Friday, August 23, 2013.
I’ve filed this line away since last fall, when I was talking to a lady at a wedding who called herself just a casual football fan. But an insightful one, I’d say. When Kellen Moore departed Boise State after the 2011 season, the Broncos “lost their callus,” she said. “Now they’re playing in their bare feet, and they’re just developing their new callus.” That’s pretty good. That was in early October, and by the end of the season Boise State had its callus back. A week from tomorrow we’ll see how heat-resistent it is when the Broncos face a searing atmosphere at the grand re-opening of Husky Stadium. Will this team have the cool, calm, collected countenance of the Moore-led squads that stared down Oregon, Virginia Tech and Georgia in previous openers? The wait is almost over.
The light seemed to dim a bit for Moore last week, but last night it was on high-beam as the former Boise State star produced his best NFL showing yet. Moore was 9-of-12 for 150 yards and two touchdowns in Detroit’s 40-9 rout of New England. On both of Moore’s scoring throws he got rid of the ball quickly and delivered perfectly-timed strikes, a 22-yarder to tight end Joseph Fauria down the seam and a 15-yarder to wide receiver Micheal Spurlock on a corner route. Moore marched the Lions on touchdown drives of 80 and 96 yards. His prospects for sticking again this season as a No. 3 quarterback improved measurably. Incidentally, Kellen threw only one TD pass in his four preseason games a year ago.
The position that doesn’t look like it has high expectations but perhaps should at Boise State is tight end. Gabe Linehan is hungry to make up for lost time after missing most of the season last year with a hamstring injury. An explosive sophomore campaign had appeared to bode well for Linehan, but he made only one catch in 2012, a 23-yarder in the opener at Michigan State. The intriguing tight ends are Holden Huff and Connor Peters. Huff had more than half of his catches and all four of his touchdowns in the final four games of the season, coinciding with quarterback Joe Southwick’s hot streak. He had two clutch TD receptions in the Las Vegas Bowl win over Washington.
Peters came in as the tight end prototype. “It’s hard to find that 6-6, 260-pound guy who can set the edge and run routes,” coach Chris Petersen said while describing Peters as pretty close to it during spring football last year. Peters is listed at 6-4, 250. He looked the part when he caught a two-point conversion at New Mexico last September. I thought, “Oh, we’re going to see a lot more of this.” Well, we didn’t. That was Peters’ only catch of the season. And since conversions aren’t included in game statistics, he’s still officially looking for the first receptionof his collegiate career. Peters was a teammate of Bronco linebacker Blake Renaud on perennial prep power De La Salle’s 2010 California state championship team.
ESPN.com rolled out its season preview of Boise State yesterday, but it was kind of vanilla. In fact, it was a bit of a head-scratcher, written by Chantel Jennings. Under “newcomer to watch,” Jennings writes: “With a defense that’s attempting to replace almost two-thirds of its starters, someone like freshman Joe Martarano could be one to watch. The 6-foot-2, 234-pound linebacker chose football over an MLB career and with the Broncos needing some help in their front seven, he could contribute immediately.” As good as the Fruitland phenom promises to be, he hasn’t been prominently mentioned as a candidate to skip his redshirt year this season.
George Iloka has experienced “Hard Knocks” in more ways than one. At practice in Cincinnati last week, Iloka got carried away and took a swing at linebacker Jordan Campbell during a special teams drill. According to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the swing ended up connecting with Campbell’s helmet and injuring Iloka’s wrist. That put the former Boise State star on the sidelines for last week’s win at Tennessee, and he’s doubtful for tomorrow’s game at Dallas. Terrible timing, as Iloka had climbed to the top of the Bengals’ depth chart at strong safety. Then when he went to apologize to coach Marvin Lewis for his actions three days after the injury, he didn’t realize that a robotic camera was recording it for HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Iloka says he wishes he had apologized somewhere else.
If Idaho quarterback Chad Chalich is going to lead the Vandal offense to a breakout year, he’ll have some help. Wide receiver Dezmon Epps has dazzled in fall camp. Idaho held only two scrimmages during camp this year, but they came with an avalanche of snaps—a combined 299 offensive plays. Epps, a junior college transfer from City College of San Francisco, responded with 16 catches for 262 yards and three touchdowns. And he wasn’t picky, as the three scores came from three different QBs. The Vandals are also eight days away from kickoff. They open at North Texas in Denton.
Graham DeLaet got his rhythm back at the right time yesterday. At The Barclays, the first event of the PGA Tour playoffs, DeLaet fired a four-under 67 and was tied for seventh after play was suspended in the first round at Liberty National. The former Boise State star put together a bogey-free round. DeLaet hasn’t made a cut since the British Open five weeks ago, and that one didn’t end so well, with scores of 76 and 79 on the weekend. If he can hold steady today and make the cut, he’ll enhance his chances of playing all the way into the Tour Championship. Troy Merritt, on the other hand, is teetering after the first round of Cox Classic in Omaha. Following an even-par 71, Merritt is tied for 107th and will need a stellar round today to make the cut in the final Web.com Tour event of the regular season. If he doesn’t, his season is probably over.
Boise Hawks pitching hasn’t been as reliable lately, and last night could be Exhibit No. 1. Hawks starter Juan Paniagua yielded a staggering nine runs on 10 hits in 1 2/3 innings at Salem-Keizer. But baseball games are nine innings, and after the Hawks fell behind 9-1 in the second, they scored 11 unsanswered runs in a colossal comeback and went on to win, 16-11. The 16 runs were the most scored by the Hawks in five years. Boise got three home runs in the rally, including three-run shots from Justin Marra and Jacob Rogers. Marra’s homer was his second of the game—he went 4-for-5 on the night with four RBI. The Volcanoes lost despite racking up 21 hits off Hawks hurlers.
Where will the Hawks be Monday, when there’ll be seven games left in the regular season? They won’t mind if Salem-Keizer wins the second half race in the South Division. The Volcanoes also won the first half, so that would mean Boise would advance to the Northwest League playoffs with the division’s second-best overall record (the Hawks have all but clinched that spot). But right now they and Salem-Keizer trail Hillboro by a game in the second-half standings, and if the Hops win the second half, they’re in the playoffs and that is that. The schedule is set up for drama, as Boise plays at Salem-Keizer once more tonight, then treks to Hillsboro for a three-game series. The Hawks return to Memorial Stadium from their Western Idaho Fair road trip next week for six games—against the Volcanoes and the Hops.
Stephen Fife is part of today’s This Day In Sports item below, which brings us to where he is right now. The Boise native was optioned back to Albuquerque by the L.A. Dodgers 2½ weeks ago, and he’s still there. It was hoped that move Fife would only temporary, as Fife is 4-3 for the Dodgers this season with a stout 2.74 ERA. But there might be a reason he’s still an Isoptope. Fife’s last start with Albuquerque was disastrous—he lasted only a third of an inning Monday night at Oklahoma City, walking five batters and allowing six runs. Since returning to Triple-A, Fife has gone 0-2 and has yielded 10 earned runs in just 4 1/3 innings of work.
This Day In Sports…August 23, 1999:
The South-Central Boise All-Stars begin play at the Little League World Series with a 4-0 loss to Tom’s River, NJ. The Boise kids would go 1-2 in pool play, falling to Phenix City, AL, 12-0 before finishing on a high note with a 2-0 victory over Brownsburg, IN. Much of the South-Central team would form the nucleus of Borah High’s state championship team in 2005. The roster included Stephen Fife, who went on to the University of Utah and made the big leagues in 2012 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
(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.)