Wednesday, September 15, 2010.
I was interviewed on a Salt Lake City sportstalk station 24 hours after the WAC/Mountain West day of disarray last month, and the hosts asked what game this season would be a “trap game” for Boise State. Didn’t take me long to say, “Wyoming.” Kirk Herbstreit zeroed in on this the week before the season even began on ESPN: Saturday’s trip to Laramie is a trap game in waiting for the Broncos. Not only because it’s sandwiched between the endlessly-hyped matchups against Virginia Tech and Oregon State (Herbstreit’s reason), but because there’s history here (my reason).
Not only did the Broncos struggle against the Cowboys in Laramie during the first Fiesta Bowl season in 2006, winning 17-10, Boise State got another stern test from the Pokes the following year, surviving 24-14. The ’06 game is the one everyone points to, as the Bronco offense managed just 246 yards and one touchdown (the other came on a 61-yard interception return by Quinton Jones). Jared Zabransky threw for only 116 yards and didn’t have one completion as long as 20 yards. The only weapon Boise State had was Ian Johnson with 119 yards on the ground.
The last game between these two teams in ’07 was a slugfest, with Boise State squeezing out just 303 yards of offense. It was Taylor Tharp’s least accurate night (15-of-30) in a season that saw him set a school record for completion percentage. That was the night Cowboys coach Joe Glenn accused BSU of piping crowd noise into its public address system (Glenn lasted one more season and is now a color commentator for the new WAC TV). By the way, remember everybody’s favorite pick for Boise State’s trap game going into last season? The Wednesday night visit to Tulsa. The result? A 28-21 Bronco win.
I saw last night that the high in Laramie Saturday is supposed to be 74 degrees. So weather will not be a factor. Truth be told, it wasn’t at FedEx Field on Labor Day, either, despite a summer’s worth of fear-mongering about oppressive humidity. The high in Washington that day was 86, but the humidity, while up there by Boise standards, was not stifling. And it was actually comfortable in the stands by the time the 8PM (EDT) kickoff rolled around. It’s altitude that everyone likes to harp on in Laramie, elevation 7200 feet. That’s where depth will come in handy for the Broncos, though. “(The altitude) has never been a problem before,” said coach Chris Petersen.
Did I mention “trap game?” Idaho’s contest in Moscow Saturday is just that for the Vandals. As bad as UNLV has been this century, it has new life under Bobby Hauck, who ended an incredibly successful run at Montana to take a shot with the Rebels. UNLV faced top 20 teams in its first two games, losing to Wisconsin, 41-21, and at Utah, 38-10. Hauck is anxious to try on someone the Rebels’ own size. And he’d like to show Vandals offensive coordinator Steve Axman how far he’s come—Axman, while head coach at Northern Arizona, gave Hauck is first full-time job as an assistant in 1993. Then again, Axman was an assistant under Hauck at Montana in 2006 before joining Idaho. Axman knows all about him and his 80-17 record and seven Big Sky titles with the Grizzlies. These staffs are familiar with one another; UNLV will bring some energy.
While WAC commissioner Karl Benson harped on the $5 million he’s demanding from Nevada and Fresno State in the days following those schools’ departure to the Mountain West, the focus of the WAC’s lawsuit is elsewhere. In a teleconference yesterday, Benson stressed scheduling chaos, the effect on the league’s ESPN contract, and its BCS qualification numbers in trying to keep Nevada and Fresno State from leaving early. With the financial crisis raging in the higher education systems in California and Nevada, one compromise I see is the Bulldogs and Wolf Pack staying through the 2011-12 sports year—and not having to pay the $5 million WAC exit fee.
You’re going to get to see Nationwide Tour money leader Chris Kirk make the rounds at Hillcrest Country Club when the 21st Albertsons Boise Open tees off tomorrow. Kirk’s PGA Tour card for 2011 is assured, thanks to an extraordinarily consistent season. The 25-year-old former Georgia Bulldog has won $407,673, with two victories and five other top 10 finishes. Kirk helped UGA to the 2005 national championship and was 2006 NCAA Player of the Year.
Now, let me throw out four names you’ve likely never heard of. These are the guys who made it through the Boise Open’s Monday qualifier this week out of the 78 golfers competing at BanBury. And their numbers will tell you it takes mega-talent to be even one of the last ones in at a Nationwide Tour event. Wil Collins of Albuquerque and Clay Ogden of Farmington, UT, both came in at nine-under 62, while Jason Allred of Scottsdale and Scot Parel of Augusta, GA, were at 64. Let’s see what happens with that quartet.
A key signing by new Idaho Steelheads coach Hardy Sauter, as forward John Swanson is back in the fold. The multi-tasking Swanson did duty at wing, center, and defense for the Steelheads last season and scored 53 points, helping them to the Kelly Cup Finals. He also played in the ECHL All-Star Game. And the Steelies have picked up a guy who’s a shoe-in for the league’s all-name team. Bear Trapp appeared in 31 games in the ECHL with Johnstown and Elmira last season, scoring six goals with 11 assists. We can only assume he isn’t related to team president Eric Trapp.
A little catchup on former Boise Hawks in the majors. Jeff Samardzija, the former Notre Dame wide receiver, has spent most of the season in Triple-A and is a September callup with the Cubs. Samardzija was sent down to Iowa as a downtrodden reliever, but has returned as a promising starter. He tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings in Cubs’ win over the Cards Monday night and is slated to get another start this weekend at Florida.
Also, the Marlins’ Adalberto Mendez dueled Cole Hamels last night and took the loss in a tough 2-1 defeat to the Phils. Mendez is 1-1 since being called up to the bigs. Former Hawk Rich Hill has been added to the 40-man roster of the Red Sox. Hill hadn’t pitched in the majors since early 2009 with Baltimore, but he came in to face (and retire) one batter against the Mariners last night at Safeco Field—and came out with the win in a 9-6 Boston victory. And Josh Donaldson was recalled yesterday by the Oakland A’s. He made his big league debut in May.
This Day In Sports…September 15, 1973:
One of those early-season skirmishes between Boise State and Idaho—early in the Bronco-Vandal rivalry. The game was played in New Idaho Stadium, the place that would get a roof and become the Kibbie Dome two years later. The Vandals, who had beaten UTEP the week before 62-14, marched through the visitor’s locker room before the game taunting the Broncos. Boise State responded on the field with a 47-24 win behind quarterbacks Ron Autele and Jim McMillan.
(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.)