Monday, November 14, 2011.
Virtually every coach before every season utters the words “if we can stay healthy.” That inevitably is followed by a discussion of depth. Boise State has built depth uncommon for a non-AQ school over the past five years, but it has been chipped away this year. And TCU took advantage in its 36-35 win Saturday in Bronco Stadium. At cornerback, Jerrell Gavins is long gone with a knee injury. Jamar Taylor made it through the first quarter—then couldn’t go any longer. Ebo Makinde, off to a bad start anyway, collapsed with an apparent hamstring injury on the second of two Casey Pachall bombs that went over him for touchdowns. And so the Broncos were left with a redshirt freshman, Quaylon Ewing-Burton, and a true freshman, Lee Hightower, and Pachall had a game for the ages.
But it wasn’t just the depleted secondary that resulted in Pachall’s 473-yard performance, the best by a Bronco opponent on the blue turf in 11 years. Boise State couldn’t get enough pressure on Pachall, a big factor. And Pachall was just plain better than anyone around here thought he would be. His acting job on those pump-fakes was money. And he also got his running backs isolated on Bronco linebackers for big gainers—witness Waymon James’ two receptions for 56 yards. Who'd a thunk it would be the arm of Casey Pachall that would take down Boise State's 35-game home winning streak?
With Doug Martin on the sidelines, you’d have thought Boise State had been dealt a serious blow against TCU. But the offense performed well Saturday, and a lot of it is thanks to D.J. Harper. His ability to run the rock gave Kellen Moore his play-action advantage. And Moore’s 320 passing yards and Harper’s 125 yards on the ground should have been enough to win the game. We also have to take note of Harper’s intangibles, escaping what looked like a sure tackle to bust a 32-yard run, and executing the Wildcat to perfection with an excellent fake to Mitch Burroughs, keeping the ball for a 17-yard touchdown. Harper had a second straight 100-yard game Saturday for the first time in his career. He's just happy to be playing this month. With season-ending knee injuries the past two years, this is the first time Harper has played in November since 2008.
But the depth deterioration struck the running back position, too, and when Harper hobbled off during Boise State’s time-killing drive in the final 5½ minutes, there was no Malcomb Johnson waiting, nor was there a Jay Ajayi. Johnson lost his season to a knee injury in fall camp, and Ajayi, who was redshirting anyway, injured his knee several weeks ago. It was left to Drew Wright to run the ball at crunch time, and his first two carries were all anyone could ask—eight yards for a first down and four yards on the next play. But then came the fateful fumble that gave the ball back to TCU for the Horned Frogs’ winning drive.
Boise State never did have depth at placekicker this season, and here I bury this subject in paragraph No. 5. Because it’s been covered at every bar, kitchen table and water cooler the past 40 hours. Coach Chris Petersen felt that Dan Goodale, after performing well in practice last week, was easily capable of making a 39-yard field goal on the last play of the game. What we may never know is why—with 21 seconds left, one timeout remaining and a third down at the TCU 20-yard-line—couldn’t the Broncos have taken another shot at the end zone? The clock would have stopped on an incompletion. In that case, though, BSU wouldn’t have had another play to move the ball to the middle of the field, and Petersen must have felt that was important.
Of polls and bowls, things have decidedly changed for Boise State after the loss to TCU. The Broncos dropped to No. 10 in the BCS Standings last night. They’re still eligible for a BCS bowl berth, but not an automatic one, since they aren’t going to be conference champions. Undefeated Houston is still behind Boise State at No. 11, but if the Cougars win the Conference USA title and remain unbeaten, they would get the guaranteed spot that goes to a non-AQ school finishing in the top 12 (or top 16 if the Big East champion doesn’t finish that high, which it won’t).
So, unless there’s some horse-tradin’ in the works (and if Boise State can win its final three games), the Broncos would appear to be headed back to the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas for the second straight season. Vegas gets first pick of Mountain West schools, and it’ll choose the team that’ll bring the most fans. That would put TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl, if that bowl doesn’t take hometown San Diego State. The Frogs could even end up in the Independence Bowl. Unless there’s some horse-tradin’ in the works, of course.
Idaho wasn’t expecting its offense to produce Saturday night at BYU the way it did down the stretch at San Jose State in the thrilling come-from-behind Vandal victory seven days earlier. But the Vandals had to expect more than minus-6 passing yards from starting quarterback Taylor Davis. Senior Brian Reader came on and got Idaho’s passing yards number up to 50 by the end of the game, which finished as a 42-7 BYU victory. Take away Princeton McCarty’s 82-yard touchdown run, and Idaho managed only 159 yards of total offense. The longest pass play outside of a 26-yarder from Reader to Mountain View High grad Daniel Micheletti in mopup time was 10 yards. The Vandals fell to 2-8, with Utah State and Nevada left on the schedule.
It’s hard to tell what to take from a 95-44 win over a Division II team, but the Boise State basketball team can zero in on one individual after Friday night’s rout of Colorado Christian. True freshman Derrick Marks made all seven of his field goal attempts and led the Broncos with 20 points in the season opener. The 6-3 guard from Joliet, IL, also pulled down five rebounds and had four steals. Not a bad college hoops debut. Boise State shot almost as well from the field as it did from the free throw line (64 and 69 percent, respectively).
Now, the Broncos gear up for Utah Wednesday night in Taco Bell Arena. The Utes officially open their season tonight in Salt Lake City, with former Idaho Stampede coach Larry Krystkowiak making his Utah debut. The Utes will be looking to patch things up after a shocking 61-60 exhibition loss to Division II Adams State. You think things are new for Boise State this season? Utah has 13 newcomers on its roster this season after bringing back just four returners. The list includes seven transfers, five freshmen and a returned LDS missionary.
After a pair of come-from-ahead losses, the Idaho Steelheads figured out how to build a lead and keep it in the final two games of their series at Bakersfield over the weekend. The Steelheads blasted out to a 3-0 lead Friday night and held on for a 4-3 win, as Jimmy Spratt spelled Jerry Kuhn between the pipes and made 38 saves. Then Saturday night the Steelies went up 4-0 and cruised to a 4-2 win, getting two goals from Michael Neal. The Steelheads, following a stretch that saw them play seven games in 11 days, now get a slight break before the rival Alaska Aces come to town this Friday and Saturday.
This Day In Sports…November 14, 1997:
Pro basketball comes to the Treasure Valley, as the Idaho Stampede make their debut at the Idaho Center. The Stampede were led by former Boise State coach Bobby Dye and defeated the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the opener, 102-92. The first points in franchise history came on a three-pointer from guard Rusty LaRue, who at the end of the night was called up by the Chicago Bulls. By the way, the Idaho Stampede’s 2011 training camp opens today.
(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.)