Wednesday, September 25, 2013.
Jay Ajayi had two strikes against him with a pair of fumbles—one lost—in Boise State’s win over Air Force two weeks ago. The third strike came in the third quarter last Friday, when Ajayi fumbled inside the Fresno State 10 to end a potential Bronco scoring drive (and they needed every scoring drive they could get). The result was the guy who got a lot of national ESPN face time for drinking pickle juice while combating cramps on the blue turf got about as much for standing on the sideline in Fresno with his helmet off—and nothing to do. “Jay can’t fumble,” said coach Chris Petersen. What happens with Ajayi Saturday night is one of the primo sidebars of the Southern Miss game. “We’ll just see how he progresses,” Petersen said. “He gets it.”
When Ajayi got the hook, he had gained just 54 yards on 20 carries, although he did score a touchdown. From there, the running game belonged to Aaron Baltazar and Joe Southwick. Baltazar scored the first two touchdowns of his career, the first Boise State true freshman running back to tally two TDs in a season since D.J. Harper in 2007. Baltazar ran with authority, sprinting 35 yards for his first score and using his legs to power in backwards from two yards out for his second. Petersen indicated Baltazar was beyond his years when he started making his impression in fall camp. Sure looked like it last Friday.
Here’s a Southern Miss primer. Just two years ago, the Golden Eagles were humming along with yet another winning season, a Conference USA title with a stunner over No. 6 Houston and Case Keenum in the league championship game, and a 24-17 victory over Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl. Then coach Larry Fedora left for North Carolina, and Southern Miss brought in Ellis Johnson. Shockingly, USM went 0-12, including a 40-15 home loss to Boise State last October, and Johnson was fired. Now the Golden Eagles have lost 15 games in a row. One culprit right now is turnovers—they’re 125th out of 126 FBS teams, having given up the ball 12 times in four games. The game at Boise State will be Southern Miss' third straight on the road over the course of four weeks. The Golden Eagles lost 56-13 at Nebraska and 24-3 at Arkansas before a bye last weekend.
The 2010 Boise State football team is considered the best in school history. At least here it is. Of all the highlights that rolled out that season, there was one that stands out. When 12-year-old Make-A-Wish recipient Stephen Kinsey led the Broncos onto the blue turf carrying the “Hammer” with Shea McClellin before the Hawaii game, it was goose-bump time. Since then he has been known as “Coach Kinsey” as he continues to battle cancer at home in San Antonio.
Saturday night there will be a sequel. Shane Swanson, a 12-year-old from Bloomington, MN, has suffered since birth with Spina Bifida. His wish has been “to go to a Boise State game and meet Coach Petersen and the Bronco football team.” Petersen’s wife, Barbara, has been deeply involved in the Make-A-Wish Foundation and has again helped made this happen for Shane, who will get “blue carpet” treatment at the Southern Miss game. That will cap a whirlwind over three days that begins with a VIP airport greeting tomorrow afternoon when his plane arrives from Minneapolis.
The Boise State men's basketball team is tying into pregame festivities for the Southern Miss game with a free open scrimmage in cozy Bronco Gym. The Broncos hold their initial practice of the 2013-14 season on Friday. Starters Jeff Elorriaga, Derrick Marks, Igor Hadziomerovic and Ryan Watkins all return from last season’s NCAA Tournament team. But coach Leon Rice will also put newcomers Nick Duncan, Dezmyn Trent, James Webb III, Robert Heyer and Chris Nealey on display in the scrimmage.
This is one game Idaho knows it can pick off. The Vandals have Temple in the Kibbie Dome for homecoming Saturday, one of the good gets of their one-time-only independent schedule. As members of the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East), the Owls are technically a BCS school this year. But they haven’t fared so well, coming to Moscow 0-3 following a bye. Temple needed the week off to re-set itself mentally after being upset by FCS Fordham in Philadelphia, 30-29, on a touchdown pass and extra point with four seconds to go. Idaho is pulling itself up by the bootstraps as well following a 42-0 loss at Washington State that gave it an 0-4 start. The Vandals have lost 25 of their last 28 games.
If only Titus Young’s NFL career hadn’t gone on a crash course last season. Were he still in Detroit, the former Boise State star would be looking at an expanded role right now after Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson suffered a broken arm in a car accident yesterday. But a chain of events that started with Young sabotaging the Detroit offense last November and continued with a bizarre series of scrapes with the law this spring took him out of football entirely. It’s been four weeks since a judge issued a warrant for Young’s arrest, but there have been no new developments in the case—and still no official sightings of Young.
Boise State’s Ty Travis fell off the pace in the rainy final round of the third annual Dash Thomas Memorial yesterday. Travis finished fifth at Banbury after leading the tournament at the 36-hole mark Monday. The transfer from Weber State was seven-under after the first two rounds but carded a five-over 76 yesterday. The Broncos as a team tried to dig their way out of last place in the 12-team event but couldn’t do it. Sacramento State won the team title by 12 strokes over Idaho.
There aren’t many pro sports figures woven into the fabric of Idaho as much as Brian Scott. Now the Boise native, the great-grandson of Joe Albertson, is set to make his Sprint Cup debut in the Bank of America 500 October 12 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Scott will drive the No. 33 Shore Lodge car for Richard Childress Racing (his family has part-ownership of the fabled McCall hotel). He’s been climbing the ladder in NASCAR’s second tier, the Nationwide Series. Scott hasn’t won in 134 starts on that circuit yet, but he led for all but the final 11 laps at Richmond three weeks ago. He said on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday that a couple more Sprint Cup races are possible this fall. Scott said he and the Childress team are putting together a plan for at least five Sprint Cup starts next year.
What are the chances two guys from the Wood River Valley would be playing together for Toledo of the ECHL? Ketchum’s Cody Lampl, the first real Idahoan to play for the Idaho Steelheads, is currently on the Walleye roster. Lampl appeared in 64 games for them last season. Now Toledo has signed Sun Valley native Joey Sides, who spent the last two seasons with the Colorado Eagles. Sides scored 40 points in just 44 games with the Eagles in 2012-13.
This Day In Sports…September 25, 1965:
At the age of 59, Satchel Paige of the Kansas City Athletics pitches three shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox. The only hit he yielded that day was a double by Red Sox star Carl Yastrzemski. People always wonder what Paige might have been had he played in the majors in his prime. He was a star in the Negro Leagues before baseball’s color barrier was broken.
(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.)