Tuesday, September 28, 2010.
When a team’s a 41-point favorite, you search for angles. So let’s get this out there right now about Boise State’s special teams this week. They’re coming off a forgettable night in the win over Oregon State. Now comes a team whose strength is its return units. It might be the only one, but it is New Mexico State’s strength. Taveon Rogers broke the Aggies’ single-game record Saturday with 219 yards on six kickoff returns in a 42-16 loss at Kansas. Rogers had three returns of 40 yards or more. The Broncos, of course, watched OSU’s James Rodgers take a punt back 54 yards for a touchdown and allowed a 40-yard Beavers kickoff return. Coach Chris Petersen was philosophical about the punt return yesterday. “Well, you see a really good player for sure in James Rodgers,” said Petersen. “Sometimes you just have to give credit where credit is due.”
Petersen was also philosophical about Boise State’s increase in penalties this season. So far the Broncos have racked up 27 penalties for 233 yards. After three games last season, BSU had been penalized 19 times, covering 194 yards. On the subject of personal fouls, Pete said, “I know this: I think (our guys) play very hard and very aggressive, and I know sometimes bad decisions are going to be made there”. He didn’t advance an definitive opinion on what is being called a helmet-to-helmet hit on Rodgers by Winston Venable. But Petersen did express concern that Venable himself is going to be hurt someday if he doesn’t change the way he tackles.
Word is out that the Broncos are going to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week—coast-to-coast and around the world, not just a regional cover like on the College Football Preview issue. SI writer Austin Murphy went in depth last week before and during the 37-23 win over Oregon State for the accompanying story. That’ll put a capper on a rather whirlwind month.
Boise State is getting another odd critique this week. It comes from SI.com’s Andy Staples, who was also at Bronco Stadium Saturday. “I know I saw one of the best teams in the country, and I'm 99 percent certain that team will have no chance to win the national title,” writes Staples. “Some of the blame falls on the people in Boise State's program, who—either because they feel it's beneath them or because they don't like the attention—refuse to play the game that might allow them to break the crystal football ceiling.” Staples notes that Chris Petersen will not stump for his team, wondering if Pete “thinks his program should be above such boasting.” Well, all Petersen has ever cared about is the next game. And he feels as soon as the priority becomes telling everyone who’ll listen how good his team is, that’s when the Broncos will stumble.
Titus Young could have won this award after a nationally-televised night of acrobatics, but Boise State’s Kellen Moore is WAC Offensive Player of the Week. Moore was at his efficient best versus the Beavers with 288 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The scoring throws pushed Kellen past Tony Hilde (1993-96) to third on the Broncos’ career touchdown pass list, with 72 now just three games into his junior year. Moore’s most impressive toss Saturday night came when he escaped the grasp of an OSU pass rusher and let loose with a perfect strike to Austin Pettis for a 26-yard gain. “For Kellen to make a guy miss is good, because that’s usually not his game,” said Petersen. “Then to find Austin downfield, that was a big play.”
Oregon State coach Mike Riley won’t take sides in the Boise State/TCU conversation, even though he’s played both teams. Riley did say, “Both of these defenses have been about as quick and fast as we’ve played against,” Riley said in the Oregonian. “Ever.” He didn’t want to light a fire beyond that. “In that top five in the country, I don’t know if you’re going to pick five better football teams than these two teams that we just played,” Riley said.
There was a little bit of feast and a bit more famine in the WAC over the weekend. In addition to Boise State’s win over Oregon State, you had Nevada’s 27-13 victory at BYU that lifted the Wolf Pack into the Top 25. The story of that game was actually the Pack defense, which held the Cougars in check before over 61,000 fans in Provo. BYU managed only 320 yards. The only other WAC team to win was Hawaii, with a 66-7 victory over an overwhelmed FBS school, Charleston Southern. Fresno State did not represent, going down 55-38 at Ole Miss, which had been struggling mightily.
Today the WAC starts meeting with prospective expansion candidates in Dallas. Hawaii wants schools in the West—Louisiana Tech wants schools in the Central time zone. If the Warriors get what they want, La Tech could go begging for another conference more geographically-friendly, even the Sun Belt. If the Bulldogs get what they want, Hawaii could bite the bullet and go independent in football. The latter sounds more likely right now, as Texas State and Texas-San Antonio make their pitches. But that magic name is also on the agenda: Montana. Non-football candidates Seattle and Denver are also set to appear. This is just the first step.
Will Ian Johnson have to turn an occupational page now? The Boise State icon has been released from the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad. The Cards had picked him up after he was cut by the Vikings. Meanwhile, former BSU star Gerald Alexander is getting a second chance in Jacksonville. The Jaguars re-signed Alexander yesterday and released defensive back Michael Coe, who was beaten on a 61-yard touchdown pass against the Eagles Sunday. Alexander was cut at the end of training camp. The strong safety played in 15 games last season with the Jags, starting 10. In 36 career games with Jacksonville and Detroit, Alexander has posted 153 tackles, four interceptions, two sacks, five forced fumbles and 10 tackles for loss.
Maybe we’ll look back five or six years from now and say Joey Nebeker was the local one that didn’t get away. Nebeker, Melba High’s star junior, has committed to a scholarship offer from Boise State basketball coach Leon Rice, according to the Statesman’s Rachel Roberts. Nebeker, already 6-6 and 200 pounds, will be part of the Broncos’ 2012 recruiting class. He’s been starting for the Mustangs since his freshman year. As a sophomore, Nebeker averaged over 20 points and six rebounds a game in leading Melba to the state 2A tournament.
This Day In Sports…September 28, 1941:
Boston Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams goes 6-for-8 in a doubleheader on the final day of the season to finish with a .406 batting average—the last time a major leaguer has topped .400. The closest anyone has come is San Diego’s Tony Gwynn, who batted .394 in 1994. Also, on this day in 1960 (50 years ago today), Williams played the last game of his career and hit a home run in his final at-bat.
(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 served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)