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Preview of the Big East’s fierce Western rivalry

Preview of the Big East’s fierce Western rivalry

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on November 2, 2012 at 7:22 AM

Friday, November 2, 2012.

A year from now, when you think of contentious Western rivals in the Big East Conference, you’ll naturally think of Boise State and San Diego State.  You’ll have no choice.  The strange bedfellows are departing the Mountain West together next year for the unknown world that lies ahead.  This is a series that dates all the way back to…2011.  The Broncos and Aztecs have played one game against each other, Boise State’s 52-35 win last season, and a year from now they’ll be designated rivalry partners.  The adrenalin isn’t quite yet kicking in, is it?  The meat of this game has filled the void, though.  It’s for the Mountain West lead, as the upset-minded Aztecs try to win a fifth game in a row for the first time in 17 years.

This was going to be San Diego State quarterback Ryan Katz’s second game with a second team on the blue turf, two years after he led Oregon State in the Beavers’ 37-24 loss to the Broncos when ESPN College GameDay came to town.  But Katz suffered a season-ending broken ankle at Nevada two weeks ago, and the guy he had battled with for the starting job, Adam Dingwell, has come on impressively.  Dingwell rallied the Aztecs from a 10-point deficit to beat Nevada in overtime, SDSU’s first OT win in 14 years (and on Dingwell’s 21st birthday to boot).  Then he guided the Aztecs to an easier-than-it-sounds 24-13 win over UNLV last week.  This will be Dingwell’s first test against a top 15 defense (the Broncos are 15th).  No quarterback other than Fresno State’s Derek Carr has thrown a touchdown against them.

Of course, the focus for the Boise State defense has been how it will hold up in the secondary in its scotch-taped form against the San Diego State passing game.  And, of course, there’s more to it than that.  Running backs Adam Muema and Walter Kazee both rushed for over 100 yards against UNLV.  The Broncos remember Muema all too well—with Ronnie Hillman hobbled last year, he put up 119 yards on Boise State, including an 81-yard touchdown run.

Boise State kept coming through on third down last week at Wyoming, converting 12-of-14 third down conversions.  Joe Southwick was 6-of-7 passing on third down.  Tomorrow night, though, it’s an important area for the Bronco defense as well.  San Diego State ranks 14th in the country, converting 50 percent of the time on third down.  How about fourth down?  Rocky Long will roll the dice.  The Aztecs are a torrid 9-for-14 on the season, while Boise State is 1-for-10 and didn’t go for it once on fourth down in Laramie.

Regarding the 8:30 kickoff tomorrow night, look at it this way: Daylight Savings Time ends early Sunday morning, and it’s “fall back” time.  So just reset your clocks early—before you go to the game—and voila!  Kickoff’s at 7:30.  By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a volunteer for the Hunger Bowl tomorrow at Bronco Stadium benefitting the Idaho Foodbank, Boise Rescue Mission and Salvation Army.  Please remember to bring your non-perishable food items and drop them in the bins at stadium entrances.  More than one in 10 Idaho households now experiences some level of hunger, and the number continues to climb.

An amazing discussion took place yesterday on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike In The Morning on KTIK.  Greenburg and Golic were doing a Fantasy Football segment, and they locked in on two of the NFL’s top performers last week.  They were Detroit’s Titus Young and Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin.  But not once did Greenburg and Golic make the association that the two are former Boise State teammates.  And actually that was a positive.  Here were the two hosts of a national show discussing Young and Martin as budding NFL stars.  And that was fine, because that’s who they are now.  Martin had the NFL’s top Fantasy score of the week.  Plus, he’s been named October’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month.  Martin was tops in the NFL with 155.7 yards from scrimmage per game for the month.

Idaho’s hopes of pulling an upset against San Jose State tomorrow rest with quarterbacks Logan Bushnell and Taylor Davis doing things they’ve never done.  Both Bushnell and Davis will see action when the Vandals, 19-point underdogs, play their first game under interim coach Jason Gesser—and their first (permanently) without quarterback Dominique Blackman.  Let’s look at the only career starts for both replacement QBs.  Bushnell took the reins in this year’s season-opening 20-3 loss to Eastern Washington and was only 10-of-23 for 128 yards with an interception.  Davis started last year's game at San Jose State and helped the Vandals rally from a 20-0 deficit and win, 32-29.  Davis was 13-of-20 for 162 yards with one TD and one pick.  But his career passing percentage is under 50 percent. 

San Jose State posted 571 yards of total offense last week in its win over Texas State and has topped 500 yards three times this season.  A former Vandal has a lot to do with it, as one-time Idaho quarterback Brian Lindgren, the Spartans’ offensive coordinator, returns to the Kibbie Dome tomorrow.  One of Lindgren’s colleagues: tight ends coach Klayton Adams, the former Boise State center who got his coaching start with the Broncos.

The Idaho Steelheads’ only game of the week is tonight in CenturyLink Arena, and it’s against a team that’s been giving them fits.  The Steelheads are 5-0 against every team not named Utah, but they haven’t been able to beat the Grizzlies yet in three tries.  The Steelies would like to find a way to keep Utah defenseman Drew MacKenzie off the ice, because good things happen when he’s on it.  MacKenzie is the ECHL Plus Performer of the Month for October after leading the league with a plus-minus rating of plus-eight (meaning the Grizzlies scored eight more goals than their opponents when he was out there).  MacKenzie had a couple plus-two nights against Idaho.

Boise State suddenly has a nice group of big men on its 2012-13 basketball roster.  It’ll take time to bring most of them along, but tonight provides a good opportunity for coach Leon Rice to give them a try when the Broncos host Saint Martin’s in an exhibition game.  One person of interest is Vukasin Vujovic, a 6-9 true freshman forward from Serbia.  “Vuke’s extremely skilled,” said Rice.  “Sometimes you can’t teach the hand-eye coordination to the big guys.  (But) he’s played a lot of international ball.”  Vujovic has played on Serbia’s national age-group teams the past three seasons—he was a member of the U16 team in 2009, leading Serbia to a bronze medal at the European Championships.

There have been years that have seen the Idaho Stampede select a full complement of players in the D-League Draft, only to see few of them ever play a minute for the club.  With the Stampede’s new single-affiliation agreement with the Portland Trail Blazers now rolling, tonight’s D-League Draft takes on new significance.  A draft choice this year will know he has the Blazers’ attention, and vice-versa.  The Stamps already have a solid core on the roster for training camp, including three hopefuls who earned invitations through local tryouts in Boise or Portland: Jared Cunningham, Darren Cooper and Brent Jennings.

This Day In Sports…November 2, 1968:

In its inaugural season as a four-year program, Boise State plays its first home game against an NCAA school—in-state rival Idaho State, no less.  The Broncos stunned the Bengals and future NFL standout Ed “The Flea” Bell, intercepting five passes and winning, 35-27, in old Bronco Stadium.  It was the signature win of a season that saw Boise State go 8-2.

(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.)

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