Monday, November 9, 2009.
If all you did was glance at the box score from Friday night’s Boise State-Louisiana Tech game, you’d think all was right with the Bronco world. BSU outgained the Bulldogs 507 yards to 250. The Broncos had a 300-yard passer in Kellen Moore, a 100-yard rusher in Jeremy Avery, and two 100-yard receivers in Austin Pettis and Titus Young. Then why was it a 10-point game (45-35)? You can start with the red zone (a.k.a. the “danger zone”). Boise State scored touchdowns on just three of its seven trips into the red zone, settling for field goals on three more and missing a field goal on the last one. The Broncos’ inability to run in that end of the field is maddening—to everybody from Chris Petersen to the running backs to Kellen Moore to the guys in the trenches.
With Doug Martin and Matt Kaiserman proving to be ineffective, and with the Bulldogs swarming Avery, the Boise State running game managed only 29 yards in the first half. That’s what makes Avery’s night so amazing. Midway through the fourth quarter ESPN flashed his numbers, and they showed Avery had topped 100 yards. And that was before his 44-yard touchdown scamper. The 5-9, 170-pound junior ended up with 146 yards and now has 782 for the season. Avery needs to average just 54½ yards a game the rest of the season to go over 1,000, and that doesn’t count the bowl game. Anything there would be gravy.
What Moore did in the game was impressive considering any running game struggles decrease the effectiveness of his play-action. The Bulldogs knew he was going to throw, yet they couldn’t keep him from moving the chains and tossing three more touchdown passes. Which gives us a chance to touch on the story on Moore by Thayer Evans in the New York Times Friday. Some highlights? On his dedication to film study: “’He’s a football nerd,’ Boise State defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said.” On the lack of interest from Pac-10 schools: “’Who really wants a 6-foot pocket quarterback?’ Moore said.” And on the trust the Broncos place in Moore’s input into the offense: “When offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin talks to Chris Petersen about a new play for Boise State’s offense, Petersen asks, ‘What does Kellen think?’”
Three freakazoid plays led to and/or resulted in 21 of Louisiana Tech’s points. Moore’s self-admitted “stupid” throw that Josh Victorian returned 75 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter turned what could have been a rout into a game. Then a perfectly executed onside kick against an unsuspecting Bronco return unit started a 59-yard TD drive, and a 71-yard kickoff return against that same group—one that hadn’t allowed one over 46 yards all season—set up Tech’s final 20-yard march. It wasn’t the fine-tuned performance Boise State would hope to present to a national TV audience.
Then again, the Broncos are 9-0, and that’s extremely difficult to do under any circumstances. If it isn’t, why has only one other non-BCS school been able to do it this season? That other team, TCU, has jumped to No. 4 in the new BCS standings, while BSU moves up to sixth by virtue of Iowa’s loss to Northwestern. In the two major polls, the Broncos fell to No. 6 in both AP and the Coaches Poll, getting jumped by TCU in the former and Cincinnati in the latter. And those two teams both passed BSU in the Harris Poll, where the Broncos fell from No. 4 to No. 6. At least this week, Boise State’s ranking isn’t open to interpretation. It’s No. 6 no matter where you look.
TCU has added insult to injury on Boise State, through no fault of its own. Not only are the Horned Frogs on an incredible roll, seemingly headed toward the BCS bowl berth the Broncos covet, they’ve stolen ESPN College GameDay from Boise. The Worldwide Leader has elected to go to Fort Worth this Saturday to join the hoopla over the showdown between TCU and Utah. The Bronco-Vandal game in Boise might not be bigger than the Frogs and Utes, but the atmosphere will be three times as electric. It’s the second time this season GameDay has gone to a Mountain West venue for a game between ranked teams that most of the country won’t be able to see—the TCU-BYU game last month in Provo was on Versus; this one will be shown on the “CBS College” network.
Props to Idaho coach Robb Akey for not intimating that Nate Enderle’s absence against Fresno State was the key in the Bulldogs’ 31-21 victory in the Kibbie Dome Saturday night. Because it definitely had an effect on the Vandal offense, which had been rhythmic through the first nine games of the season but was out of sync in the first half with backup Brian Reader filling in for the injured Enderle. Reader was 2-for-10 at intermission as Fresno State amassed a 24-0 lead. He did catch fire somewhat in the second half, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. But it was too little, too late, in the face of another big night from Ryan Mathews. The national rushing leader had 143 yards and three touchdowns. But how about these numbers: Bulldog quarterback Ryan Colburn was 14-of-14—that’s 14-of-14—for 159 yards and a touchdown.
Now it’s Bronco-Vandal Week, and the game has some electricity for the first time in many, many years. Boise State, of course, has won 10 in a row in the rivalry, but Idaho knows that if its offense is clicking (with Enderle back), and its defense gets some breaks, well, stranger things have happened. The average score in the series over the past 10 years has been 50-19.
Home-ice advantage did a flip-flop on the Idaho Steelheads over the weekend. After pummeling Utah 7-2 in the Grizzlies’ barn Friday night, with seven different players scoring goals, the Steelheads absorbed a 3-0 loss to the Griz Saturday night in Qwest Arena. Veteran netminder Kevin Nastiuk made his Steelies debut Friday and earned the win, making 25 saves. Saturday Idaho allowed only 19 shots, but three got past goalie Richard Bachman, two off the stick of Utah scoring machine Ryan Kinasewich. There was a much-needed good sign in the stands, though, as the Steelheads played before their first sellout crowd of the season.
I talked about Ike Okoye Friday, in terms of his exhibition game performances perhaps determining whether Boise State will redshirt Daequon Montreal or not. Well, turns out the decision was made before Saturday night’s 109-89 win over Concordia—Montreal will play, and Sean Imadiyi will redshirt. As for Okoye, he looked ready to go in Saturday’s game, scoring 21 points and nine rebounds as the Broncos dominated inside. Kurt Cunningham added 14 points and an impressive seven assists, and Montreal had nine points. BSU plays for real now when it goes to Missoula for three games this coming weekend, beginning with Loyola-Marymount Friday night. The Bronco women beat Lewis-Clark State in an exhibition yesterday, 84-64, with the former Jessica Thompson (now Van Hoogen) scoring 15 points.
A rousing day elsewhere on campus yesterday, as Boise State won its first WAC women’s soccer championship with a 1-0 victory over Nevada. The Broncos move on to the NCAA Tournament now, and they have Erica Parks to thanks for it. In a sport where not only goals but even shots-on-goal are rare, the freshman from Skyview High scored in each of BSU’s three wins over the weekend to win WAC Tournament MVP honors. Meanwhile, the Bronco wrestling team defeated the University of Great Falls Friday night, 40-3, winning nine of the 10 matches.
This Day In Sports…November 9, 2000:
The Boise Hawks get the fourth manager in their history and their first new manager in 11 years, as Steve McFarland is named skipper for the 2001 season. Tom Kotchman had amassed a Northwest League record 501 wins, but his tenure was over when the Hawks ended their affiliation with the Anaheim Angels after the 2000 season. McFarland was assigned by the Hawks new parent club, the Chicago Cubs.
(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 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He also handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)