Tuesday, November 13, 2012.
Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week is (drum roll)…linebacker Travis Brown of Fresno State. Brown had a season-high nine tackles and returned a fumble 26 yards for a touchdown in the Bulldogs’ win at Nevada. We would never denigrate Brown, son of the late Dan Brown, a player on Boise State’s 1980 Division I-AA national championship team and a longtime Fresno State defensive coordinator. But let’s look at that for a moment. Boise State’s Sam Ukwuachu recorded four tackles and had two sacks in the 49-14 win at Hawaii. The Broncos’ Demarcus Lawrence had just one tackle, but it was a sack—and he returned a fumble 25 yards for a TD. Tyler Horn logged just two tackles, but they were both sacks, and on one of them he forced a fumble recovered by Boise State.
And there’s the rub. The wealth is spread around too much on the Bronco defense to win awards. At least this week. Boise State has been conspicuously absent from the Mountain West honors table, landing not a single Defensive Player of the Week all season despite leading the conference in total defense by more than 37 yards a game and scoring defense by 8½ points per game. But yes, the stats have been divvied up among lots of players. “To play the defense you wanna play, there’s gotta be a bunch of ‘em,” said coach Chris Petersen at his Monday press conference.
That brings us to Horn, the former Mountain View High star whose role on the defensive line is ever increasing. At Hawaii, Horn moved from end to tackle to help fill the void left by the injured Mike Atkinson. “We were kind of joking around with him a little bit—when you get inside and take on the double-team, it’s different,” said defensive tackle Darren Koontz yesterday. “But he didn’t have too much trouble with it.” Petersen says Horn has taken a quantum leap as a sophomore. “You play him in there with those five NFL guys (last year) and say, ‘I hope he’s gonna get there,” Petersen said. “To be able to kick him down inside and play both speaks to his versatility. He’s going to have a really, really bright future here.”
Junior tight end Gabe Linehan is out for the rest of the season, Petersen confirmed yesterday. Linehan injured a hamstring September 29 at New Mexico. The coach is still hopeful wide receiver Mitch Burroughs will be ready to return for the Nevada game December 1. The senior from Meridian has been as involved as ever since breaking his wrist in the Southern Miss game October 6. Burroughs was very visible on the sideline at Hawaii, wearing a headset. “He’s ready to call plays,” joked Petersen. But, he added, “Sometimes you have to go through things to really appreciate these guys.” It’s been almost six years since Burroughs signed with the Broncos. “He’s been tremendous in terms of teammates, and certainly with the coaches,” Petersen said.
Petersen said two suspended players have returned to the team. Long snapper Chris Roberson is back (just in time for Senior Day this Saturday), as is redshirt freshman cornerback Eric Agbaroji. The suspensions of sophomore safety Lee Hightower and freshman tight end Hayden Plinke continue. Hightower is one puzzling case. The Monday before the UNLV game—four weeks ago—he was raving at the press conference about the excitement surrounding the black uniforms. He’s the one who led the Broncos onto the field against the Rebels that week with The Hammer. And he hasn’t been seen since that game.
So, what to make of the new bowl system as unveiled yesterday? There will be six major bowls instead of seven in addition to the new national championship game, but the highest-ranked champion from the “Group of Five,” the conferences that don’t have a place at the table, is guaranteed an at-large spot. Under the new setup, that berth would have gone to the Big East champion eight of the past 10 years based on the league’s 2014 membership (including Boise State, which accounts for five of those years).
So the Big East gets access into the six major bowl games—but at the same level as the other four conferences among the five outsiders. I’m still not seeing how this isn’t BCS Junior. The Big East is probably going to be the strongest “Group of Five” league, but if a Louisiana Tech-type or Fresno State-type team comes along and goes undefeated and the Big East champion has one or two losses, poof. The only difference is the guaranteed berth.
The Boise State men’s basketball team is right back at it tonight against Oakland University, a team with the NCAA Tournament on its resume in 2010 and 2011. “They have Detroit kids, they have Chicago kids, they have Northern Michigan kids—these guys are tough,” said Boise State coach Leon Rice. “We’re going to have to be mentally tough, physically tough to deal with them.” The Broncos’ 49 first-half points Sunday against Texas Southern are more than the team scored in the opening half in all of 2011-12. And keep in mind that Boise State scored over 100 points twice in November last year.
Rice spent quite a bit of time answering questions about attendance at his press conference yesterday. Boise State drew just 1,950 for Sunday’s season-opening win over Texas Southern. “I’m disappointed in that right now,” said Rice. “I enjoy that they come out for the big games, but I want them to come out to see Boise State.” Rice understands that winning is a key part of the equation. “I think fans will enjoy watching this team play,” he said. But it brings up an age-old contention: that Bronco Nation is a one-trick pony. Hey—the College of Idaho and NNU drew 2,422 last Wednesday in Caldwell. “You can’t have a great basketball program without a great home court,” said Rice. Tonight’s game is the nightcap of a doubleheader with the Boise State women, who face North Dakota State at 5:30.
The theme for the Idaho Steelheads so far this season has been offense, but the first player called up to the AHL from the Steelheads is goalie Josh Robinson. And why not? The rookie is fourth in the ECHL in save percentage at 92 percent and sports a record of 5-0-1. Robinson also picked up an ECHL Goaltender of the Week honor last month. Doug Melvin has been added as an emergency backup goaltender for tomorrow night’s game against Stockton in CenturyLink Arena.
This Day In Sports…November 13, 1985:
In a game played at Spokane, Lynette Woodard becomes the first woman to play for the Harlem Globetrotters. She had scored over 3600 career points at Kansas—the most in women’s college basketball history—and was the captain of the US team that won the gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Woodard scored seven points as the Globetrotters defeated their perennial opponents, the Washington Generals, 81-65.
(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.)