Tuesday, November 24, 2009.
Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick needs no introduction here. But still, this guy can’t be a quarterback, can he? With two games left in his junior year, Kaepernick in his career has accumulated 2,852 yards and 39 touchdowns…rushing. Add in his passing, and he’s at 9,610 yards, responsible for 96 TDs. With another big game, Kaepernick could go over the 10,000-yard mark in career total offense Friday night against Boise State in Bronco Stadium. Now let’s turn back the clock to his first start—on that same blue turf as a freshman in 2007. He had just indoctrinated himself impressively in relief against Fresno State the week before when starter Nick Graziano was injured. Against the Broncos, Kaepernick threw for 243 and rushed for another 177 in the wild four-overtime classic finally won by Boise State, 69-67. Welcome to the WAC.
When Bronco fans got their first awe-inspiring look at Kaepernick during that Sunday night ESPN game, they saw a guy who looked more like a pitcher. He was built like one—and even threw like one. That’s because he was a pitcher at Turlock High School in California. Kaepernick chose football, but the Cubs rolled the dice as recently as last June, drafting Kaepernick on the chance that he’d still give baseball a shot. Hey, he could have been a Boise Hawk. As for Kaepernick’s throwing motion, it’s a lot more over-the-top now as opposed to the windup and sidearm delivery of his freshman year. "It was the priority for us this last offseason," Nevada coach Chris Ault said last month. "Even when he's throwing some bad balls, his throwing motion is where it should be. I've been pleased with that all year long.”
A story in the Reno Gazette-Journal earlier this month laid out some fascinating figures comparing Kaepernick when he arrived in Reno to his rather formidable self today. “Wolf Pack strength coach Matt Eck provided the following: In 2006 (his 2009 numbers in parentheses), Kaepernick weighed 194 pounds (218), ran a 40 in 4.73 seconds (4.58), had a vertical jump of 26 inches (33), squatted 305 pounds (490), benched 190 (280) and had a 240-pound hang clean (360). In three years he improved his strength numbers by at least 50 percent.” The result, after Kaepernick and the Nevada offense worked out the kinks during a disappointing September, is an eight-game winning streak, a 7-0 record in the WAC, and one victory needed for the Pack’s first outright WAC championship.
Kaepernick has an admirer in Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore. “Certainly I’m in no way similar to him,” acknowledged Moore with a wide grin. “It’ll be fun to watch him.” But Moore remains the national leader in pass efficiency, and he’s been kind of fun to watch this year, too, leading his team to an 11-0 record and No. 6 ranking in the BCS standings. Incidentally, Kellen did not make the finalists’ group for the Davey O’Brien Award that honors the nation’s best quarterbacks. The three left standing are Tim Tebow of Florida, Colt McKoy of Texas, and Moore’s texting pal, Case Keenum of Houston.
Boise State running back Doug Martin has returned to form after four injury-affected weeks. The sophomore from Stockton was named WAC Offensive Player of the Week yesterday after rushing for 121 yards on only 13 carries and scoring four touchdowns. The last time a Bronco had four rushing TDs in a game was in 2006 when Ian Johnson did it at Idaho.
Boise State fans apparently know what it’s all about Friday night. Only 200 seats remain in the south end zone for the WAC championship showdown. That’s music to coach Chris Petersen’s ears. “I hope we get Bronco Nation out in full force,” Petersen said yesterday. “We need ‘em in a big way.” And Petersen made a point about fans being ready to play four quarters. “(Nevada’s) going to make plays. Don’t let them take you out of the game.” Along those lines, the Broncos need a prospective crowd of 34,000 to stay at 34,000 after halftime on a late November Friday night.
John Junker, the CEO of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, was on the Jim Rome Show yesterday and had some interesting observations pertaining to Boise State. On the chances of two non-BCS schools making BCS bowls: “I think people will have to look seriously at it. I think it’s a 50/50 shot.” On Boise State’s credentials: “Obviously there’s some challenges looking at the schedule strength after the Oregon win. But you’d have a team that’s beaten a possible Rose Bowl participant and has the top-rated passer in the country.” On whether priority would be given Oklahoma State over Boise State should both teams win out: “It’s not a lock, but it’s something we have to look seriously at. We have a contract with the Big 12.” There’s the sledge hammer, Bronco fans. At least there’s this: Oklahoma is favored by 8½ points over the Cowboys Saturday.
Idaho has what could be a difference-maker in its regular season finale this Saturday. Coach Robb Akey says Nate Enderle should be back at quarterback for the Vandals against Utah State in the Kibbie Dome. With a bowl game probable but not an absolute certainty, that’s big news up north. Enderle has missed the last two games, both losses, with a rotator cuff injury, but the Vandals had a bye last week to buy him some time. He’s ranked 11th in the country in pass efficiency rating with over 2400 yards, 15 touchdown passes, and nine interceptions. Also of note at Idaho, star offensive guard Mike Iupati has been named a finalist for the Outland Trophy that goes to the nation’s best lineman. There are only three finalists—the other two are defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska and offensive lineman Russell Okung of Oklahoma State.
It takes time for junior college transfers to be assimilated into a basketball program. Until it fully happens at Boise State this season with Daequon Montreal, Westly Perryman and Reggie Arnold, the Bronco veterans are going to have to carry the load, with the next assignment at Eastern Washington tonight. Perryman and Arnold are shooting just 36 percent from the floor over the first four games, and Montreal is at 28 percent.
All is not rosy with the longtime Broncos, either, as Anthony Thomas is coming off an 0-fer at Wyoming and is hitting just 35 percent of his shots. Thomas also has 17 turnovers. The one consistent vet has been La’Shard Anderson, leading the team with 17.3 points per game. Eastern Washington was within striking distance into the final minute at Washington State last week before falling 67-61 in Pullman. The Eagles outrebounded the Cougars by seven—that will be a key facet of the game tonight.
This Day In Sports…November 24, 1955:
This one’s interesting, since we spent time in September talking about Miami (Ohio) being the “Cradle of Coaches.” It was on this day that the RedHawks (then the Redskins) completed a perfect 9-0-0 season with a 14-0 blanking of Cincinnati. It was the final game at Miami for coach Ara Parseghian, a Miami graduate who would go on to spend eight years at Northwestern before 11 memorable seasons at Notre Dame. This year’s RedHawks, who were shut out 48-0 in Bronco Stadium in September, finished their season 1-11 with a loss to Buffalo last week.
(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.)