Friday, October 22, 2010.
When we conduct a midseason report on Boise State football, we compare it with a team that went 14-0 last season and won a BCS bowl game. How much better can this year’s team be? Let’s take a look. After six games in 2009, the Broncos were averaging 38.2 points per game. After six games this season, it’s 47.5. Total offense a year ago: 429 yards a game. This season so far: 524. Alrightee then, how about defense? Points allowed after six games in 2009: 15.5 per game. This year: 12.3. Total defense at this time in ’09: 277 yards a game. This year: 210. What can you say?
Here are three areas that put an exclamation point on it. Boise State led the nation in fewest sacks allowed last season—after six games in 2009, the Broncos had allowed four. This year they’ve given up one. Defensively at this stage of the season last year, the Boise State defense had 10 sacks. This year it’s 20. And run defense, always a point of pride with the Broncos, gives us a jewel. Halfway through last season, opponents averaged 3.8 yards per carry. This year so far the number is 1.7 (those 20 sacks help).
There’s always something to work on in Broncoland, though. Boise State would like more takeaways on defense, and that puts the spotlight on interceptions. The Broncos have only five picks in six games this season—they had nine at this point last year. And certain facets of special teams have been a season-long bugaboo. You can see it in net punting (punting yardage minus return yardage). Boise State averaged 41½ yards net at the midpoint in 2009 and is at just 30 yards this season. And the Broncos are getting 22 yards per kickoff return after averaging 26 on this date a year ago.
Despite all the experts who say Boise State has no chance at the BCS Championship Game without a hurricane-like perfect storm, the majority of panelists at SI.com still see them there. In the website’s “Midseason Crystal Ball,” five of the seven analysts say the Broncos will play in Glendale a week after the Fiesta Bowl, against either Alabama, Oregon or Oklahoma. The other two on the panel place the Broncos in the Rose Bowl versus either Michigan State or Iowa. Chris Petersen was asked about the BCS standings yesterday at his press conference. And guess what: that’s the end of this paragraph.
I will say, though, that there was a great photo of a snarling Byron Hout on the SI.com homepage, along with shots of Oregon’s LaMichael James and Auburn’s Cam Newton. I guess they ran out of Kellen Moore pictures. Hout has been stellar at middle linebacker this season, the first time he’s played that position for Boise State. He wasn’t moved to linebacker because there was no room for him at defensive end. Hout was switched because he was too good a linebacker to waste. The former Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year at Lake City in Coeur d’Alene is fifth on the Broncos in tackles with 23 (two for loss). Everyone’s waiting for that first interception this year, so he can show off that spin move and stiff-arm he displayed in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl.
Boise State is a better team this season than the ones that beat Oregon the past two years. But, uh, the Ducks are better, too. What a nice little bowl matchup that would be, in whatever location. UCLA looked helpless in Autzen Stadium last night in getting pummeled by Oregon, 60-13. Can’t wait to see the BCS standings Sunday (if Oklahoma beats Missouri—and the possibility of the Broncos being jumped not withstanding). Let’s see: Oklahoma beat Texas 28-20, UCLA beat the Longhorns 34-12…
Idaho has a chance to get well in a hurry tomorrow when New Mexico State comes to town for homecoming. Although the Vandal offense should have a big day, it’ll be tough for Justin Veltung to top what he did last week at Louisiana Tech. The sophomore wideout had six receptions for 140 yards and became only the third Idaho receiver ever to record four touchdown catches in a single game, joining Yo Murphy (1992) and Jerry Hendren (three times in 1968-69). Another thing that’ll be tough to match, even against the Aggies: Veltung, Daniel Hardy and Eric Greenwood all went over 100 yards in receiving last week, the first time that’s happened for the Vandals in 14 years.
Several curves have been thrown Legedu Naanee’s way going into Week 7 in the NFL. The former Boise State star didn’t play last week against the Rams and hasn’t practiced this week after straining a hamstring in the Chargers’ loss to Oakland two weeks ago. Naanee’s replacement, Patrick Crayton, led the Bolts in receiving last Sunday versus St. Louis, with six catches for 117 yards, making a case to keep his place in the wideout rotation. Crayton, who came over in a trade from Dallas before the season, is slated to start Sunday against the Patriots. And, star receiver Vincent Jackson is now set to return to San Diego a week from today, ending a season-long holdout. Naanee’s going to have to battle to maintain a key role. He had 11 catches for 181 yards on the season before his injury.
Idaho Steelheads coach Hardy Sauter says he expects to give one start in Alaska this weekend to each of his goalies, Tyler Beskorowany and Mike Zacharias. Beskorowany was brilliant in his Steelheads debut last Friday, blanking Victoria, 5-0. Zacharias was solid in relief of Beskorowany last Saturday in a 4-0 loss to the Salmon Kings. Sauter says Beskorowany will probably be in goal about 60 percent of the time this season, since he was sent to the Steelies by the Dallas Stars organization. The Idaho netminders will be facing a couple noteworthy Aces tonight and tomorrow night, Wes Goldie and Scott Burt. Goldie, the former Victoria Salmon King, scored his 290th career goal last Friday, the most among active ECHL players. Burt, one of the most popular players in Steelheads history, remains Alaska’s captain as he begins his third season up north.
Boise State men’s basketball is already just a week away from its first exhibition game—next Friday against Montana Tech in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos are actually well into preseason practice. The NCAA now allows teams the option this year of beginning earlier than the traditional October 15 start date, as long as they hold only 30 practices in the 40 days before their first game of the season. Coach Leon Rice decided to spread it out, holding nine practices that included five-on-five work before the first “official” day of practice last Friday.
This Day In Sports…October 22, 1977:
In a showdown between the top two teams in the Big Sky, Boise State beats Northern Arizona, 26-13, at Bronco Stadium. Freshman tailback Terry Zahner became the first Bronco ever to rush for 200 yards in a game, going for 205 against the Lumberjacks. Amazingly, a fellow true freshman would break that record the same season when Cedric Minter ran for 210 yards against Cal Poly.
(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 served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)