Monday, September 26, 2011.
Even if you’re a recent devotee of Boise State football, you understand the homage that must be paid to Tony Knap, the school’s first coach of the four-year era, who passed away yesterday at the age of 96. Knap took the reins of Bronco football in 1968 when the legendary Lyle Smith moved to the athletic director’s chair. Knap guided Boise State into the Big Sky in 1970 and earned the Broncos’ first three Big Sky championships and first three 10-win seasons. He remains the winningest coach in school history, with 71 victories in eight seasons. Knap built the Bronco fan base as we know it today, with the can’t-miss entertainment of an innovative pass-first offense that was way ahead of its time. His early success fostered the building of the current Bronco Stadium, and his run of championships resulted in the expansion to 20,000 seats in 1975.
Those wondering how poll voters would view Boise State’s 41-21 win over Tulsa Saturday night had to wait only 12 hours to find out. The Broncos dropped one spot to No. 5 in the Coaches Poll, and they lost one of their two first-place votes while staying at No. 4 in the AP Poll. BSU was jumped on the coaches’ list by Stanford, which had a bye. But the Broncos’ ranking last week was precarious to begin with—they led the Cardinal by only four points. Now, Stanford leads Boise State by two points. Note that both teams have more points in the voting than they had a week ago. How do the Broncos themselves feel about it? It’s still September, and they aren’t going to sweat the small stuff.
Let’s look at how Boise State did against Tulsa versus the other two top 10 teams the Golden Hurricane have faced in September. The Broncos had the best defensive numbers of any Tulsa opponent by far, holding it to 291 yards after Oklahoma State yielded 482 to the Golden Hurricane last week—and most of that was without G.J. Kinne at quarterback. Boise State is the first team to limit Tulsa to less than 400 yards. But voters must have put more stock in the offensive numbers, at least on the surface. The Broncos totaled 458 yards against Tulsa, while Oklahoma amassed 663 and Oklahoma State 543. Boise State’s 20-point margin of victory was also the smallest of the three top 10 teams the Golden Hurricane have faced.
To say Jerrell Gavins' senior year has started strongly would be an understatement. Gavins has three interceptions in the first three games of the season, including two Saturday night versus Tulsa. Gavins already has as many picks as last year's leader, Brandyn Thompson, had all season. And Thompson didn't get his third interception until game no. 9. The only one in the Coach Pete era to grab three as quickly as Gavins was his mentor, Kyle Wilson, who also collected his second and third in game No. 3—at Oregon in 2008.
I ran this on KBOI’s GameDay and KTVB’s True Blue pregame Saturday. I wanted to get it into the column today for posterity’s sake. The last time Boise State and Tulsa played on the blue turf was October 11, 2003. That game spawned one of the most famous lines in Bronco history, “Gandhi didn’t take a knee!” from coach Dan Hawkins. The Broncos, who had built a 20-0 halftime lead, were hanging on 20-14 but were marching in the final minute after struggling throughout the second half. They could have gone into the “victory” formation and run out the clock. But Boise State took it in and scored with 49 seconds left.
And what happened? The Golden Hurricane struck with an 80-yard touchdown pass on their next play, setting up an onside kick that would give them a chance to get the ball back and win the game. The Broncos recovered the kick, but Hawk was understandably asked at his Monday luncheon about not kneeling in the final minute. And Hawk had his answer: “Gandhi didn't take a knee, Martin Luther King didn't take a knee, Thomas Edison didn't take a knee, and I sure as hell am not going to take a knee.”
Now, it’s Nevada Week, a time Boise State has awaited for over 10 months. If you wonder why this is a big deal, you’ve been living under a rock and can’t figure out why you’re reading this column in the first place. Thanksgiving weekend 2010, anyone? This is 2011, though, and after a blowout loss at Oregon and a frustratingly close three-point win at San Jose State, the Wolf Pack was looking fragile. Until Saturday night, that is. Nevada should have beaten Texas Tech in Lubbock, leading most of the game before succumbing on the Red Raiders’ final drive, 35-34. The Pack has found a more suitable replacement for Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, as Cody Fajardo came on for Tyler Lantrip and rushed for 139 yards Saturday. Coach Chris Ault did use Lantrip again on Nevada’s final possession, though.
Idaho’s WAC championship hopes were dealt a blow out of the gate Saturday in a 48-24 loss to Fresno State in the conference opener in the Kibbie Dome. Despite doubts that they could, the Bulldogs were focused on the task at hand as opposed to this Saturday’s visit from Ole Miss, turning sophomore quarterback Derek Carr loose to the tune of 371 yards and five touchdowns. While the Vandal secondary was struggling with the deep ball in the second half, the Idaho offense had difficulty getting anything going after the intermission, with 55 total yards and two first downs. The Vandals have to go 5-3 the rest of the way to be bowl-eligible, and that’s going to be 5-2 barring a road upset of Virginia this week.
It’s official—the Bronco-Vandal rivalry will continue uninterrupted in men’s basketball. The long-rumored New Year’s Eve neutral court matchup between Boise State and Idaho is on for New Year’s Eve in the Idaho Center. It’s a one-year deal, with revenue to be shared equally. When the Broncos and Vandals were in separate conferences previously from 2001-05, the teams played home-and-home series in December. The only other time Boise State and Idaho have met at a neutral site was in the 1992 Big Sky Tournament in Missoula.
Former Boise State standout Troy Merritt has put together solid back-to-back weeks on the Nationwide Tour—in fact, they were identical on the scoreboard. Merritt finished tied for 11th yesterday at the Soboba Classic in San Jacinto, CA, shooting nine-under for the tournament. He also tied for 11th a week ago at the Albertsons Boise Open as he gears up for a probable Q-School run late this fall. The Boise Open champ, Jason Kokrak, tied for 25th yesterday. The winner at the Soboba in a three-way playoff was Ted Potter Jr., who missed the cut at Hillcrest Country Club. Elsewhere, the Boise State men’s golf team hosts its first tournament in more than five years today (believe it or not) as the Dash Memorial tees off this morning at BanBury. The 33-player field will play 36 holes today and 18 tomorrow.
This Day In Sports…September 26, 1998:
One of the most storied drives in Boise State football leads to a 31-28 upset of Utah in Salt Lake City. With 2:08 left, quarterback Nate Sparks replaced Bart Hendricks, who had a pretty good night. The Broncos had the ball on their own one-yard-line, trailing 28-24. Sparks marched BSU 99 yards, capping the drive on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Smith with 45 seconds left.
(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.)