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Joined at the hip – the running game and the red zone

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on November 12, 2009 at 8:34 AM

Updated Thursday, Nov 12 at 12:26 PM


Thursday, November 12, 2009.
At his press conference this week, Boise State coach Chris Petersen addressed both the red zone and the running game, intertwined parts of the Bronco puzzle (and it is a puzzle). “It’s always a different game when you’re not running the ball like you want to,” said Petersen. Different to the point of scoring touchdowns on only three of seven trips to the red zone at Louisiana Tech last Friday. Granted, the longest run from scrimmage possible in the red zone is 20 yards, but the Broncos had only seven on eight carries against La Tech. Quarterback Kellen Moore puts it in the simplest of terms: “We’ve just got to execute.” Boise State has notched TDs on only 55 percent of its red zone visits this season, compared with 66 percent last year and 72 in the Fiesta Bowl season of 2006.
Let’s talk about a different streak today, the touchdown reception streak of Boise State’s Austin Pettis. It’s at a school-record nine games—he has 10 TD catches in all, tied for second in the nation. Pettis is now three touchdowns behind Mike Holton’s BSU season record of 13 set 35 years ago. And the junior from Anaheim has 25 career touchdown receptions, third all-time at Boise State and five away from the Bronco career record of 30 set by Don Hutt in 1973. Did I mention Pettis is still a junior? 
Moore acknowledges that’s it’s almost by design that the ball goes the way of Pettis in the red zone. Kellen says he just trusts Pettis. “Sometimes you kind of forget the play and just say, ‘I like that guy right there,’ and just throw it to him and give him a shot,” Moore says. Taylor Tharp trusted Pettis, too. One of his best games came in his true freshman year against Idaho on the blue turf in 2007, with eight catches for 139 yards and three TDs in a 58-14 win.
Albertson’s, Ore-Ida, Morrison-Knudsen and Boise Cascade all used to be the staples of Boise’s amazing homegrown corporate culture. They’re all gone or relocated, but there’s a new one now. It’s Boise State Broncos Inc., and everybody’s invited to buy shares at $100 apiece. It’s an idea taken from the Green Bay Packers model, being applied to a university for the first time by Boise State. An initial offering of 200,000 shares is slated to raise $2 million, sooner or later. All funds raised will go toward facilities, and the priorities are 1) the new basketball locker rooms, 2) the moving of the track to the new Dona Larsen Park at the old East Junior High, and 3) the horseshoeing of the south end zone at Bronco Stadium. You can’t sell your stock once you buy it, but you get a certificate and voting privileges.
What was the first thing Dan Hawkins did when he was named head coach at Boise State in December, 2000? He accepted a bare-bones head coach’s base salary of $155,000 in order to increase the pool of dollars available to hire assistant coaches. The BSU program’s emphasis on the staff’s needs has only grown from there, to the point that the Broncos’ assistant coaches are the highest-paid of all non-BCS schools. That’s according to a report in USA Today based on figures obtained from 98 of the 120 FBS schools (private schools are, well, private). It’s paid off to the tune of a 88-15 record during the combined Hawkins and Petersen eras. The current average assistant’s salary is over $175,000, higher than 14 BCS teams, says the paper. 
Idaho coach Robb Akey still won’t tip his hand on his starting quarterback Saturday in Bronco Stadium. If Nate Enderle’s shoulder is okay, he’ll have a chance to show a vertical passing game that was sporadic at best the past two seasons. Enderle averaged only six yards per pass attempt his first two years as the Vandal starter.  This season it’s zoomed up over nine yards per attempt. That’s a key part of college football’s pass efficiency formula, and that has Enderle 10th in the nation in pass efficiency. We’ll see what happens when the bell rings two days from now.
At least Buster Bronco and the cheerleaders weren’t there handing out gift bags, like they were the other day at the Boise Airport. Idaho athletic director Rob Spear was headed to Boise on Horizon Air from the Moscow-Pullman Airport last Saturday—until he found out the plane was the one newly-adorned in blue and orange with the big Boise State logo on its tail. Spear refused to board, drove to Spokane, and caught another flight.
Legedu Naanee’s multi-purpose talents may have a chance to germinate in San Diego now that the Chargers have released wide receiver Chris Chambers. More balls should come Naanee’s way—and they did last Sunday at the Meadowlands, where the former Boise State star had three catches for 20 yards in the 21-20 win over the New York Giants. It was Naanee’s most receptions in a game since September. The Chargers like him in the slot and on screens as a changeup to Darren Sproles. Naanee, San Diego’s fifth round draft pick in 2007, has 16 catches for 142 yards this season.
When goaltender Rejean Beauchemin was loaned to the Manitoba Moose two weeks ago, the Idaho Steelheads were thinking he’d be gone for a long spell. But Beauchemin has already been returned to the Steelheads, triggering the release of veteran netminder Kevin Nastiuk. Beauchemin got only one start with the Moose, making 22 saves and allowing four goals in a loss last Friday. He comes back still sporting the ECHL’s best goals-against average (1.67) and save percentage (.940). Beauchemin will be with the Steelheads for their three-game series at Stockton this weekend.
Scoreboard and standings-watching will start earlier next year in the Northwest League. The circuit that includes the Boise Hawks is moving to a split-season format in 2010.  There’ll be two first-half divisional champions determined after the first 38 games.  Those teams will then meet the second-half champions in a best-of-three Divisional Series to open the post season.  If the second-half champion is the same as the first, the team with the second best overall season record would get a playoff berth.  The winners of the Divisional Series will then meet in the Northwest League Championship Series.
The NBA D-League’s postseason has been kind of a scatter plan over the years, with some one-and-done matchups and some best-of-three series. Now it’ll have balance, as the playoffs will feature three rounds of three-game series next spring now that the D-League has 16 teams. The Idaho Stampede open training camp Sunday, with Opening Night set for November 28 against the Reno Bighorns in Qwest Arena.
This Day In Sports…November 12, 1969, 40 years ago today:
Minnesota’s Harmon Killebrew, the proud product of Payette, is named the American League’s MVP after a season that saw him lead the AL with 49 home runs and 140 runs batted in. Killebrew led the Twins to the American League West title in the first year of divisional play in Major League Baseball. He would play six more seasons, ending up with 573 home runs and a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.
(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 handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)