Friday, October 19, 2012.
If Boise State is favored by 28 points over UNLV tomorrow, that means the Broncos would have to score 28 points. In the past that was not a problem, but these days you take nothing for granted. Boise State, of course, is not concerned about the point spread, it just wants to get win No. 6. So the Broncos will take another 20-point day from their offense as long as it’s more than UNLV scores. They just have to be careful about living dangerously. Boise State did it for awhile last November in Las Vegas, but it didn’t matter then because of the nature of the Bronco offense. The game was tied 14-14 until Matt Miller scored on a five-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Moore with five seconds left in the first half. Exhale.
If Boise State misfires and UNLV hangs around tomorrow, you never know. The Rebels are much-improved, with quarterback Nick Sherry on pace for the best season by a freshman QB in Mountain West history. Sherry is less than 900 passing yards away from the frosh record of 2,662 set two years ago by Colorado State’s Pete Thomas, and he still has five games to go. Junior running back Tim Cornett could help UNLV play keep-away—he has had 100-yard games in seven of his last 10 outings. Cornett didn’t play against Boise State last year.
Going into this season, D.J. Harper had four 100-yard games sprinkled among the different roles he’s played over the years in the Boise State backfield. Two of the four were against Fresno State (he got a third versus the Bulldogs last week). One of Harper’s other 100-yard efforts came last year at Sam Boyd Stadium after he came on for the injured Doug Martin. Harper averaged almost 8½ yards a carry as he rushed for 109 yards. He deflated the Rebels with 51 yards and a touchdown on back-to-back runs in the fourth quarter.
The Broncos would like to give Michael Frisina a rest in the red zone tomorrow, especially close to the goal line. Since Boise State has pulled back from going for it on fourth down, Frisina has been appearing more regularly down there. But the Broncos need touchdowns in the red zone, not field goals. They’re 109th in the country in red zone offense and have scored only 11 touchdowns in 28 trips. Frisina has kicked six field goals this season with the ball spotted inside the 10-yard line, including three 19-yarders with the ball snapped from inside the two.
UNLV’s last visit to Bronco Stadium was 35 years ago—hopefully it won’t be 35 more years before the Rebels return. Ironically, that 1977 meeting also came the week after a Boise State game against Fresno State (that one was on the road). The Broncos had put up just 69 yards of total offense against the Bulldogs, a record for futility that still stands. But the home game against UNLV presented an entirely different dynamic. It marked the return to Bronco Stadium of revered coach Tony Knap, who had left for Las Vegas in 1976. Boise State coach Jim Criner wanted the win in the worst way, and the Broncos routed the Rebels, 45-14. BSU bounced back stunningly from the Fresno State debacle, rolling up 629 yards of total offense.
I said a week ago attendance for the games after BYU would tell us something about fan demand for Boise State football in the expanded Bronco Stadium—and, therefore, whether it would be a long time before the next addition. Well, the Fresno State rivalry had enough pizzazz to draw 35,742, just over 1,000 short of a sellout. Tomorrow’s crowd will tell us more. You know, offense wins fans and defense wins championships. We’ll see how true the former is here. The buzz from the “Black-Out” is going to help.
The Mountain West schedule tomorrow features the “Triple Option Bowl” between New Mexico and Air Force in Colorado Springs. The over-under on the total number of passes thrown in that game is probably 15. The Lobos have won two straight since falling to Boise State at the end of last month. They cruised past Hawaii with 332 rushing yards, going over the 300-yard rushing mark for the fourth consecutive game and fifth time this season. That hasn’t happened at New Mexico in 40 years.
Idaho’s final game against Louisiana Tech tomorrow evening doesn’t promise to be a pleasant experience. The Bulldogs, still harboring BCS-busting hopes, are the top scoring team in the country, averaging 53.8 points per game. Yes, that’s more than Oregon. The passing combination of Colby Cameron-to-Quinton Patton has been en fuego for Tech. Cameron completed 44-of-58 for 450 yards and five touchdowns in last week’s 59-57 loss to Texas A&M. Patton had 233 yards receiving on 21 catches, one short of the WAC record set by BYU’s Jay Miller in 1973. The Vandals are 30½-point underdogs tomorrow in Ruston.
Austin Pettis hasn’t quite caught fire yet in his return to the St. Louis Rams. The former Boise State star came off his four-game PED suspension three weeks ago and has just four catches for 39 yards in three games. But Rams coach Jeff Fisher still considers Pettis part of the fill-in committee for Danny Amendola, the team’s leading receiver who was injured in Week 5 against Arizona. "When Danny was injured, we were asked, 'How are you going to replace him?'" Fisher said. "We said, 'Everybody was going to step up,' and they have. Austin Pettis shows up and helps to keep drives alive in the slot. Steve Smith makes some catches, so the guys are all contributing." The Rams host the Packers Sunday.
You’d expect things would calm down a bit tonight for the Idaho Steelheads after that wild 7-6 shootout win at Colorado Wednesday night. After all, you can’t count on Tristan King to score four goals again. The key to the final two games of this series in Loveland, CO, is probably between the pipes, as the Eagles are explosive. Steelheads goalie Tyler Beskorowany finished Wednesday on a high note that he’d like to carry into the weekend. After being pierced for six goals in regulation, Beskorowany turned away all eight Colorado shots in overtime before stopping four of five shootout attempts.
Optimist Football’s cream of the crop gets to play under the lights tomorrow night. The 2012 Optimist Youth Football Championships are set for Eagle High’s Thunder Stadium, with the junior (age 11) championship game between Boise Drake Mechanical and Kuna Dental slated for 6:30 p.m. and the senior title matchup pitting Nampa South Blue against Meridian White at about 8 p.m. This wraps up the 64th season of Optimist Football in the Treasure Valley.
This Day In Sports…October 19, 1974:
Perhaps the greatest comeback in Boise State football history falls just short in a 37-35 loss at UNLV. The Rebels, behind All-America running back Mike Thomas, raced out to a 30-6 halftime lead and upped it to 37-6 early in the third quarter. Bronco quarterback Jim McMillan brought BSU back, throwing for a record 454 yards that night. His favorite target was Mike Holton, who had a record 252 yards receiving. The Broncos’ final surge was stopped by an interception at UNLV’s 17-yard-line.
(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.)