Thursday, November 1, 2012.
Didn’t mean to reel you in with a sucker headline. Alright, maybe I did. But this is not about the bad, bad Rocky Long. So, the San Diego State coach has changed his tune and doesn’t mind the blue turf after all? That is so year-and-a-half-ago. At Mountain West Media Days in July, Long was ladeling respect on Boise State. In fact, he was prophetic when he addressed the new-look Broncos with all the missing pieces from the past few years. “Great programs have great players throughout their program,” said Long. “And when it’s their time to take over—guess what.” And three months later, here sits Boise State at 7-1 and in control of its destiny in the Mountain West race going into Saturday night’s pivotal matchup with the Aztecs.
Long has grown weary of being asked about that horrible, awful, terrible stuff he said about the blue turf in the spring of 2011. Especially the notion that he was responsible for the Mountain West’s ban on Boise State wearing all-blue on the blue turf. “Somebody thinks I had something to do with that,” said Long. “I had absolutely nothing to do with that. If I had that kind of pull on getting things done, I'd do a lot of other things besides that.” Long’s focus is who’s on the field this week, not what color it is or the other team’s wardrobe. Truth be told, he’s a good guy, and you can see how players like to play for him.
You’ve long heard that one of the few statistics Chris Petersen says he pays attention to is pass efficiency rating. It’s usually in relation to offense, and certainly he wishes Boise State’s number, currently 132.8, was higher. But Petersen’s gotta like the number on defense. The Broncos are sixth in the country, allowing opponents a rating of just 98.8. Remember that a rating of 170 is great, 150 is good, and 130 is average. So 98.8 is bad. With the injury and suspension situation in the secondary now, we’ll see if that number drifts upward. Keeping the other guys out of the end zone has been a difference-maker—only two touchdown passes given up, and only one by a quarterback. Opponents’ TD percentage is less than one percent. Boise State leads the nation in that category.
Judging by last Saturday, it appears you’ll be seeing more of Deon’tae Florence in the secondary. Florence jumped into the rotation at cornerback after Bryan Douglas was injured at Wyoming and ended up third on the team in tackles for the day with five. He also forced a fumble. Florence is a 5-9, 168-pound sophomore from Largo, FL, by way of College of the Desert in Southern California. He quickly immersed himself in Boise State’s system and made an interception in the team’s public fall camp scrimmage in August. Florence was a late addition to the Broncos’ 2012 recruiting class—now he finds himself in the middle of the fray.
The Broncos had as much trouble with the San Diego State offense as anybody’s last season in the 52-35 win at Qualcomm Stadium. So look out for Aztec tight end Gavin Escobar, who’s been named the national John Mackey Tight End of the Week. Escobar had four catches for 108 yards and a touchdown, all in the first half, to lead San Diego State to its 24-13 victory over UNLV last Saturday. He leads the Aztecs with 30 receptions, 425 receiving yards, and five touchdown catches. The 6-6, 255-pounder creates mismatches—in fact, Escobar did that last year against the Broncos when he hauled in eight balls for 113 yards and two TDs at a time when the BSU secondary was similarly understaffed.
After Boise State’s 52-14 win at Idaho two years ago, Gene Bleymaier may have thought he’d never be back in the Kibbie Dome for a football game. But Bleymaier will be there Saturday as athletic director of San Jose State. And the former Boise State AD will be accompanying a pretty good football team. There could be some even better irony down the road—it’s not impossible that Bleymaier and the Spartans would be in Bronco Stadium in a month and a half for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Spartans are 6-2 in their third season under Mike MacIntyre and are on the cusp of being bowl-eligible. A win would give them their best nine-game record in 25 years.
It’s a reach to find something pertinent to talk about for Idaho State’s game against Northern Arizona Saturday in Holt Arena. But we do find this: two of the Boise State players who left the program earlier this year seeking more playing time landed with the Lumberjacks. Defensive tackle Justin Jungblut and fullback Jake Hess are both getting playing time, as is free safety Jake Johnston, a former Eagle Mustang who redshirted with the Broncos in 2006. NAU comes into Pocatello at 7-1, having won seven games in a row.
When you see Ryan Watkins take the floor tomorrow night for Boise State’s exhibition game against Saint Martins in Taco Bell Arena, you’ll notice something different about him. Watkins will be wearing jersey No. 0 (as in, zero). Why the change? “I wanted a fresh start,” said Watkins, who wore No. 23 his first two seasons. “You’ve got to earn everything on the floor. Zero regrets. Zero excuses.” Watkins tailed off after a strong start last season, averaging only 5½ points and three rebounds per game during Mountain West play. The junior forward is working on being more coachable this season. “I listened more as a freshman,” Watkins said. “I kind of lost that as a sophomore.” He also vows to play harder, something he realizes he didn’t always do last winter. “When I went back and watched it, I saw it,” Watkins said.
Former Boise State star Coby Karl is returning to the Idaho Stampede after all, having been assigned yesterday by the Portland Trailblazers. Karl last played for the Stampede three seasons ago. Two other ex-Bronco standouts are also back with the Stampede, Reggie Larry and Jason Ellis. Joining Larry and Ellis as returnees from last season are Seth Tarver and Paul Carter. In all, 10 players were added to the training camp roster yesterday. The Stampede expect to fill more spots through the D-League Draft, set for tomorrow night.
The Boise State wrestling team, with all 10 starters returning from last season, open the 2012-13 campaign with a dual match at Wyoming tonight in Laramie. The Broncos will then stay over in Laramie for the Cowboy Open Tournament Saturday. Four participants from the NCAA Tournament last March are back: Brian Owen, George Ivanov, Jake Swartz and Brent Chriswell. The highest-ranked wrestler going into the season is one who redshirted last year, 2011 All-American Jason Chamberlain, who’s No. 2 nationally at 149 pounds.
This Day In Sports…November 1, 2010:
The San Francisco Giants, who manager Bruce Bochy affectionately called a collection of “castoffs and misfits,” win their first World Series since moving to California in 1958, finishing off the Texas Rangers in five games with a 3-1 victory. The Giants’ pitching was dominant throughout, with ace Tim Lincecum winning the first game and the finale. Veteran Edgar Renteria was the MVP, capping his Series with a decisive three-run homer in Game 5. The Rangers were in their first Fall Classic, while the Giants finally cashed in for the first time since they represented New York in 1954.
(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.)