Tuesday, November 17, 2009.
Time was that the Boise State-Idaho game was the final one of the regular season—or at least close to it. And when it was played in Boise, it would serve as Senior Day. Unfortunately, this year it did for Richie Brockel. The senior co-captain suffered a foot injury in the win over the Vandals Saturday, and his Bronco career is done. Brockel put the “blue” in blue collar for Boise State. He’s had all of eight carries (none this year) and 32 catches (eight this year) in his career, with 10 total touchdowns. But Brockel has prided himself on being a masher—the first brick at the point of attack. That’s been the foundation of his much-heralded leadership role with the Broncos. And that has had NFL scouts following him this season.
It’s hit fellow senior captain Kyle Wilson as hard as anyone on the team. “It’s kind of unreal,” said Wilson. “That’s part of the game, but it’s really unfortunate for a guy like Richie.” Wilson and Brockel are the only two players on the roster remaining who played in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. “I remember the days back in the dorms when we were freshmen—working out at 5 and 6AM,” said Wilson. “You just can’t imagine doing it with anyone else but him. He’s a best friend and a great teammate.”
Matt Kaiserman, the redshirt freshman from Skyview High who had the huge game at Hawaii in his college debut last month, is also out for the rest of the season. Kaiserman was bent over grotesquely at the end a fourth quarter run Saturday and broke his right leg. The start to his career was delayed by a concussion in fall camp in August—now the continuation is delayed as well. Just 3½ weeks ago, Kaiserman had 122 yards and a touchdown at Aloha Stadium. His brief freshman season was capped Saturday with the 11-yard touchdown pass he threw to Kyle Efaw. The status of wide receiver Tyler Shoemaker, who’s had ongoing problems with an injury and came out of the Idaho game because of it, has not yet been determined for the Utah State game.
Numbers are what it’s all about when you look at the fact that—despite a 9-0 record and a No. 6 national ranking and the second-highest scoring average in the country—Boise State had not been awarded a WAC Offensive Player of the Week honor this season as we reached mid-November. That changed yesterday. Nevada’s running backs had another off-the-charts day Saturday, but it couldn’t top the performance by Austin Pettis.
The Bronco junior made eight catches for 123 yards and a school record tying four touchdowns in the victory over Idaho. Pettis got bonus points for throwing for a two-point conversion, and he got style points for partially blocking a punt. Until now, every time a Boise State offensive player turned in a stellar game this season, another player in the conference had gone off. It’s just the way the chips fell. Actually, the Broncos had two players of the week, as Titus Young nabbed the special teams award on the merit of his 100-yard kickoff return against the Vandals, tying a school record set 28 years ago.
There are two ways to look at the Boise State-Idaho rivalry now that the smoke has cleared from Saturday. You have the “it’s not much of a rivalry” argument with one side riding an 11-game winning streak in the series. But it is, in fact, a rivalry. There was an electricity in the air last week that you just don’t get for any other game. It’s a different kind of feeling than the energy before the one-time-only extravaganza against Oregon. What would fans have done last week without all the cartoons, mocked-up photos and fill-in-the-blank jokes being cycled around by both sides? Think of all the teams that don’t have real rivals. Fresno State versus whom? San Jose State versus whom? Louisiana Tech versus whom? Utah State and Hawaii, too. May the Bronco-Vandal rivalry live long and prosper.
Now, the next game. That would be Friday night on ESPN2 at Utah State. And how many Boise State fans will travel to Logan? Two years ago, over 8,000 Bronco faithful turned Romney Stadium into a Boise State home venue for all practical purposes and assisted in a 52-0 victory. That fact is not lost on BSU, which has organized a “Bronco Fan Caravan” that will gather at 8:30 Friday morning at the foot of the Steuckle Sky Club. Kyle Wilson’s family will help lead the caravan in the now-famous “K-Dub RV.” The weather actually is not looking so bad—high of 51, low of 30. Just make sure you have rain gear. Could be a front blowing through during the game.
Independent BCS analyst Jerry Palm, an occasional guest on Idaho SportsTalk, doesn’t mince words when he talks to Boise State fans locally. He certainly doesn’t nationally. In a New York Times article yesterday, and again on IST, Palm rolled out the fact that seven of the eight lowest-rated games in BCS history involved non-BCS schools—and the Big East champion. Palm said on IST that Bronco fans need to root against Oklahoma State, because if the Cowboys win out, the Fiesta Bowl will take them over BSU in a heartbeat.
The Times article by Pete Thamel said that if both TCU and Boise State make the BCS pool, “a collective yawn awaits.” Said Palm: “When you guarantee teams like TCU a spot in this thing, and I don’t care how good they are, people don’t want to watch,” Palm said. “They want to watch the names that they’re familiar with.” You’ve got to give Palm credit for not just saying what local fans want to hear.
Regarding the retirement of Dick Tomey at San Jose State, we can lift a paragraph out of my Scott Slant the day before Boise State’s game against the Spartans on Halloween. “If it can’t happen with Dick Tomey in the South Bay, you wonder if it ever will. The respected veteran coach, whom co-workers call ‘a very young 71,’ is in his fifth season at San Jose State, and this one has to be the most frustrating of all.” And so it has been for Tomey, who will step down at the end of the season. Said Chris Petersen yesterday, “He’s always been so unbelievably gracious to this program and to me.” Meanwhile, UNLV has fired Mike Sanford, father of the former Boise State quarterback by the same name. Sanford is 15-43 in five seasons with the Rebels—he’ll remain with the team through its season finale December 5.
The Idaho Steelheads won’t have Trevor Ludwig at their behest for this week’s series against Victoria, but they’ll have forward Mark Derlago back in the fold. Ludwig has been called up by the AHL’s Texas Stars, while Derlago has been returned to Idaho by the Providence Bruins of the AHL. Derlago had a hot hand with the Steelheads to start the season, scoring four goals with six assists in eight games. The Steelies play the first of three games against the Salmon Kings tomorrow night in Qwest Arena.
Here’s a project for Boise State strength and conditioning coach Tim Socha. The Bronco men’s basketball team has officially signed the guy who gave a verbal commitment in September: 7-1 center Ben Mills of Hartland, WI. He’s a long-awaited big man, in a manner of speaking. Mills is listed as only 220 pounds. We’ll see where the weigh-in comes in when he joins the team next fall. And again after Socha puts him through the paces. Mills is an interesting study—the one stat that stands out is his 36 percent shooting from three-point range. Maybe he’ll be a Nick Fazekas-type guy. While Mills gears up for his senior season, his future teammates at Boise State are preparing for a Saturday date at Wyoming.
This Day In Sports…November 17, 1984, 25 years ago today:
The Idaho Vandals hand Boise State the first shutout in Bronco history, beating BSU 37-0 in Bronco Stadium. The victory saved a third straight winning season for coach Dennis Erickson and the Vandals, who were 2-5 in mid-October but finished the year with four straight victories. The shutout remains one of only two ever suffered by BSU—the other was at Washington State in 1997.
(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.)