Monday, September 24, 2012.
Three words uttered by Chris Petersen at his press conference following the 7-6 win over BYU last Thursday were ones many dread to hear. “Simplify the offense.” I’m sure inquiring minds want to know: which plays are the simple plays? They’re hoping they include the fly sweep, the option, the wildcat, and a trick or two. There wasn’t much of that against the Cougars. I would just say don’t presume to know what is or is not going on inside the walls of the Bronco Football Complex—or at closed practices. The offensive coaching staff didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, including its head coach, who takes a particular pride in offense. This is a very together group; it’s just that this combination hasn’t been together that long. Does anyone doubt its ability to evaluate what ails the Broncos? And what was so wrong with the offense against Miami (Ohio), anyway?
Special teams problems for Boise State go beyond not going for anything but chip-shot field goals anymore. As if people need anything else to talk about. The Broncos managed only four yards on four punt returns against BYU. They were offside on the second half kickoff and lost 18 yards of field position as a result. They were going to get the ball on the BYU 40 after a shanked third quarter punt, but a personal foul pushed it back to the BSU 45. Oh, and there was the failed fake punt. On the plus side, Trevor Harman averaged 45.8 yards per punt. They weren’t all pretty, but most of the time it was by design. And Mitch Burroughs took Boise State’s only kickoff return of the game out to the 40-yard line on the Broncos’ final possession, giving them breathing room in their effort to run out the clock.
Mike Atkinson's 36-yard interception return that beat BYU Thursday night has gone viral since as a “Fat Guy Touchdown” (Atkinson’s pretty darn athletic for a “fat guy”). A pick six from a defensive lineman is extremely rare at Boise State. Some stats are sketchy in the first few years of four-year football for the Broncos, so maybe there was one from, say, 1968-70. But all I can find is four in school history. Shea McClellin had one just two years ago against Toledo which, ironically also went 36 yards. But before that you have to go back to 1988 with Erik Helgeson against Nevada. And the first interception return for a TD by a defensive lineman that we know of was by Jeff Caves. Yes, Jeff Caves. It was a 70-yard rumble against Montana State in 1983 that, uh, you may have heard about on KTIK.
Thursday night’s win was Chris Petersen’s 75th at Boise State as he adds to his school-record total. More significantly, the victory was the 40th for this year’s Boise State seniors. The Broncos have now had 11 straight senior classes with 40 or more wins in their careers. On the rankings front, the Broncos remain No. 24 in the AP Poll and are still second in line to get in the Top 25 in the Coaches Poll.
Ivan Maisel’s “3-point stance” at ESPN,com wonders about the wisdom of BYU’s independence at a time like this. “Bad enough that BYU suffered its second emotionally wrenching loss in five days, a 7-6 defeat at Boise State in which the Cougars' defense pitched a shutout. But here’s where you wonder whether BYU made the right move in going independent. The Cougars don’t have a conference race on which to refocus. True, Notre Dame has lived like this forever. But the Irish have more long-term rivalries in their schedule. Let’s see if BYU, 2-2 with no BCS bid or championship in sight, remains motivated as the season continues.”
I got a couple things wrong last Friday. First, I said the 7-6 final Thursday night made the game the lowest-scoring one in Bronco Stadium history. Upon further review, there was a game with fewer points in the stadium's first year, 1970, when the Broncos beat Eastern Washington 12-0. So the 13 combined points is merely the lowest in 42 years. Third on the list is a 9-7 Boise State win over Long Beach State to open the 1979 season. The Broncos would run the table from there.
Also, here are a couple sentences from Friday’s Scott Slant: “Air Force is favored by 10½ points at UNLV and should be able to exceed that. Nevada is getting nine points at Hawaii, but I’m not so sure about that.” Well, the Falcons not only failed to exceed that, they lost to the Rebels, 38-35. As for Nevada, I was going on its traditional futility on the Islands. The Wolf Pack had lost seven straight games to Hawaii there dating back to 1948. Futility no more, as the Pack annihilated the Warriors 69-24, with running back Stepfon Jefferson tying an NCAA record with seven touchdowns (six rushing, one receiving). Hawaii hadn’t allowed that many points at home since a 74-20 loss to Stanford in 1950.
Quarterback Brett Smith played after all Saturday for Wyoming, but Idaho almost beat the Cowboys anyway. Problem is, it was almost. The Pokes edged the Vandals 37-34 in overtime in a wild Kibbie Dome affair. Idaho had to battle back from self-inflicted misfortune to get it to OT. The Vandals, leading 27-20 in the fourth quarter, had a first-and-goal at the Wyoming one, looking to wrap up a crisp drive and go up by two touchdowns. But quarterback Dominique Blackman, who otherwise had an impressive afternoon, fumbled. The Cowboys recovered on the three and promptly zipped 97 yards in three plays to tie the game—a devastating turnaround. Still, the Vandals were able to send it into overtime with no time remaining on an eight-yard pass from Blackman to Mike Scott. Perseverance wasn’t enough, as Smith hit Jalen Claiborne for the game-winner on the Pokes’ first OT play to drop Idaho to 0-4.
The Mountain West, which easily could have been swept in four games against the WAC Saturday, was able to salvage two of them (including Wyoming’s win at Idaho). New Mexico, Boise State’s opponent this week, broke a nation’s-longest 24-game road losing streak by dominating rival New Mexico State in Las Cruces, 27-14. The Lobos did it with ball control, wearing down the Aggies with 302 yards rushing—129 of it from Kasey Carrier. The WAC made its mark with an unexpected (but not totally surprising) 38-34 San Jose State win at San Diego State, and an expected 31-19 Utah State win at Colorado State.
The Play of the Day among Boise State products in the NFL yesterday was in Nashville. Detroit was about to lose to Tennessee, facing a fourth down at the Titans’ 46-yard line with seven seconds left in regulation. Shaun Hill launched a Hail Mary into the end zone, with four Titans and two Lions bunched in the air making a play on the ball. It was deflected, and Young, as the trailer, grabbed it out of the air and dove into the end zone to tie the game. Tennessee would go on to win in overtime, though, 44-41. Young, who had been off to a show start this season, had six catches for 75 yards on the day.
Luke Guthrie made serious waves a week ago when he won the Albertsons Boise Open at Hillcrest Country Club for his first Web.com Tour victory. Well, guess what. Guthrie already has No. 2. He won the WNB Golf Classic in Midland, TX, by one stroke yesterday over defending tournament champion Danny Lee and Cameron Percy. Guthrie again came from behind on Sunday, firing a six-under 66 to blow past the other contenders. Just like that, he has rocketed to the top of the Web.com money list with $382,463. Former Boise State star Troy Merritt, after missing the cut at Hillcrest Country Club 10 days ago, played through the weekend and finished in a tie for 45th. Merritt capped the WNB with a three-under 69 yesterday.
This Day In Sports…September 24, 1977:
Tony Knap coaches his first game in Bronco Stadium in two years, now as the leader of UNLV. In the last of a six-game series between the two schools, Boise State ambushed the Rebels, 45-14. Former Borah High star Terry Hutt sealed the deal with an 85-yard touchdown catch from Hoskin Hogan. The Broncos—with 629 total yards—bounced back stunningly from the worst total offense output in their history, 69 yards the previous week in a loss at Fresno State. Knap passed away one year ago today.
(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.)