Thursday, October 18, 2012.
We’re at the halfway point of Boise State’s 2012 season. The Broncos are winning differently this year (do ya think?). In August, many wondered if this would be a rebuilding or reloading campaign. Well, it’s a little bit of both. The defense has reloaded, and the offense is rebuilding, particularly in the passing game. That’s the main reason Boise State’s average scoring margin this season is plus-10½, while last year at this time it was plus-30. “We’ve had opportunities in a couple games to get breathing room and haven’t always been able to get it done,” said coach Chris Petersen. “I still credit our guys for playing hard. As long as they get it done—and they’ve been gettin’ it done.”
So how is it that this unusual Boise State team is 5-1 and still in the Top 25? The words “program” and “culture” come to the fore again. Fresno State recognizes that (can’t seem to shake the Fresno State game, but that’s okay). Bulldog coach Tim DeRuyter had some interesting takes after visiting the blue turf, and it starts with commitment in the trenches. “I thought that they dominated the line of scrimmage from their defense to our offense,” DeRuyter told the Fresno Bee. He knows the things you don’t see are the key at Boise State. “We're lifting three days a week during the season, our developmental squad who's getting redshirted this year is lifting four days a week. That pays dividends two, three, four years from now, and that's where Boise is at in their program. They've had an established program. We’re in a catch-up mode there."
Fresno State offensive coordinator Dave Schramm saw it on the field last Saturday. "You get into so many obvious pass downs and those guys are good, they've won a lot of football games, they play extremely hard," Schramm said of Boise State. "You can tell by looking at them that they've been in a program that's built on getting in the weight room and doing those things you have to do to win games, and they're used to it. You can tell by the way they play.”
That takes us to the uncanny chemistry that has marked Boise State’s run. Sophomore safety Lee Hightower says it’s a very real thing. “I know between me and all the other DBs—Jamar (Taylor) and Jerrell (Gavins) are kind of out there anchoring us, they’re the seniors out there—me and Jeremy (Ioane) are in the back half, kind of talkin’ it up. I know the D-line, the linebackers have their communication, so we’re all communicating, we’re all talking, and I think you can see that out there. It makes it a lot easier to play; it makes it a lot more fun to play, because we’re all excited, we’re all running to the ball, and it makes it a good time out there.”
The national media are generally skeptical of this year’s Boise State team, but they consider it to have the potential to go somewhere special at the end of the season, if only by default. In SI.com’s “2012 Midseason Crystal Ball,” one of the categories the six writers picked was “Best Bet to Bust the BCS.” Wrote Holly Anderson: “I sadly doubt any busters are breaking through this season. But at this point, if anyone can crack the BCS, it almost seems like it has to be the Broncos, especially given Louisiana Tech's loss and Ohio's failure to play anything like compelling football. Louisiana Tech will have more wins over AQ teams, but the Broncos will have name recognition from lazy voters who are just used to having them ranked.”
From the “things you’d never see locally” department, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has a UNLV injury report for Saturday’s game at Boise State and lists 18 players. Four of them are out this week. That’s not out of the ordinary—you have the same information here on guys like Mitch Burroughs, Gabe Linehan and Kyle Sosnowski. But the newspaper tabs two players as “doubtful,” seven as “questionable,” and five as “probable,” identifying “arm” or “leg” as the injury. Key Rebel players such as running back Tim Cornett and wide receivers Marcus Sullivan and Devante Davis are listed as probable. We hardly know who has a hangnail at Boise State.
Kyle Wilson has a mid-term exam of sorts coming up Sunday. New York Jets coach Rex Ryan has said he’s been building the team’s roster with the New England Patriots in mind, including the drafting of Wilson out of Boise State in the first round in 2010 to contend with Tom Brady’s passing. With All-Pro Darrelle Revis out for the season, offenses have been picking on Antonio Cromartie more than Wilson. But Cromartie had two interceptions in the past two games, and the expectation is that Brady will come after Wilson more. Wilson had a pass breakup and a forced fumble in last week’s 35-9 win over the Colts and has 17 tackles and one interception on the season.
New Idaho Steelheads coach Brad Ralph celebrated his 32nd birthday last night with his first victory with the club. Forgive Ralph if he was too tired to party, though, as the game was an energy-sapper. The Steelheads, behind an ECHL era team record four goals from Tristan King, won in a shootout at Colorado, 7-6. King, who was assigned to Idaho 10 days ago by the AHL’s Texas Stars, spent most of last season with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign after beginning the season with the Steelies. Kael Mouillierat, who just re-joined the Steelheads yesterday, had a big hand in the triumph with a goal and an assist—and the eventual game-winner in the shootout. Goalie Tyler Beskorowany had an uneven night, allowing six goals in regulation before denying four of five Eagle shots in the shootout. The Steelheads and Colorado play again tomorrow and Saturday.
Boise State and San Diego State are going to the Big East together in football next year—and to the Big West in non-football sports. But their exits in men’s basketball are going to look a little different. Hoops are the thing at San Diego State, while at Boise State the serious focus is across the parking lot from Taco Bell Arena. The hype has never been stronger for the Aztecs, who came in at No. 20 yesterday in the preseason Coaches Poll (UNLV was No. 19). SDSU has been to three straight NCAA Tournaments and returns four of five starters, including Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin. San Diego State held a huge Midnight Madness event last Friday to kick off preseason practice. It was a long night for 67-year-old coach Steve Fisher.
Boise State’s start was more modest last Friday as the Broncos conducted their first practice in Taco Bell Arena’s auxiliary gym. They look to make headway in their second and final season in the Mountain West after an eye-opening experience last winter following 10 seasons in the WAC. “Teams are definitely bigger and more physical,” noted senior forward Ryan Watkins in an understatement. “Not only do you have to be good, but you have to be great,” coach Leon Rice said. Boise State was 3-11 in the Mountain West but lost by only two at San Diego State and by just three to the 18th-ranked Aztecs in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament. “We took our lumps, and that’s only going to help us,” said Watkins.
This Day In Sports…October 18, 2002, 10 years ago today:
One of the most electric nights in Bronco Stadium history, as a then-record crowd of 30,924 and a national audience on ESPN watch Boise State dismantle Fresno State, 67-21. The Broncos started B.J. Rhode, and the senior quarterback staked them to a 13-0 lead. But then in the second quarter, Ryan Dinwiddie returned from a broken ankle six weeks earlier and torched the Bulldogs with a record 19-of-22 performance, covering 406 yards and five touchdowns. In the stands, Boise State successfully executed its first Orange-Out.
(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.)