Monday, October 15, 2012.
Saturday was a better bend-but-not-break day for Boise State than the week before at Southern Miss. Fresno State, a team that came in averaging 493 yards and 39½ points per game, moved it between the 20’s on the Broncos. Sometimes. The Bulldogs managed 322 yards and barely reached double-digits in a 20-10 loss on the blue turf. The accomplishment against a hot new no-huddle spread offense was not lost on senior linebacker J.C. Percy. “I thought we did great,” said Percy. “I looked up at the scoreboard at the end of the game and I think that they had a total of 56 rushing yards, and as linebackers that was one of the key things we needed to stop.” Percy’s impact was not lost on the Boise State defense—the one-time walk-on from Blackfoot posted 14 tackles, his third double-digit game of the season.
Boise State was wary of Robbie Rouse, Fresno State’s senior running back. And why not? Rouse had broken at least one long run on the Broncos in each of the previous three seasons and had five 100-yard games in six outings this year to boot. But he could get nothing longer than 13 yards Saturday. In the first half, it looked like Rouse might get it going. On Fresno State's third possession, he accumulated 37 yards before the Broncos stopped bending and forced the Bulldogs to punt. But it was tough sledding for Rouse after that. In the second half, the 5-7, 190-pounder gained just 35 yards on 12 carries. For the game, he had 77 yards, and barely more than three yards a pop. That was the key to the game.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing—we have to run the ball. We have to do better than that.” That was coach Chris Petersen after the loss to Michigan State, when the Broncos rushed for only 37 yards in the 17-13 loss to the Spartans. The Broncos have hung in there with their run game, and they’re starting to get it right. And they have to with an inconsistent passing attack. “I think we just stayed with it,” said D.J. Harper of Saturday’s 215-yard team rushing total. “Early on, they kind of stuffed us a little bit. And I think the key was just staying with it. Our offensive line did a really good job of opening up creases, and really just being physical.”
Harper answered with his third 100-yard game of the season, netting 58 of his 122 yards on the second quarter drive that was capped by his dazzling 28-yard touchdown run. Petersen talked a lot after the game about a one-two punch in the rushing attack. Boise State didn’t have it on that fateful Opening Night. Jay Ajayi provided it Saturday with 91 yards on a career-high 15 carries, the first two tackle-busting runs of 14 and seven yards that took the ball to the Fresno State one-yard line and brought down the Bronco Stadium house.
What’s another Bronco win without a nod to special teams? The Boise State kickoff coverage was phenomenal again. Seems every team finally breaks through once, and Fresno State’s Milton Knox did with a 43-yard return in the second quarter. But the Broncos stopped Isaiah Burse on the 18, 20, and 16-yard lines on the Bulldogs’ other three returns. Special teams lifers Josh Borgman and Hazen Moss each made crushing hits on Burse. Might be Hammer Time again for one of them when Boise State takes the field against UNLV this week.
Mondays from mid-October on have buzzed in years past with the new BCS Standings, because Boise State has finished in the top 10 of those rankings each of the last four seasons. That’s highly unlikely this year, but the Broncos are still hanging out in that elite club. The first BCS rankings of 2012 were unveiled last night, and Boise State came in at No. 22, the only non-BCS team in the Top 25. The Broncos were 22nd in the new Coaches Poll and 23rd in the Harris Poll—and they were 24th in AP (which isn’t part of the BCS formula). Boise State’s average computer ranking was 20.
Boise State and Nevada are the only two Mountain West teams left now without a conference loss. The Wolf Pack flirted with one Saturday in the Battle of the Fremont Cannon before staging a wild second half rally to top UNLV, 42-37. Despite the rivalry, the attendance was only 20,565, lower than that of Boise State’s trip to Sam Boyd Stadium last November. Elsewhere, New Mexico did what many expected—and what Hawaii feared—Saturday night at Aloha Stadium. The Lobos used their triple-option to demoralize the Warriors and move to 4-3 on the season with a 35-23 victory. It was UNM’s first road win outside the state of New Mexico in five years.
Idaho’s trip to San Marcos, TX, could not have been more discouraging. Texas State broke open a close game at halftime with 24 unanswered points Saturday night to rout the Vandals, 38-7. The Bobcats amassed 337 rushing yards, but the game-turning play came on a pass. Texas State had a third-and-30, but the Bobcats’ Terrence Franks turned a little screen pass into a 32-yard gain, breaking four tackles along the way. Texas State capped that drive with a field goal for a 24-7 lead. Idaho drops to 1-6 on the season with five teams sporting winning records facing the Vandals down the stretch, starting with Louisiana Tech in Ruston this week. All the Bulldogs did Saturday night was score 57 points on Texas A&M (the Aggies scored 59 to hand La Tech its first loss).
Former Boise State star Doug Martin reversed a recent decline in production yesterday, recording the highest yards-per-carry number of his rookie season. Martin rushed for 76 yards on 13 attempts in Tampa Bay’s 38-10 win over Kansas City, averaging 5.8 yards. He had 53 and 33 yards on the ground in the two games going into last week’s bye. Former Bronco Billy Winn had his biggest NFL moment yet in Cleveland’s 34-24 win over Cincinnati yesterday. Winn scooped up a fumble by Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton and rumbled 35 yards, extinguishing one of Cincy’s last gasps with 2½ minutes left in the game.
Idaho Steelheads goalie Tyler Beskorowany pulled it together Saturday night in Utah after a sour Opening Night in CenturyLink Arena. Beskorowany had a “here we go again” look on his face after a few of the Grizzlies’ five goals in Friday night’s 5-3 loss (he had struggled in the AHL last season with Texas). But Beskorowany stopped 24 of 26 Utah shots Saturday before the Steelheads fell again, 2-1. The story of the weekend, though, was Utah goalie Andrew Engelage, who logged the second-most minutes of any netminder in the ECHL last season. Saturday night he stoned two Steelies breakaways, one by newcomer David de Kastrozza and the other by Matt Case. Idaho sticks to the road this week with three games at Colorado.
Quail Hollow pro Jim Empey has some summer plans for 2013. Empey tied for 21st yesterday at the 24th Southworth Senior PGA Professional National Championship in Leesburg, VA, shooting 10-over for the tournament to finish 11 shots off the pace. The showing qualifies Empey for next year’s Senior PGA Championship in St. Louis. He earned his spot at Leesburg by winning sectional qualifying in July at The Headwater Club at Teton Springs in Victor. Also, former Boise State standout Troy Merritt missed the cut at the Web.com’s Miccosukee Championship in Miami. It was the first time Merritt failed to play the weekend since the Albertsons Boise Open a month ago.
This Day In Sports…October 15, 1994:
Idaho State rallies in the final seconds to upset Boise State, 32-31, at Holt Arena in Pocatello. The Bengals overcame a big night by BSU tailback K.C. Adams, who became the first Bronco ever to record 100 yards both rushing and receiving in the same game. Boise State had gone into the game 6-0, and it would be the only blemish on the Broncos’ magical 1994 season until they fell to Youngstown State two months later in the Division I-AA national championship game.
(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.)