Tuesday, September 3, 2013.
With every yardage-chewing Keith Price completion, Bishop Sankey tote, and drive-snuffing defensive stop, Washington drew energy Saturday night. As if it needed any with the exhilaration surrounding the grand re-opening of Husky Stadium, with 71,963 fans (those not wearing orange) making a racket that could shake Mt. Rainier. UW wore down the Bronco defense to the point it looked like all 11 guys had their hands on their hips between each play. It was as if the 592 yards from the Huskies’ new no-huddle offense was written into the script. And it was all without the suspended Austin Seferian-Jenkins. At the same time, Washington figured out the Bronco offense—the Husky “D” bent but was never broken in the 38-6 victory, the worst defeat handed a Boise State team in eight years.
That Washington has more talent than Boise State was evident from the start. But that has seldom determined the outcome for the Broncos in big games. As they always have, they needed to counter Saturday night with ingenuity, but there was little of that. The team that once boasted 85 personnel groups in its game plan didn’t look like it had, uh, quite that many at Husky Stadium. But look at it this way. The fact that the Broncos were able to gain 348 yards on the Huskies without their traditional shifts, motions and surprises tells you the potential is there. You certainly saw it in Jay Ajayi and Aaron Baltazar.
It was the most-asked question of the offseason around Puget Sound: Will the 2011 Keith Price reappear at Washington? Compared to his sophomore year, the 2012 Keith Price saw his completion percentage drop by four points, his yards per attempt by more than two, his yards per game by more than 25, his touchdown passes by 14, and his pass efficiency rating by 39½ points. All he did Saturday night night was post Kellen Moore-esque numbers, going 23-of-31 for 324 yards and two touchdowns. The only blemish was the Donte Deayon interception on the second play of the game. The Huskies gave Price the offense he had been waiting for, and he looked right at home.
The cornerbacks had the worst of it at Washington, exacerbated by the lack of pressure the front seven was able to apply on Price. Deayon started at the one spot under the microscope opposite Bryan Douglas, and it was generally all downhill after the interception. Deayon exited with 12 minutes left in the first half when he was momentarily shaken up, giving way to junior college transfer Mercy Maston. Then Kasen Williams burned both of them on back-breaking consecutive plays in the third quarter, gaining 38 yards on a reception versus Deayon, and beating Maston for a 19-yard touchdown. Price’s quick-hitters to receivers in the flat were killers, with the Huskies making it to the second level almost every time.
It’s feeling a lot like 2005 around here on this, the eighth anniversary of the Georgia game (see “This Day In Sports” below). Boise State didn’t look like it belonged that day in Athens, and the same was the case Saturday night in Seattle. And there you have it. The two biggest black eyes of the Broncos’ Golden Era that started in 1999. Now, what can they do about it? Can they summon the ol’ offensive mystique that was absent at Husky Stadium? Can they get their defensive mojo back after a performance so diametrically opposed to their 2012 selves, the No. 12 defensive unit in the nation? The coming weeks could present the biggest psychological challenge of Chris Petersen’s head coaching career, although he said yesterday his squad is already bouncing back.
“Forgettable” is a kind word to describe what happened to the Mountain West in Week 1. The conference went 3-9, with Fresno State the only team to beat an FBS school (and that one took overtime, 52-51 over Rutgers. San Diego State, Boise State’s fellow Big East returnee, has to be at least as disheartened as the Broncos after being pounded at home 40-19 by FCS Eastern Illinois. The Brian Polian Era started with a thud at Nevada, as the Wolf Pack was routed 58-20 by UCLA in Pasadena. The best performance of the week actually came from Wyoming, which put a royal scare into Nebraska before falling, 37-34. Cowboys quarterback Brett Smith threw for 383 yards and four touchdowns, and the Pokes rolled up 602 yards of offense in front of 91,185 hostile fans in Lincoln.
