Friday, September 6, 2013.
It’s the home opener on what the weather forecast indicates will be as fine a football Saturday as you will ever see: sunny and 80 degrees. You have a team that has gone 157-25 since 1999, and the coach with the highest active winning percentage in college football. Yet there are 7,000 tickets still remaining for Boise State’s game against Tennessee-Martin tomorrow. Why? Some fans just don’t have the money. But others want to make a statement. They don’t like the home schedule, or they want changes on offense, or they want changes on defense, or they don’t think it’s worth it to go watch a team that lost by 32 points the week before. Even if it’s been almost eight years since the Broncos lost by more than 14. If you call yourself a fan, and you can afford it (which I know is a key), then go to the game. It’s the right thing to do.
The fans who want to make a statement by not showing up aren’t making the one they think. In our “what have you done for me lately?” world, they think some empty seats will influence the changes they’d like to see. You know who it will influence? Those who wonder if they should take Boise State seriously as an elite program. “Hmmmm,” ponders Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “Hmmmm,” thinks Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott (who said at the Washington game his conference has no interest in expanding anyway). When the 65 or 70 “power schools” break away to create their own deal sometime in the future, which side of the fence will the Broncos be on? If situations like tomorrow’s attendance become commonplace, we already know.
Then there’s the simple issue of supporting one’s team. Take Nebraska, for example (understanding that Boise State is a mere pup compared to the Cornhuskers’ storied history). The Huskers have gone through some hard times, suffering losing seasons in 2004 and 2007 during the ill-fated Bill Callahan era. Yet Nebraska fans continued to fill the stadium for every game, and the Huskers’ sellout streak has reached 326 games. The Broncos would be happy with one-tenth of that.
Boise State players shouldn’t pay a steep penalty at the gate for one bad loss. “They’re prideful guys—they get it and want to be good,” said Petersen. Motivational strategy walks a fine line in a situation like this. “As a coach, you’ve got to balance that—how much you need to push ‘em and how much you need to just teach ‘em, and how much you need to coach ‘em. I think the good coaches can figure that out.” Petersen has figured it out before. Just go to the game. Chill. Have fun. Heck, the new video board is just a bonus.
Will the Mountain West be able to rally from a disastrous Week 1? At least one team is guaranteed a win, as Utah State and Air Force open conference play tomorrow in Colorado Springs. Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada all face FCS schools, but any other success the Mountain West has tomorrow outside of Wyoming-Idaho will have to come via upsets. The biggest one would be San Diego State over Ohio State in the Horseshoe—do you think? Aztecs running back Adam Muema, injured in the stunning loss to Eastern Illinois last week, practiced Wednesday and is expected to play against the Buckeyes. I’d like to say San Jose State has a whisker of a chance at Stanford. But not Hawaii at Oregon State, nor New Mexico at UTEP, nor Colorado State at Tulsa, nor UNLV at home against Arizona.
Idaho is a 28-point underdog at Wyoming, which features a rather inspired quarterbacks coach. Jason Gesser, who filled the same post with the Vandals last year and doubled as interim head coach after Robb Akey was fired, is now tutoring the Cowboys’ Brett Smith. And Smith was stellar at Nebraska last week. Idaho faces another old acquaintance tomorrow, Wyo defensive coordinator Chris Tormey. The Vandals did pretty well against him last year in the Kibbie Dome, scoring a season-high 37 points in a three-point loss to the Cowboys. Elsewhere, Idaho State begins its season tomorrow with a must-win game versus Dixie State in Holt Arena. Dixie is a Division II school, but the Bengals are vulnerable against anybody.
Ryan Clady got his sixth NFL season underway last night in Denver’s 49-27 win over Baltimore. The other 15 former Boise State standouts in the NFL will get into it Sunday. If you catch Arizona’s game against St. Louis, you’ll probably see Nate Potter in an unfamiliar spot. Bob McManaman at AZCentral.com reports Cardinals coach Bruce Arians revealed this week that Potter is now practicing mostly at guard, a spot he hasn’t played for real since his Timberline High School days. “He’s got the potential and he’s smart enough to be a four-man rotational guy,” Arians said. “He can play both sides. He already knows how to play both tackles from his experience in the spring. Now we’ll get him ready to play guard.” Potter’s reaction: “I’ll do anything they tell me to do.” He started six games at left tackle last season.
The Boise Hawks go after their first championship since 2004—and seventh overall—when they take on the Vancouver Canadians in Game 1 of the Northwest League Championship Series tonight at Memorial Stadium. This will be the Hawks’ 13th trip to the finals in their 27-season history. They captured their first four titles in the 1990’s under iconic manager Tom Kotchman, then added crowns in 2002 and 2004. The Canadians are two-time defending Northwest League champions and bring in the league’s Most Valuable Player, first baseman L.B. Dantzler, who hit .302 with a NWL-leading nine home runs. Boise was the top-hitting team in the league this year with a .269 average.
Two of the guys who played a key part in clinching the South Division title Wednesday night at Salem-Keizer, Justin Marra and Lance Rymel, were with the Hawks a year ago when they faced the Canadians in the NWLCS. Oh, do they remember. The Hawks had their first Northwest League title in eight years in their sights. They were four outs away in the deciding Game 3 at Memorial Stadium when Vancouver batted around in the bottom of the eighth and plated seven runs with two outs en route to a 12-9 win. Current Boise pitchers Eddie Orozco, Tyler Bremer and Juan Paniagua were also on the roster that night. But Paniagua won’t be around for Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 in Canada. It’s those visa and passport problems again. Among four other players who’ll be missing: Northwest League RBI leader Yasiel Balaguert.
More on the valley’s pro sports front. Paper doesn’t win games, but the Idaho Steelheads are looking good on paper right now. The Steelheads will have forward David deKastrozza back this season after he posted career highs in goals, assists and points last season while leading the team with 66 games played. The Steelies are a month out from training camp. And the Idaho Stampede’s schedule is out, with 18 of their 24 home games on Friday or Saturday nights. That’s all a minor league franchise can ask. The campaign opens before Thanksgiving this season, as the Bakersfield Jam visit CenturyLink Arena Friday, November 22.
Boise State has finalized its non-conference basketball schedule for the upcoming season and has revealed one additional carrot—a home carrot no less. The Broncos will face fellow NCAA Tournament participant Saint Mary’s in Taco Bell Arena December 14. That’ll be four days after they face Kentucky on the road. The Gaels joined Boise State for the First Four in Dayton last March. But unlike the Broncos, Saint Mary’s got out of there with a win and nearly took down Memphis in the next round. The other marquee opponent on the Broncos’ non-conference slate is Utah, which comes to town December 3.
Former Boise State star Troy Merritt, in effect, got a mulligan for the regular season on the Web.com Tour. And he’s taking advantage, as he sits one shot back in the second stage of the Web.com Tour Finals after the first round of the Chiquita Classic. Merritt fired a four-under 68 at River Run Country Club in Davidson, NC, thanks in part to an eagle on the par-five 18th hole.
This Day In Sports…September 6, 2010:
A landmark day in Boise State football, as the third-ranked Broncos open the season against 10th-ranked Virginia Tech in a made-for-ESPN game at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. BSU jumped out to a 17-0 first quarter lead, helped by a fumble recovery and a blocked punt—and two Kellen Moore touchdown passes. But the Hokies clawed back, taking a 27-26 lead into the fourth quarter. Virginia Tech went up by four on a field goal, but it gave the ball back to the Broncos with 1:47 left. Moore then found Austin Pettis for a 13-yard TD with 1:09 left, giving the Broncos a wild 33-30 win in front of 86,587 exhausted fans.
(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.)