Wednesday, October 3, 2012.
This didn’t happen the past five or so years inside Boise State’s football complex. But man did it run rampant through Bronco Nation. Until now, anyway. In a normal year, fans would be saying, “Oh, we should be ranked higher,” or, “This helps—BYU beat Hawaii 47-0,” or, “Oh no, Michigan State has dropped out of the Top 25.” Even, “Hey, Miami-Ohio has won two in a row.” There would be a tendency to sneak a peak at Fresno State a week from Saturday. But this season is all about the task at hand, because every task this fall is going to be a grind. The game at Southern Miss Saturday presents a challenge just like all the others. It’s at 10:00 in the morning our time, and it’s 2,000 miles from home against a Golden Eagles team with traditional Southern speed. Everything and everyone else is irrelevant.
Because Boise State ignores outside influences and useless comparisons, it can still invoke the fun factor as it tries to improve this fall. Tight end Chandler Koch talked about the need for it last week, and the Bronco offense looked like it was all in at New Mexico (not sure how much fun the defense had). But coach Chris Petersen gets it. “When anybody’s having fun in their job, that’s what it’s all about,” said Petersen. He feels his young team is so paranoid about winning, the opposite effect sometimes manifests itself. But that’s changing. “We just need to do the process right,” Petersen said. “We need to fight, we need to support each other, we need to have fun.”
The Hattiesburg weather forecast indicates it’s a good thing this is being played in the morning. It’s predicted to be 89 degrees and mostly sunny Saturday (and mostly humid). It’s definitely a good thing this game wasn’t played last Saturday night. Hattiesburg received almost two inches of rain in three hours as Southern Miss was falling to Louisville 21-17. Boise State may be accustomed to playing football in the morning, since that’s when it practices now. It may be used to sunshine and a certain amount of heat. It ain’t used to a stadium doubling as a swimming pool.
We won’t know until gametime Saturday who is ready to go on the Boise State offensive line and who isn’t. Michael Ames and Jake Broyles were injured on back-to-back plays in the third quarter at New Mexico Saturday. Broyles, who began the season as starting right tackle, had just replaced Ames at right guard on the previous play. That forced the Broncos to move Spencer Gerke over from left guard and press injured starter Joe Kellogg into service when he wasn’t expected to play. Petersen is thankful for Gerke, the former Bishop Kelly star. “He’s been doing great,” said Petersen. “Ever since midseason last year—to play those different sides and play center, that’s asking a lot.”
As much as Southern Miss coach Ellis Johnson is looking for stability at quarterback, injuries are preventing it. Redshirt freshman Ricky Lloyd is likely to get his second straight start Saturday against Boise State. Lloyd was called upon two weeks ago against Western Kentucky when junior Chris Campbell went down with a neck injury and true freshman Anthony Alford left with a knee injury. Alford returned to practice yesterday, working with the second team. Lloyd was just 2-of-8 for 25 yards last Saturday, but that was in the aforementioned torrential downpour at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
There were high hopes on both sides when Legedu Naanee signed with Miami as a free agent during the offseason. The Dolphins were looking for wide receivers, and Naanee was coming off his most productive NFL year with 44 catches for 467 yards and a touchdown for Carolina. The former Boise State star began the season as a starter at wideout less than four weeks ago, but that was as good as it got. Naanee went without a reception the first three games. And when he finally made a catch last Sunday, a 19-yarder, he fumbled and watched it returned 60 yards by Arizona’s Patrick Peterson. Now, Naanee is without a job, as the Dolphins released him yesterday after signing veteran Jabar Gaffney.
After last Saturday’s 66-0 loss to North Carolina, Idaho reaches a sense of urgency as it looks at the schedule from here on out. This week’s game against New Mexico State in the Kibbie Dome becomes must-win, as that looks like the best chance the Vandals have left of getting into the victory column. Ironically, the WAC is really good in this, its final season. Following the Aggies, who are 1-4, Idaho has 2-2 Texas State, but that game’s on the road. The Vandals will be decided underdogs the rest of the way at Louisiana Tech, against San Jose State, at BYU, versus UT San Antonio, and at Utah State. As a 10½-point favorite, this is the week for Idaho to eliminate the goose egg, lest it be a season-long albatross.
The first thing you’ll notice about coach Brad Ralph’s new Idaho Steelheads is a change of physical stature. Ralph has added a lot of size among the Steelheads’ defensemen. Last season, the blueliners averaged 6-0½, 199 pounds. The Steelies’ new defensive unit averages 6-1½, 207 pounds. The largest of the newcomers is Scott Todd at 6-4, 230, followed closely by Scott Fletcher at 6-3, 230. Reports from practice say Fletcher delivered the biggest hit of training camp yesterday, leveling a teammate along the boards. Physicality is going to be a calling card of the Steelheads this winter.
The NBA is a lot different than the locked-out world of a year ago, with training camps opening yesterday. The Idaho Stampede count 12 of their alumni on camp rosters, including Luke Babbitt and Coby Karl with the Stamps’ new parent club, the Portland Trail Blazers. Babbitt is one of six players on the list who played in Boise last season. The others are his former Nevada teammate, Armon Johnson (Orlando Magic), Jordan Hamilton and Julyan Stone (Denver Nuggets), Mikki Moore (Philadelphia 76ers), and Seth Tarver (Minnesota Timberwolves).
Boise State senior Jason Chamberlain was one-and-done at the 10th World University Wrestling Championship in Finland yesterday. Competing in the 66kg freestyle weight class, Chamberlain fell to Russia’s Roland Ondar in the opening round, 3-1. Just to make it there was a major accomplishment for Chamberlain, though. He qualified for the games after winning the World University Trials in August, when he defeated 2012 NCAA Champion Frank Molinaro in the championship match.
This Day In Sports…October 3, 1976:
Hank Aaron singles in the final at-bat of his career in the Milwaukee Brewers’ 5-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers. Aaron, with 755 home runs, held baseball’s career record for 33 years until it was infamously broken by San Francisco’s Barry Bonds in 2007. But Aaron collected the bulk of his homers in an era when pitchers were dominant. Perhaps just as impressive was Aaron’s career batting average of .305.
(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.)