Monday, October 11, 2010.
Funny that when Boise State has something to chew on, the Broncos are prone to devour. They looked at all those turnovers Toledo had been forcing, a whopping 16 of them through the first five games. The Rockets were plus-seven in turnover margin and among the national leaders. Well, now they’re plus-two after being skewered 57-14 by Boise State Saturday night, giving the Broncos the nation’s longest winning streak at 19 games. The term “forced turnover” is sometimes an oxymoron, and one of Toledo’s turnovers was silver-plattered (Brandyn Thompson’s interception). But the other four were indeed forced—one by the mind (Shea McClellin’s pick for a touchdown) and the remaining ones by the body (the three fumble recoveries).
Boise State actually left three more turnovers on the table, all of them interceptions. There were drops by Jonathan Brown and Jamar Taylor (although Taylor’s would have been a great play), and a clean pick by Ebo Makinde that was negated by a penalty. Bottom line: the takeaway/giveaway game has fallen in line with everything else that is happening with the Broncos this season. In the past two weeks, Boise State has gone from minus-one in turnover margin for the season to plus-seven, and BSU is now seventh in the nation in that category.
About the only thing the Boise State defense didn’t do was slam the door on a MAC superstar the way it did last year at Bowling Green. The Falcons’ Freddie Barnes is gone, and Toledo sophomore Eric Page has emerged among the MAC’s elite receivers. And Page did look the part, with 11 catches for 120 yards. Barnes set an NCAA record last year with an unbelievable 155 catches, 39 more than season runnerup Jordan Shipley of Texas. Barnes eclipsed the mark during the Humanitarian Bowl against Idaho, when he racked up 17 receptions. But he had only four catches for 24 yards against the Broncos last year.
Oh yeah, the polls. With Alabama having lost to South Carolina, it was shakeup Sunday, and Boise State moved back to No. 3 on both the AP and coaches’ lists behind Ohio State and Oregon. The Broncos also picked up their first-ever first place vote in the Coaches Poll. More importantly, Boise State was able to hold serve by landing at third in the first Harris Poll, one of the ingredients in the formula for the BCS Standings, which begin this Sunday. ESPN, which debuted its “BCS Countdown” show last night, revealed that a compilation of five of the six computer polls used in the BCS formula has Boise State at No. 1. With the footnote that strength-of-schedule would undoubtedly bump the Broncos out at some point.
Kellen Moore has played his part in the Broncos’ ascension, do ya think? Moore has moved into the No. 1 spot in the nation in pass efficiency, the one offensive statistic coach Chris Petersen pays the most attention to. Moore’s 183.3 rating is fueled by his touchdown-to-interception ratio of 14-to-1. He’s actually pacing ahead of last year, when he broke the NCAA record in that category. After five games in 2009, Kellen had 13 TD’s and two picks.
But Petersen would point to this even more than Moore’s pass efficiency rating: the Broncos’ final possession of the first half against Toledo. It was a “just because we can” drive, with Kellen moving Boise State 90 yards in 41 seconds. The Bronco offense was in knife-through-butter mode, with the Rockets gambling on blitzes and Moore continually delivering the ball on target before the pressure could get to him. You’ll recall that with 54 seconds left in the first half, a 31-0 lead, and the ball at their own 26-yard-line at New Mexico State, the Broncos elected to take a knee. But Toledo’s defense had some moxie, and Boise State took the opportunity to test itself.
Maybe Hawaii is doing its part now, too, in helping Boise State’s strength-of-schedule. That certainly wasn’t the Warriors’ motivation, but it was one of the end results after a 49-27 humbling of Fresno State Saturday night in Bulldog Stadium. Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz went nuts again, throwing for 376 yards and three touchdowns. It was the biggest victory in coach Greg McMackin’s UH tenure, now in its third season. Meanwhile, Nevada is ranked 19th in the AP, 20th in Harris and 21st by the coaches after a somewhat lackluster 35-13 win over San Jose State, Boise State’s opponent this week. The Wolf Pack’s opponent this week? How about Hawaii at Aloha Stadium.
Kyle Wilson will get a second look at Randy Moss tonight when the Jets host the Vikings on Monday Night Football. But how much Kyle bumps into him remains to be seen. Moss was traded to Minnesota last Wednesday by the Patriots, who were defeated by the Jets in Week 2. With Darrelle Revis now healthy, Wilson’s role with the Jets may further degenerate. The former Boise State star was relegated to nickel corner duties at Buffalo last week after a nightmarish experience at Miami two weeks ago. Drew Coleman started in the spot Wilson was supposed to occupy in Revis’ absence against the Bills—and Wilson was victimized at nickel corner on a 13-yard TD grab by Buffalo’s Steve Johnson. The game’s going a little too fast for Kyle four games into his NFL career.
The experimentation is over, and the Idaho Steelheads are four days away from the ones that count. The Steelheads split exhibition games with the Utah Grizzlies over the weekend, winning 5-3 in Boise and losing 4-2 in Logan. At least one facet of the Steelheads’ game was familiar, as last season’s leading scorer, Mark Derlago, scored a goal and added two assists Friday. New coach Hardy Sauter went with Tim Haun and rookie Billy Blasé in goal Friday and Blasé by himself Saturday as Sauter gauges backup candidates. The Steelheads open the regular season this Friday night when they host the Victoria Salmon Kings at Qwest Arena.
From feast to famine in 18 holes for Troy Merritt on the PGA Tour. Merritt played in the final group yesterday at the McGladrey Classic in Georgia, but his final round blew up on him. Merritt shot a 41 on the font nine and didn’t manage to make a birdie until No. 14. The former Boise State star ended with a five-over-75, dropped from second place to 33rd in the tournament, and slipped three spots on the money list to No. 126. The top 125 are guaranteed PGA Tour cards next year. Former Bronco Graham DeLaet actually finished ahead of Merritt in the tourney yesterday and stayed at No. 114 on the money list. There are three events left in the tour’s Fall Series.
This Day In Sports…October 11, 1975:
The University of Idaho dedicates the Kibbie Dome with a game against rival Boise State. The arena had functioned for several years as “New Idaho Stadium” before the roof was added—it came about thanks to a donation from William Kibbie and contributions from student fees. On the field that day, the Broncos and Vandals tied, 31-31. Then, 30 years ago today, Cedric Minter went over the 4,000-yard mark in career rushing and scored four touchdowns in a 44-21 BSU win over Idaho at Bronco Stadium. The Broncos would go on to win the 1980 Division I-AA national championship.
(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.)