Tuesday, October 15, 2013.
When Aaron Baltazar went down for the season with a knee injury two weeks ago, Boise State lost its one-two punch at running back to go with Jay Ajayi. In the win at Utah State, Ajayi had 109 hard-fought yards, but the Broncos didn't have the second punch. Rushing yardage was hard to come by against the Aggies, so coach Chris Petersen stuck with Ajayi, the main man. “We like the other backs,” said Petersen. “We’ve got to get them into a rhythm, which is the hard part.” Derrick Thomas had just 13 yards and fumbled a wildcat snap, Jack Fields lost two yards on his two carries. “He’s got to see things a little better,” Petersen said. “But our O-line has to do a better job of getting the play started.” You can tell by Fields’ effort he wants to break out in the worst way. Said Petersen, “Those other guys—their best days are still ahead of them.”
Despite solid numbers at Utah State, Petersen sees it as an imperfect performance by the Boise State offense, fraught with mistakes. “There were some that you’d really like not to make this late in the season,” he said. One obvious to all spectators, live and on the tube: dropped passes. A lot of guys participated (Shane Williams-Rhodes excluded). Inexplicably, Matt Miller had a couple. “I do still think our wide receivers need to play more consistent,” said Petersen. He says offensive coordinator (and wideouts coach) Robert Prince will get right back to work with the basics with this veteran crew. The ol’ fundamentals woodshed.
One who didn’t have a drop was a guy who didn’t play—but did travel to Logan. Kirby Moore missed his second straight game and is still “day-to-day” according to Petersen. A return against Nevada this Saturday would be symbolic for the senior from Prosser. When the Wolf Pack visited the blue turf for a crucial conference game on Thanksgiving weekend in 2009, Moore was a true freshman playing behind junior star Austin Pettis. It ended up being one of the most important games of Moore’s career. When Pettis was injured on a two-point conversion attempt in the first quarter, Moore was called upon to play a major role. He had three catches for 69 yards, including a difficult six-yard touchdown reception from brother Kellen that finally put the game away with five minutes left in Boise State’s 44-33 victory.
Also day-to-day is right tackle Rees Odhiambo, who made the trip to Utah State as well. Odhiambo isn’t on this week’s depth chart, though. Without him, Boise State allowed two more sacks of quarterback Joe Southwick. At the midway point of the season, the Broncos have yielded 11 sacks, more than all of last year and ranked 63rd in the country. They’re trying to stay glued together on the right side. Backup right tackle Jake Broyles is out for the season now with a torn ACL, and redshirt freshman Steven Baggett made his first career start against the Aggies. Baggett is listed as the starter again this week.
This will be a minor bowl game to be sure, but aren’t you just kinda waiting for the Mountain West’s turn for a berth in the Bahamas Bowl? The game, anchored by the MAC, will debut in Nassau next year. The Bahamas Bowl will pair teams from the MAC and the AAC (the remnants of the Big East) in 2014, then it’ll be the MAC versus Conference USA in 2015. The Mountain West and Sun Belt will also be involved in the rotation.
This is the most exposure Austin Pettis has ever received in a national magazine. The former Boise State star and current St. Louis Ram is touted in this week’s Sports Illustrated as a perfect wide receiver for fantasy football owners to “stash” during NFL bye weeks. Writes SI: “He doesn’t have huge numbers in 2013, but Sam Bradford has targeted him a respectable 36 times. And because St. Louis faces the stouter Seahawks and Titans in Weeks 8 and 9. It’s likely that Bradford will have to put the ball up 40-plus times per game. Sometimes, all a player needs is an opportunity—and Pettis will get that when you might need him most.” With that said, Pettis had only one catch for 12 yards in Sunday’s 38-13 rout of Houston, and Bradford attempted just 16 passes.
I noticed this in Sports Illustrated as well, in the magazine’s “Faces In The Crowd” feature. Cal freshman swimmer Celina Li was feted for winning a “Queen of the Pool” title by edging teammate and Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin. Then I noticed the Boise State women’s swim team decisively won the Bulldog Invitational in Fresno over Fresno State, San Jose State and Cal. Cal? Turns out the Bears sent only 10 swimmers to Fresno, with the rest of the team—including Franklin and Li—remaining in Berkeley to train. But the Bulldogs and Spartans were at full strength. Still impressive to beat any Division I California schools in that sport. The fact they’re conference rivals is a bonus.
The buzz around the San Diego State basketball program right now involves the signing last week of five-star recruit Malik Pope out of a Sacramento. Pope, a 6-9 forward, is rated by Rivals.com as the No. 17 high school prospect in the country in the class of 2014. He had just taken a recruiting trip to Kansas. In the past two years, SDSU has now picked up two five-star and two four-star recruits and have added 6-9 forward Angel Chol, a junior transfer from Arizona who will be eligible next year. Through it all, Boise State was picked ahead of San Diego State in the Mountain West preseason media poll (the Broncos tied for second with UNLV; the Aztecs were fourth). This is sounding a lot like football. You can’t buy chemistry. And Boise State’s Leon Rice has built that with guys who often don’t have any “stars” at all.
Mopup from last Friday’s 96-86 Portland win over Utah game in CenturyLink Arena: From the Blazers’ perspective, they know all about Damian Lillard’s Rookie-of-the-Year level offense. But Lillard has taken some digs for his defense, and he spent an “angry summer” working on it, according to OregonLive.com. “Lillard showed off his new defensive prowess, harassing rookie point guard Trey Burke all night (in Boise),” wrote Joe Freeman. “He chased Burke at will. He navigated pick-and-rolls with veteran savvy, recovering quickly when he did run into a screen. Lillard finished with 23 points and five assists. But the statistics he liked most afterward were listed next to Burke’s name: two turnovers and 3-for-10 shooting.” Burke fractured a bone in his right index finger the following night and will have surgery. He’ll be out 8-12 weeks.
If you want to look at it from a Boise Hawks perspective, tonight’s Game 3 of the American League Championship Series is pretty darn interesting. With the series tied at a game apiece, former Hawk John Lackey has to take the mound for the Red Sox against Tigers ace Justin Verlander. Lackey is seeing his first postseason action since his Angels days. He got through Game 2 of the ALDS, a win over Tampa Bay, with four runs allowed on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. It was 11 seasons ago that Lackey became the first rookie in 93 years to win a Game 7 in the World Series. It’s been pointed out that despite Verlander’s domination of the A’s in the ALDS, he’s 3-4 with a 5.40 ERA for his career in the ALCS and World Series.
Congratulations to Ernie Hoidal, one of five recipients of the 2013 Chapter Leadership Awards from the National Football Foundation. Hoidal, a Boise attorney, has been chairman of the NFF’s Southern Idaho Chapter since 1997. He’s the honoree representing the Western Region. The most visible event Hoidal oversees is the annual Scholar Awards Banquet every April honoring the region’s top high school seniors and a couple college standouts. Hoidal’s award will be presented December 10 in New York City.
This Day In Sports…October 15, 2011:
Ignoring the suddenly swirling talk of an invitation to the Big East, Boise State plays its first conference game in the Mountain West and demolishes Colorado State, 63-13. The Broncos rolled up a school-record 742 yards of total offense, as Kellen Moore completed his first 18 passes and Doug Martin rushed for a career-high 200 yards and three touchdowns. The day before the game, the Mountain West and Conference USA had announced a plan to merge in football amidst rumors that the Big East was about to invite Boise State and Air Force. Air Force, not San Diego State. Earlier in the week, TCU had reneged on its plan to move to the Big East, accepting an invitation to the Big 12. Seems so long ago.
(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.)