nevada would go on to a 9-2 season, and Boise State would be 13-2 after a trip to the Division I-AA national championship game.

(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.)