Idaho’s first drive of the season Saturday night looked like a continuation of fall camp, as redshirt freshman quarterback Chad Chalich marched the Vandals 75 yards in four plays at North Texas. Chalich capped it with a six-yard touchdown pass to fullback Jake Manley, and Idaho led 6-0. But that was it on the scoreboard for the offense, as the Mean Green rolled up 591 yards and drilled the Vandals, 40-6. Chalich’s debut was good—he went 19-fo-27 for 230 yards without an interception and rushed for 42 yards. But Idaho scoring opportunities were minimized by three lost fumbles, and the defense was riddled by 404 UNT passing yards.
The Detroit Lions figured if they didn’t carry Kellen Moore on their roster, somebody else would. So the former Boise State great made the 53-man roster for the second straight year. Moore improved so much during training camp and preseason that Kyle Meinke of mlive.com suggests he could be trade bait for the Lions at some point. With the usual rash of NFL quarterback injuries to come, and the resulting need for a No. 2 QB by so many clubs, Detroit could fill a need by trading Moore. It was striking Friday and Saturday that among more than 600 final roster cuts, only one was a former Bronco, veteran Chris Carr at New Orleans. The biggest news was defensive tackle Chase Baker making Minnesota’s roster after spending all last season on the Vikings’ practice squad—and veteran Quintin Mikell signing with the Carolina Panthers.
The Boise Hawks are limping into the Northwest League Playoffs, but at least they’re there. The Hawks ended the regular season on a five-game losing streak after falling to Hillsboro 10-6 last night. The Hawks pitching staff has yielded a staggering 49 runs during the skid. It was bittersweet for the Hops, who came to Boise knowing they had to sweep for a shot at the postseason. Hillsboro did its part. But the Hops needed Salem-Keizer to collapse, and it didn’t—the Volcanoes swept Eugene. So the Hawks backed into the playoffs on the strength of their overall season record, 41-35.
Boise takes its first winning season since 2008 into the South Division series against the Volcanoes, beginning tonight at Memorial Stadium, although the Hawks have made the postseason for the third straight year. They fell in two games to Tri-City in the first round in 2011 and won in three games versus Yakima last year. Each time, however, the Hawks lost Game 1 at home. If they’re to break that streak they’ll have to cool off the Volcanoes, who conversely are riding a five-game winning streak. One other Hawks note: In the end, Kevin Encarnacion had enough at-bats to qualify for the Northwest League batting title, and he won it with a .355 average.
Graham DeLaet is sitting pretty in the PGA Tour playoffs after another stellar performance in the second stage, the Deutsche Bank Championship. The former Boise State star rode a nine-under 62 into contention Sunday and finished with a 69 yesterday, placing third behind Henrik Stenson and Steve Stricker. Sunday was amazing—DeLaet opened the round with a bogey before recording 10 birdies. He won $544,000 at the Deutsche Bank and moved from No. 7 to No. 5 in FedExCup standings to guarantee himself a spot in the Tour Championship in two weeks. In the process, DeLaet reached one of his goals for 2012, as he was named to the International team that will take on the U.S. in the President’s Cup at Muirfield Village in Ohio next month.
Former Bronco Troy Merritt collected his second-biggest paycheck of the season (albeit only $17,000) and made a modest move at the Web.com Tour Finals Sunday. Merritt opened the series by finishing 15th at the Hotel Fitness Championship in Ft. Wayne, IN. He climbed from No. 74 to No. 66 on the Web.com money list. But the key is, the Finals has its own money list, and the top 25 who haven’t already qualified for PGA Tour cards next season will get them. So Merritt still has a chance.
This Day In Sports…September 3, 2005:
Boise State opens its season with a game that had been hyped for eight months, both locally and nationally. The Broncos, ranked 18th in the preseason AP Poll, were visiting the 13th-rated Georgia Bulldogs before almost 93,000 fans in Athens and a national TV audience on ESPN. It ended up a day of infamy for BSU and quarterback Jared Zabransky, who threw four interceptions and lost two fumbles in the first half of a 48-13 loss. Some national observers thought it would take years for the Bronco program to recover, but it was less than 16 months later that Zabransky and BSU were winning the Fiesta Bowl.
(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.)