Thursday, October 31, 2013.
Boise State has already faced one Shaq this season, and he was a good one. Shaq Thompson had nine tackles in Washington’s 38-6 season-opening win over the Broncos. Now Boise State takes on Colorado State’s Shaq Barrett, competing with the Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence as a Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Barrett has amassed 13.5 tackles for loss this season, third most in the nation. Lawrence has 11 TFL. Barrett and Lawrence each have 7.5 sacks, tied for fifth in the country.
The pair even has special teams wizardry in common. Barrett blocked two field goals against Cal Poly last month—Lawrence did the same for the Broncos versus Southern Miss. Barrett is in his third season at CSU after transferring from Division II Nebraska-Omaha, which dropped football two years ago. Lawrence is in his second year as a Bronco following a transfer from Butler Community College. It may be his last if he gets enough NFL interest in the next couple months.
Oddsmakers who have jumped off Boise State’s wagon seem to have jumped onto that of Colorado State. They go straight to two impressive performances by the Rams. They were 40-point underdogs at Alabama and lost just 31-6, and they were 6½ point ‘dogs at rival Wyoming and routed the Cowboys 52-22. The pickers also like the fact CSU has averaged 43 points a game over its last four outings. Oddsmakers have soured on the Broncos after they lost by 32 points at Washington, which was favored by just 3½, and by 17 points at BYU, which was a seven-point favorite. Boise State opened as a 10-point choice against Colorado State, but that number has dropped to 6½ now.
Here’s more evidence that statistics can be deceiving. Boise State has 216 first downs through the first eight games of the 2013 season, the fifth most in the country. The Broncos are also eighth in the country in third down conversions, making good on almost 53 percent. The 47 percent of the time they don’t convert third downs? That seems to come when they need them the most.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen has been cutting quarterback Grant Hedrick some slack during his first two weeks as a full-timer, but Petersen expects him to make progress moving forward. The quotes from Monday’s press conference have been out there, and they’re telling. “Grant was okay—solid (at BYU),” said Petersen. “Like we always say, we need better than solid at the quarterback position. We need darn good. But he’ll continue to take steps and improve.” Pass percentage is a big deal in Coach Pete’s book, and Hedrick went from 86 percent against Nevada to 59 versus BYU. “You need your quarterback to make some really good throws—stick it on guys,” Petersen said. “And when he’s doing that, our offense will play at a high level.”
The Idaho Steelheads are inclined to think that goalie Josh Robinson won’t have an extended stay in his latest callup to the Texas Stars of the AHL, but it could be long enough that the Steelies sought something beyond an emergency backup for current starter Pat Nagle. Idaho has picked up goaltender Garrett Bartus on waivers from Evansville of the ECHL. Bartus set the University of Connecticut single-season saves record as a junior for the Huskies, leading the NCAA with 2,305 stops. He’s expected to be in uniform tomorrow night when the Steelheads return to CenturyLink Arena to host the Ontario Reign.
After picking up more than $218,000 last week in Malaysia, Graham DeLaet follows the PGA Tour to China this week for the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Bill Cooney from PGATour.com’s panel of experts picks the former Boise State star, still waiting for his first tour victory, to win it this weekend. Cooney’s size-up of DeLaet: “Great ball-striker with pedestrian ball-striking stats during (his tie for seventh) at CIMB Classic (last week). Will only improve this week.” DeLaet carded a one-under 71 today and is tied for 28th, six shots off the pace. That’s actually a better position than he was in a week ago at this point. DeLaet is playing the first two rounds with Ernie Els and Lee Westwood.
Eleven seasons after becoming the first rookie in 93 years to win a Game 7 of the World Series, former Boise Hawk John Lackey got it done for Boston last night as the Red Sox clinched a world title on their home field at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918. Lackey went 6 2/3 innings in Game 6, allowing one run while scattering nine hits and striking out five. One year after missing a season following Tommy John surgery and two years after being at the center of the Red Sox “fried chicken and beer” clubhouse controversy, Lackey is back at the pinnacle.
The Boise State men’s and women’s basketball teams are fairly warmed up now after their free “Heat Up The Hardwood” event last night at Taco Bell Arena. It’s usually the slam dunk competition that draws the most attention at such an occasion, and James Webb III turned plenty of heads, just as he did at the Broncos’ open scrimmage a month ago. Webb, the sophomore transfer from North Idaho College, completed one jam after dribbling between his legs and threw another down following a cartwheel. The popcorn pops in a game situation tomorrow night when the Bronco men play an exhibition against Lewis-Clark State.
Idaho Stampede play-by-play man Mark Snider’s view of the team’s makeup ahead of tomorrow evening’s D-League Draft: “My quick read of last season’s roster for Idaho would seem to indicate that only Reggie Hamilton, and, if his knee holds up, Jason Ellis would be able to return this year. We know that Portland is sending E.J. Singler, Dee Bost and Richard Howell, but after that it’s going to be whatever players the Stampede draft tomorrow and anyone invited to camp from the open tryouts in Portland and Boise. Suffice it to say there will be essentially an entirely new roster this season (including assistant coaches and even the trainer).” The Stamps’ opener is three weeks away.
Back to football—Idaho State had a chance last week at Southern Utah and almost pulled it off before falling 19-9. Prospects would seem to be less rosy Saturday, as ISU hosts Eastern Washington, ranked No. 3 in the FCS, at Holt Arena. Idaho State promotes its passing offense, which usually posts decent numbers. But the story this year has been defense as the Bengals try to claw their way back to respectability. They were dead last out of the nation’s 121 FCS teams last season, allowing almost 571 yards and 54 points per game. This year the figures are 418 average yards (86th) and 27 points (tied for 62nd).
This Day In Sports…October 31, 2004:
The longest winning streak in NFL history comes to an end at 21 games when Pittsburgh brings down New England, 34-20. Rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw two first quarter touchdown passes as the Steelers built an 18-point lead, and the game was never in doubt. The Patriots’ run had encompassed their Super Bowl XXXVIII championship—they’d recover from this setback to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX.
(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.)