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Is there a new No. 2 at tailback?

Is there a new No. 2 at tailback?

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on November 19, 2013 at 8:32 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 19 at 8:59 AM

Tuesday, November 19, 2013.

Boise State running back Devan Demas made a surprise appearance in the first quarter against Wyoming Saturday night.  After touching the ball just three times all season for three yards, and once for no gain in the past seven weeks, he had one carry—and then another, and another.  Demas ended up as the Broncos’ leading rusher on the night, narrowly topping Jay Ajayi with 73 yards on 12 attempts.  It was not a surprise to those inside the program.  Coach Chris Petersen said Demas’ impressive performance with the scout team in practice the past few weeks forced the coaching staff’s hand.  Starter Jay Ajayi saw the same thing.  “In practice he showed he could take those reps, so we knew he could do it,” said Ajayi. 

Some wondered what might become of Demas when he disappeared on the bench behind Ajayi, Aaron Baltazar, Jack Fields, Derrick Thomas and Charles Bertoli.  Would he seek a transfer?  All Demas has done is seek to get better.  Demas and Fields are an interesting study right now.  They came into the Boise State program together.  They’re both from Texas—Demas from Houston and Fields from El Paso.  It was Fields who got the props in the duo’s first fall camp, earning a roster spot as a true freshman, and a carry in the season opener on national TV at Michigan State.  But things haven’t panned out for Fields, at least not yet.  For Demas, his opportunity is staring him in the face.  Hey, he’s actually been added to the depth chart now. 

Petersen said yesterday quarterback Joe Southwick returned to practice in the morning for the first time since breaking his ankle against Nevada one month ago today.  Southwick wasn’t at full strength, Petersen noted, but he was throwing the ball well.  He will be back at some point, and he will play.  How much will be painstakingly determined by the staff, which will go over every drill, every rep and every throw with a fine-toothed comb. 

The Demas situation is a good example here—fans cannot pretend to know what goes on in practice.  Nobody knows except those who are there.  That’s why, in the next game Southwick is deemed to be completely healthy, it will be difficult to question the quarterback who trots on the field for the Broncos’ first possession, be it Southwick or Grant Hedrick.  Petersen kind of knows what he’s doing.  Did you notice that with Saturday’s victory he went 80 games over .500 in his career?  Eighty games?  He’s 91-11.

I was on the college football homepage at last night saw the list of the top 10 in Total QBR (Quarterback Rating), a complicated new formula ESPN feels better measures a quarterback’s true value.  It accounts for down, distance and field position, as well as the clock and score—and a player’s ability to scramble and avoid sacks and fumbles.  No. 10 on the QBR list is Southwick.  The scale of QBR is from zero to 100, where 50 is average, and Southwick’s rating is 80.6, ahead of guys like (where do I begin?) Clemson’s Tajh Boyd,  Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly, Fresno State’s Derek Carr, and Washington’s Keith Price.

ESPN used all of its allotted window in waiting to announce the kickoff time between Boise State and New Mexico November 30.  Yesterday the network revealed that the Broncos have another 8:15 (or slightly later) kickoff in November.  However, the game will be shown on ESPN2, not on ESPNU or online at ESPN3.  That’s a major plus for the program.  Boise State’s final take from the Mountain West TV bonus arrangement is $1.6 million ($600,000 combined for the Air Force and Fresno State games and $500,000 for both the Wyoming and New Mexico dates). 

Now things get a bit more serious for Boise State hoops.  Seattle University comes to Taco Bell Arena tonight with a 2-1 record that includes a win over Cal State Fullerton (which beat Montana State by 29 points in Bozeman) and a loss by only 10 points to Washington.  As for the Broncos, their improved scoring prowess is already obvious after two wins that saw them score a combined 226 points.  Boise State leads the nation in scoring, albeit after facing two outmanned opponents.  Rice and the Broncos are trying to ignore the fact they beat the Redhawks 87-64 last December in Key Arena.  “Seattle’s a really, really explosive team,” said Rice.  “Against Fullerton, they went on an 18-2 run in about two minutes—I’ve never seen that before.”

Neither has Rice ever seen anything as efficient as Jeff Elorriaga’s 12-minute blast that produced 26 points last Friday night against Simpson.  Boise State did a little more research on Elorriaga's blitzkrieg.  His 87.5 percent shooting from three-point range was the best single-game performance in school history for a player with at least eight attempts, and it’s tied for third in the Mountain West record book.  Also, Boise State’s 60 percent team accuracy from beyond the arc matches the school record for 25 or more attempts set six years ago against Idaho State. 

Boise State is inching toward the Top 25.  The Broncos are now fifth in line to get in the AP Poll, generating 28 points from voters this week.  In the Coaches Poll, Boise State is fourth on the waiting list with 21 points.  New Mexico, the only Mountain West team in the Top 25, is ranked 19th in AP and 20th on the Coaches list.  Kentucky, the Bronco foe that looms on December 10, dropped to No. 4 in AP and No. 5 in the Coaches Poll from No. 1 in both after its loss to Michigan State.  Utah State received one vote from the coaches this week—and they should after winning at UC Santa Barbara, 71-64.  UCSB had routed UNLV by 21 in Las Vegas.  Could be telltale stuff.

The Idaho Stampede are close to a finalized roster ahead of their season opener Friday night in CenturyLink Arena against the Bakersfield Jam.  Yesterday the Stamps released Dion Dixon, Lamont Morgan, Steven Pledger (who they had acquired from Reno), and Richard Townsend-Gant.  The Stampede have 12 players on their current roster—it needs to be trimmed to 10 by Thursday.  Stampede veteran forward Jason Ellis, now 10 years removed from his Boise State career, is still in camp and is hoping to make the final cut.

Here are the individual Idaho Steelheads superlatives as the team gears up for the Utah Grizzlies tomorrow night on home ice.  Defenseman Ryan Button, assigned to the Steelheads by the Dallas Stars, is tied for second in the ECHL for points among defensemen with nine.  Justin Mercier has scored at least one goal in four straight games—no Steelhead has had a longer such streak since Mark Derlago’s five-game run in March, 2011.  And Mitch Wahl leads the ECHL in power play points this season with nine.  In fact, of Wahl’s 110 career points at the ECHL level, 56 have come on the man-advantage.

This Day In Sports…November 19, 2011:

Two milestones for Boise State as the Broncos win their first-ever meeting with San Diego State, 52-35, in Qualcomm Stadium.  Senior quarterback Kellen Moore moved into a tie for second place on college football’s career touchdown pass list at 134 by tossing for four scores against the Aztecs.  And senior wide receiver Tyler Shoemaker caught three TD passes to give him 14 for the season, tying the school record set by Austin Pettis two seasons earlier.  Moore and Shoemaker hit the respective marks on the same play, a 24-yard touchdown hookup with 47 seconds left in the second quarter that gave the Broncos a 42-14 halftime lead.

(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.)