Sunday, Nov 3 at 6:09 PM
Wednesday, September 8, 2010.
The two exclamation points on Boise State’s winning drive in Monday night’s 33-30 victory over Virginia Tech were Kellen Moore’s two completions to Austin Pettis—one a first down connection that drew a late hit penalty, and, of course, the winning touchdown. But what a novel combination it was that led to that point. Mitch Burroughs’ 25-yard punt return allowed the Broncos to set up shop at the 44-yard line, a real confidence booster. Then redshirt freshman Gabe Linehan, the tight end who had earned his stripes with a great fall camp, made the first catch of his college career, bulling his way for 11 yards and a first down. The next play saw Burroughs grab his only reception of the game, a five-yarder that he took out of bounds to stop the clock. It goes to show: in the Broncos’ system there’s a place for everybody, even in the crunchiest of crunch times.
Not forgotten in the 38-second sequence at the end is the protection given Moore by the offensive line, which had seen Matt Slater come in at right tackle cold turkey near the end of the third quarter when Brenel Myers was injured. It was back to the Broncos’ “carry the flag” theme, as Slater had been greeted by teammates pounding his shoulder pads when he first joined the huddle. The O-line, shuffled for the umpteenth time leading up to Opening Night, did yield two sacks. But it held up well against the Virginia Tech pressure package dialed up by veteran defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
Pettis, hungry and ready, was in big-game mode, evidenced by his two touchdown catches and blocked punt. And with that, he claimed more space in the Boise State record book, breaking Don Hutt’s 37-year-old mark for career TD receptions with 31. Now, the last of the old-school receiving records from the Broncos’ high-scoring Tony Knap era is within Pettis’ sights—Hutt’s standard of 189 career catches. With his six grabs against the Hokies, Pettis now has 164. (Pssst…how much was he missed in the Fiesta Bowl?)
It was amazing how the national media jumped on the BCS Championship Game storyline as soon as the game as over—and not amazing how coach Chris Petersen quickly dismissed the subject. Everyone wants to talk about it and debate it now. Petersen only wants to talk about Wyoming a week from Saturday. It sounds so trite to the outside, but in 2006, 2008 and 2009 Petersen developed a nice “program of deflection” that kept the Broncos focused on the week and not on the season as a whole. And he’s not about to abandon it now.
Therefore, you’ll hear the usual indifference over Boise State’s rise to No. 3 in the USA Today Coaches Poll from No. 5. Or the eight No. 1 votes in the AP Poll (the Broncos remain third-ranked in AP, with TCU climbing to fourth). It was enlightening that Virginia Tech fell only to 13th yesterday in both polls. The Hokies were the only team in the Top 25 that lost on opening weekend. Meanwhile, Kellen Moore and Kyle Brotzman were named WAC Offensive and Special Teams Players of the Week, respectively. The conference is not going to skewer the Broncos for departing to the Mountain West next year. In fact, WAC commissioner Karl Benson did end up attending the game at FedEx Field.
The showing by 12,000 Boise State fans was something to behold as they competed on the noise meter with what must have been 60,000 Virginia Tech faithful. In the days before the game, it was clear that most Bronco followers were taking full advantage of the chance to see Washington, DC, because they were visible everywhere. That leads me to a detour from sports. It’s overwhelming when you see the nation’s capital for the first time, which I did. The Holocaust Memorial Museum was indescribable. We were there for 3½ hours, and it could have been five. And there’s just something about the simplicity of the Lincoln Memorial, and the chance to re-read—and really think about—the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s short and sad 1865 inaugural address, just before the end of the war and just ahead of his assassination.
Nebraska is, like, two states away from North Dakota. But it may as well be a million miles considering the change Idaho faces Saturday in Lincoln. The Vandals go from 11,000 fans pulling for them in Moscow to more than 80,000 rooting against them at Memorial Stadium. And instead of a team like the Fighting Sioux, the one Idaho bashed 45-0 last Thursday, the Vandals challenge a sixth-ranked Cornhuskers crew that returned to its roots last Saturday by rushing for 289 yards and six touchdowns in a rout of Western Kentucky. Guess we should mention that Nebraska also passed for 247, though.
Three WAC schools were on ESPN in Week 1, with Boise State and Fresno State winning and Hawaii falling. The WAC team with the next-best national exposure was Utah State, whose game at Oklahoma was the subject of constant “Score Alerts” on ESPN’s Bottom Line during TCU’s win over Oregon State Saturday night. If you doubted the Aggies’ ability to take that next step under coach Gary Andersen this season, their 31-24 loss to the Sooners in Norman told you a lot.
Ah, the TCU-Oregon State event. The Beavers started quickly at Cowboys Stadium. But alas, their season ended up starting slowly again with the 30-21 loss to the Horned Frogs. The beginning must have felt like a Fiesta Bowl rewind to TCU, with a near-carbon copy of Brandyn Thompson’s first quarter interception of Andy Dalton last January, plus a perfectly-executed fake punt that led to a touchdown. New OSU quarterback Ryan Katz looked poised, but the perennially adjustable Frog defense caught up with him. Katz was only 9-of-25 for 159 yards, although he did throw for two touchdowns.
Hard to say how this might affect the WAC, but two schools that had popped up on the conference’s expansion watch list have elected to join the Big Sky for football only. UC Davis and Cal Poly, which have had strong small-college football programs for decades, will be absorbed by the Big Sky as soon as commissioner Doug Fullerton can get them in. A pre-emptive move in case Montana and Montana State or Portland State and Sacramento State flirt with the WAC? Who knows…
This Day In Sports…September 8, 2007:
One link to the undefeated season and Fiesta Bowl championship is shattered for Boise State, as Washington breaks the Broncos’ 14-game winning streak that carried over from 2006, 24-10. The 70,000 fans in Husky Stadium included 10,000 Bronco faithful, but the blue-and-orange attendees couldn’t will their team to victory against UW and its star freshman quarterback, Jake Locker. BSU outgained the Huskies but couldn’t get it done in the red zone and turned the ball over four times.
(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’s also handled color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football the last five seasons.)