Wednesday, November 11, 2009.
ESPN.com’s Pat Forde spends an inordinate amount of time in his column this week with what he terms a “BCS Bowl Manifesto,” calling for both TCU and Boise State to go to BCS bowls should they win out. “If one of the two (most likely Boise) is snubbed, it will be an abject betrayal of trying to put together the best games between the most deserving teams,” writes Forde. “And while that is standard operating procedure for the bowls, this year it would be an even more egregious act than usual.” Forde makes a case for the Broncos as an at large choice in a hypothetical pool that would include USC and Iowa. For example, “Boise owned the team that owned the Trojans.”
But then he counterpoints himself by acknowledging, “Where Boise suffers in comparison to either program is attendance and TV ratings. The Broncos are averaging more than 100 percent of stadium capacity, but less than half of what the Hawkeyes and Trojans are bringing in.” That’s very important. After the BCS formula decides the No. 1 and No. 2 spots for the national championship game, it’s a dollar-driven beauty pageant for the other BCS slots. But Forde can dream, can’t he? “Call (me) quaint, but a matchup that actually includes the best possible teams would seem like a worthy goal for any bowl.”
Considering what he said Monday about ruining Boise State’s BCS bowl hopes Saturday, Idaho coach Robb Akey must love columns like Forde’s. That’s where the Vandals can get the bulletin board material they can’t get from Chris Petersen. Then there’s the point spread. The Broncos started the week favored by 28 points. Then it went to 29, and now to 31½. I talked last week about BSU’s 21-point spread at Louisiana Tech being very curious. This one is just baffling. It’s a rivalry game against a very inspired 7-3 team. C’mon.
Update on Kellen Moore and those touchdown passes going into the Bronco-Vandal game. The Boise State sophomore has thrown for 27 TDs, second in the nation behind his text-buddy, Houston’s Case Keenum. Moore tosses a touchdown approximately once in every 10 passes, by far the best ratio in the country. He now has 52 career touchdown throws with five games left in his sophomore year (including a bowl game). Kellen is just six TDs behind Jared Zabransky and Jim McMillan for fourth on the Bronco career list. Moore also still leads the nation in pass efficiency, though his rating is a little bit lower this week at 169.35. It would have risen had it not been for the infamous pick six last Friday night at Louisiana Tech.
Saturday’s game is completely sold out—only the second sellout of the season after the Oregon game in September. But Boise State is better off than anyone else in the WAC. The Broncos are averaging 32,634 a game, up almost 400 a game from last year thanks to the expansion of the south end zone. Hawaii is down 3,500 fans a game from last year, with ticket revenue pacing $250,000 behind this year’s projections. You already know that Fresno State experienced its smallest crowd in 23 years a week and a half ago against Utah State. Despite its massive turnaround this season, Idaho had a hugely disappointing crowd of 12,418 for last week’s marquee game against Fresno State. And there’s a reason ESPN’s cameras avoided the stands at San Jose State last Sunday night: nobody was there. How about 11,103?
One of the breakout players for Idaho this year—and one of the storyline guys from last year—is trying to reverse a disturbing trend. Tight end-turned-H-back Daniel Hardy has had a case of the drops. A couple of them last week kept backup quarterback Brian Reader from getting into a flow early when he was trying to replace the injured Nate Enderle against Fresno State. It’s otherwise been a stellar season for Hardy, who had just nine catches in 2008 and has 28 this year for 467 yards. Hardy is one of the few Vandals who has a fond memory from last season’s 45-10 loss to the Broncos. He scored Idaho’s only TD on the first play from scrimmage when he looked like he was down at the Vandal 19, rolled over the top of BSU’s Kyle Gingg without hitting the ground, and ran 81 yards to the end zone.
Gerald Alexander’s stock is rising in Jacksonville, depending on how you look at it. The former Boise State star is in his first year with the Jaguars after two seasons in Detroit. Alexander is now starting at safety, but it’s partly because the Jags are searching for answers to poor play in the secondary. Jacksonville is 4-4 and is looking to turn the corner, but its last three wins came against teams with a combined 3-20 record going into last week’s games. Alexander, a second round NFL Draft pick in 2007, has 33 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble this season.
The Boise State men easily exceeded 100 points in each of their two exhibition games. But now it’s on to Division I, where the going will undoubtedly be tougher. The season opens Friday night in Missoula, where the Broncos play in a round-robin tournament. They’ll face Loyola Marymount Friday, then the host Montana Grizzlies Saturday, and North Dakota Sunday. These are non-conference games, of course, but everything BSU does outside the WAC counts if there are any hopes of at least an NIT berth. Last season the Broncos made essentially the third level of the postseason, losing at Stanford 96-76 in the College Basketball Invitational.
Idaho also opens its men’s hoops season Friday night at Utah. And it’s one of high expectations that could start with a bang if the Vandals can knock off the Utes. Idaho is more than Mac Hopson now—and he was plenty last season, earning first-team All-WAC honors with 16.4 points and 5.9 assists per game and loads of creativity. Hopson will now be complemented in the backcourt by transfer Steffan Johnson, a former All-Big West guard for Pacific with one year of eligibility left. Coach Don Verlin expects the addition of Johnson to allow the Vandals to pick up the tempo this season.
The 184th men’s basketball meeting between the College of Idaho and Northwest Nazarene last night turned into the Kelvin Potts show. The 5-11 guard poured in 23 points, 17 of them in the second half, leading the Coyotes past NNU, 79-72. The game was a counter for C of I and an exhibition for the Crusaders. They drew an overflow crowd of 2,422 to the J.A. Albertson Activities Center in Caldwell. The Canyon County rivals will meet again in four weeks on NNU’s home court in Nampa.
The Idaho Steelheads will be without right wing Ashton Rome Friday night when they open a three-game series in Stockton. Rome was suspended for a game by the ECHL for instigating a fight near the end of the Steelheads 3-0 loss to Utah in Qwest Arena last Saturday. The suspension is automatic when that happens in the final five minutes of a game, and that’s fine with coach Derek Laxdal, who says Rome is just establishing his role with the Steelies after coming over from the now-defunct Phoenix Roadrunners.
This Day In Sports…November 11, 2006:
The closest call of the regular season for undefeated Boise State, as Anthony Montgomery boots a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the game to beat San Jose State, 23-20. The Broncos had trailed 20-12 midway through the fourth quarter before mounting their rally, helped by Ian Johnson. The sophomore sensation had suffered a partially collapsed lung earlier in the game but played through it to the tune of 149 yards rushing. Johnson ended up spending five days in a San Jose hospital and missed the following week’s game after returning to Boise.
(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.)