Wednesday, October 16, 2013.
Boise State is looking for long-term effects out of Bryan Douglas’ short-term brilliance last Saturday night. It was a cornerback’s dream, being targeted on back-to-back throws into the end zone after the bizarre turn of events at the end of the first half at Utah State. After the Aggies blocked Trevor Harman’s punt out of bounds at the 12-yard line, the 5-9 Douglas broke up a conventional fade to 6-4 receiver Brandon Swindall. Then USU went unconventional, dusting off a special jump-ball play designed to go to 6-5 linebacker Kyler Fackrell, and Douglas foiled that one, too. “He’s competing at a pretty good level,” said coach Chris Petersen of Douglas, who also grabbed his fourth interception of the season. “Those guys can change your life out there.”
It’s easy to say “confidence-builder,” but man was that a confidence-builder for Douglas. And the timing is good. When asked about Nevada star wide receiver Brandon Wimberly Monday, Petersen said the magic word. “Fade.” Wimberly is spot-on when looking for the fade from quarterback Cody Fajardo, and the Wolf Pack are sure to try to get the 6-3 senior in man coverage against Douglas—or fellow 5-9 corner Donte Deayon on the other side. Or 5-9 Jonathan Moxey or 5-8 Cleshawn Page. Junior college transfer Mercy Maston is a relative giant at 5-11. “I think we’re making progress there,” Petersen said of the hot spot opposite Douglas. “All those guys are getting on the field—they all have their upside. We need to develop them.”
Wimberly debuted for Nevada in the season opener in 2009 at Notre Dame and caught the first pass of his career from Colin Kaepernick. Wimberly has snagged a reception in every game since—his 46-game streak is the longest in the nation. It almost ended last December at 40 games, as he needed a medical redshirt year from the NCAA in order to compete this season. Wimberly was shot in downtown Reno in June of 2011 and missed the season that year. “He cheated death,” former Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault told me in August of 2012. “He’s a poster child for our program.” Wimberly picked up right where he left off when he returned to the field last year. He now has 210 catches in his career.
The buildup to the Boise State-Nevada game would be incomplete without mention of perhaps the most painful night in Bronco history, the 34-31 overtime loss in Reno in 2010 that knocked BSU out of a possible Rose Bowl berth. But since then the Broncos have won two in a row over the Wolf Pack, including the 27-21 victory last year that gave them a share of the Mountain West championship. Boise State has won 12 of its last 13 meetings with Nevada. Thing is, you’ll never be able to take that 2010 moment away from the Pack.
The perception is that the rule was created for Boise State, which is pretty much the truth. But Fresno State is reaping some benefits right now. The Bulldogs, 5-0 and ranked No. 17 in the AP Top 25 and No. 19 in the Coaches' Poll, have earned a $500,000 bonus with the announcement that their game against San Diego State a week from Saturday has been moved up to ESPN2. The Aztecs get the dollars, too. Fresno State will receive $300,000 for appearing on a primary ESPN network and $200,000 for playing it on a Saturday. If the Bulldogs remain undefeated, they could pull in more TV money—their games against Nevada and Wyoming are currently under ESPN control.
Monitoring bowl projections has been a favorite autumn pastime around here for 10 years, since Boise State first had postseason options beyond the hometown Humanitarian Bowl. Not so much this year while the Broncos have been finding their rhythm. But it’s time to take a peek. USA Today’s latest bowl predictions have Boise State playing Notre Dame in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego. With a BCS bowl out of the question since the losing battle in Seattle, it’s hard to imagine a better scenario should it come to pass. It’s generally acknowledged that the Broncos won’t return to the Las Vegas Bowl for a fourth straight year. This would get Bronco Nation travelin’. Now there’s the matter of Boise State winning enough games to get there. Fresno State? The Bulldogs are projected by USA Today to play in the Fiesta Bowl against Baylor.
Supposedly the New York Jets will report something today on the status of former Boise State star Kyle Wilson. The 2011 first round draft pick left Sunday's 19-6 loss to Pittsburgh with what was called a “head injury,” but the Jets haven’t called it a concussion yet. If it is a concussion, Wilson would have to pass NFL protocol before being allowed to return to game action. It’s been a quiet year for Wilson—he has 11 tackles and one pass deflection so far.
The Idaho Steelheads’ roster sheet is a fluid document going into Friday night’s season opener at Utah. The Steelheads yesterday received three players from their affiliates in Texas and Dallas. The key guy is defenseman Hubert Labrie, who has played 53 games for Idaho over the past two seasons—23 of them in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Steelies also picked up forward Taylor Vause and defenseman Ryan Button. All three players have a wealth of AHL experience.
The Boston Red Sox never quite know what they’re going to get from John Lackey. But they got the best from the former Boise Hawk yesterday. Lackey tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series as the Red Sox blanked the Tigers, 1-0. And Lackey did it on the road in Detroit—against Tigers ace Justin Verlander. Lackey was the forgotten man in the pregame hype, but he’ll be remembered for this one, giving Boston a two games-to-one lead in the series. He called it the biggest game he’s pitched for the Red Sox since signing with them in 2010. Lackey is the only Hawks alum remaining in the majors from the Angels affiliation era. The 6-6 righthander pitched for Boise in 1999; he turns 35 a week from today.
Another former Hawk wasn’t as fortunate last night. Ricky Nolasco made his first start of the postseason for the Dodgers and yielded three runs over four innings in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. All three St. Louis scores off Nolasco came in a third inning outburst that included a two-run homer by Matt Holliday. It was, in fact, Nolasco’s first time on the mound in almost three weeks. The Cardinals went on to win at Dodger Stadium, 4-2, taking a commanding three games-to-one lead over L.A.
This Day In Sports…October 16, 1969:
They went into the season as 100-to-1 shots to win the World Series, but the New York Mets shock the world by beating Baltimore 5-3 to take the championship four games-to-one. Symbolizing the “Miracle Mets” moniker, the team earned that season, the Mets rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win the decisive Game 5. The surge began when the Mets’ Cleon Jones was awarded first base after shoe polish on the ball proved he was hit by a pitch. Jones then scored on a two-run homer by Donn Clendenon.
(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.)