Friday, October 5, 2012.
Granted, it did happen more or less against Miami (Ohio). But perception is reality—it doesn’t seem like Boise State can get an “A” game out of both its offense and defense simultaneously. That comes from the past two weeks. First. the Broncos held BYU to 200 total yards and saved the day with Mike Atkinson’s touchdown in a 7-6 victory. Then last week, the offense took at least some of the heat off a suddenly-beleaguered defense when it strung together some crucial third down conversions in the second half of the 32-29 win at New Mexico. Who knows this year, but if I was a bettin’ man, I’d say the Boise State defense has a chance to make strides tomorrow morning at Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles are averaging only 108½ yards a game passing, 117th in the country, and are completing only 42½ percent of their throws
There is some carbon copy stuff from last week beyond the fact Southern Miss is another run-first offense. A week ago we were talking about the guy who was then the nation’s leading kickoff returner, New Mexico’s Chase Clayton, with a 43.3-yard average. Against Boise State, Clayton had two runbacks for just 30 yards and was knocked out of the game with an injury. Kickoff specialist Trevor Harman and his cover team seem to have adapted to booting the ball from the 35-yard line, dropping it around the goal line, and swarming the returner. Did I speak too soon? Tomorrow the Broncos face the nation’s eighth-ranked team on the kickoff return list—the Golden Eagles are averaging more than 29 yards per runback.
If I thought this was a jinx, I wouldn’t mention it. Like, I’m going to have an affect on the outcome tomorrow? But Boise State has won 44 straight games in the month of October. The last time the Broncos lost in October was 11 years ago tomorrow—that infamous 45-14 defeat at Rice in 2001. Since then, BSU has won 23 consecutive home games in October and 21 on the road, with 36 of the streak’s triumphs in conference games and eight in non-conference clashes.
The Boise State offensive line could pick up some tips from its equipment truck. Rather than return to Boise last weekend, the truck was headed straight to Hattiesburg, and Wednesday morning it plowed through a cow about an hour outside of Albuquerque. No one was injured, and the Broncos’ equipment wasn’t damaged. USA Today took the opportunity to relate the incident to the Boise State offense, saying it “has hit a wall. The Broncos enter Saturday ranked 98th nationally in scoring offense after ranking fifth, second and tied for first, respectively, over the last three seasons.”
Injuries affected a couple former Boise State stars last night in different ways. Veteran Rams safety Quintin Mikell had to leave the NFL Thursday night game in the second quarter after sustaining a head injury. Mikell lay on the field for awhile before leaving under his own power. Also in the second quarter, St. Louis’ leading receiver, Danny Amendola, had to come out with a shoulder injury. That could ultimately mean more playing time fvor Austin Pettis, who had just one catch for six yards last night in his second game back from a PED suspension. The Rams handed the Arizona Cardinals their first loss of the season, 17-3.
As the weeks go by, Fresno State is commanding more and more attention in the Mountain West. The Bulldogs are fancying themselves as Mountain West favorites now as they continue to score points in bushels, although Boise State and Nevada would like to think they have something to say about that. But is the Pat Hill era over, or what? Tomorrow, Fresno State visits one of Hill’s many former offensive coordinators, Jim McElwain, now the head coach at Colorado State. McElwain came from a highly successful stint as O-coordinator at Alabama, winning two national championships, but the Rams have lost four in a row since their season-opening 22-17 win over rival Colorado. Wanna compare scores? The Bulldogs beat the Buffaloes 69-14 in Fresno.
Two teams in the same boat face off tomorrow as homecoming unfolds in the Kibbie Dome. Idaho hosts the other WAC team that’ll be homeless a year from now, New Mexico State. A story in the Lewiston Morning Tribune indicates the Aggies are in better shape than the Vandals in arranging an independent schedule for 2013. New Mexico State announced its intentions to go independent September 12, with athletic director McKinley Boston saying at the time he had nine of 12 games set for next year and was in the process of finalizing the rest. "Depending on one game, we could really be through this week," Boston told the Tribune the other day. Two of their games will probably be against Idaho, as the two schools are forced to undertake a same-season home-and-home series. Boston hopes to have NMSU in another FBS conference by 2014.
Idaho State has a shot at its first Big Sky victory tomorrow when it travels to Portland State. The Bengals, who followed their 73-7 annililation at Nebraska with a 54-31 home loss to Sacramento State last week, will be facing another one-win team in the Vikings. ISU brings in the National FCS Tight End of the Week as tabbed by College Football Performance Awards. Josh Hill, a former Boise State walk-on and one-time high school teammate of the Broncos’ J.C. Percy in Blackfoot, caught 12 passes for 123 yards, both career highs, against the Hornets.
Many of those in Idaho Steelheads training camp today won’t be there when the regular season begins next Friday. The NHL lockout has made a lot of players available to the AHL, and when those teams make their cuts, there’ll be a significant trickle-down to the ECHL. Example: the Reading Royals yesterday had 11 players sent to them by their AHL affiliate. The moral of the story is the Steelheads’ exhibition games tonight and tomorrow night against Utah are the only chances for many of the players to make an impression on new head coach Brad Ralph and show them they can contribute within his system. There’s a lot of competition for roster spots.
The wild card games commence today in the majors. The offseason has already commenced for the Chicago Cubs. Among the former Boise Hawks who played for the Cubs this season, Welington Castro batted .265 and Tony Campana hit .264. Then it dropped off a cliff. Two former Cubs first round draft picks who came through Boise, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, made their big league debuts this summer. Jackson managed an average of just .175, and Vitters was at .121. The former Hawk who had the best season in Chicago was pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who went 9-13 in 28 starts with a 3.81 ERA—for a bad team.
Boise State tennis standout Andy Bettles is done at the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa. Bettles fell in the first round of the main draw to Virginia Commonwealth’s Max Wennakoski, then fell in the consolation bracket to Daniel Whitehead of Texas. Four of Bettles’ teammates will be in action at home this weekend in the Boise State Fall Classic. Matches will be played today through Sunday at the Appleton Tennis Center and at Julia Davis Park. Elsewhere, the Bronco women’s soccer team hosts a ranked opponent for the first time in program history, as 10th-ranked San Diego State comes to town today. Interestingly enough, Boise State defeated the Aztecs last year in San Diego, 1-0. The Broncos are 0-4 all-time against Top 25 teams.
This Day In Sports…October 5, 1991:
Fresno State pummels New Mexico, 94-17, falling just short of the Division I-A record of 100 points set by Houston against Tulsa in 1968. The Bulldogs and coach Jim Sweeney exacted revenge for a loss to the Lobos two years earlier that ended a 17-game Fresno State winning streak and saw New Mexico fans chanting, “Sweeney is a weenie.” The Bulldogs scored 49 points in the second quarter and led 66-7 at halftime. Ten Fresno State players scored, three of them twice.
(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.)