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The year of the fly, as in “shifting on”

The year of the fly, as in “shifting on”

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on October 9, 2013 at 7:30 AM

Wednesday, October 9, 2013.

Quarterback Joe Southwick’s mindset has had to be flexible during this injury-riddled Boise State season (seems to be happening everywhere, in fact).  Southwick was missing wide receivers Kirby Moore and Aaron Burks and tight ends Gabe Linehan and Holden Huff against Southern Miss, the latter three again, but muddled through in a 60-7 victory.  “I’m just throwing to whoever’s out there,” said Southwick, who still had 19 completions in 23 attempts against the Golden Eagles.  We won’t know who’s out there for the Utah State game until Boise State’s first possession in Logan Saturday night.

With Aaron Baltazar gone for the season, Boise State has lost two-thirds of its pass receptions at the running back position over the past four games.  Uh, should have prefaced that.  Since the opener at Washington, Bronco running backs have combined for a grand total of three catches for nine yards, and Baltazar had two of them.  The only running back still active who had a reception in the month of September is Derrick Thomas, who had one grab for minus-3 yards against Southern Miss.  Saturday night’s game would be a good time to bring the backs back into the passing game—anything to cross up Utah State’s stout and disciplined defense. 

Jay Ajayi didn’t have a rushing attempt against Southern Miss until late in the first quarter when Baltazar exited the game, and had only 14 for the night.  Ajayi did amass 83 yards and a touchdown, though, and he didn’t fumble.  You’d expect Ajayi’s carries to go back over 20 against Utah State.  Now we’ll see what contributions Jack Fields, Thomas, and Charles Bertoli can make on an important stage Saturday night.  Fields seemed to come to life in his last outing, while Thomas barely got his feet wet.  It’s Bertoli who could be intriguing.  The fourth-string walk-on always runs hard and has peeled off some long gainers in garbage time.  One final note on Baltazar: the last carry of his freshman year was impressive—a 24-yard scamper that got the Broncos into Southern Miss territory for the first time and set up their first touchdown. 

Boise State is plus-4 in turnover margin, tied for 28th in the country.  But those numbers have been enhanced by the schedule.  The Broncos have played in what you could call two big games, and they’ve both been losses (at Washington and Fresno State).  In those games combined, they forced a grand total of one turnover.  In its three wins, all at home, Boise State has 10 takeaways.  “We want to get a lot more turnovers than we’ve been getting,” said safety Dillon Lukehart.  “So that’s something we’ve been working on.”  Saturday night’s game is a big game.

Boise State isn’t playing Idaho in football anymore, but Bryan Harsin is.  And he said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk (with his new drawl) he’s excited about it.  The former Bronco offensive coordinator, now head coach at Arkansas State, pits his Red Wolves against the Vandals Saturday in Jonesboro.  Harsin’s history in the Boise State-Idaho rivalry goes back a long way.  In 1996, he was a redshirt freshman backup quarterback for the Broncos when the Vandals won 64-19 on the blue turf in Pokey Allen’s final game.  As a senior, Harsin took the final snaps of Boise State’s 45-14 victory over Idaho in Pullman, kicking off the Broncos’ 12-game win streak in the series.  He coached against Idaho 10 times as an assistant for Dan Hawkins and Chris Petersen, capped by the last game in the rivalry, the 52-14 Boise State triumph in the Kibbie Dome in 2010.

The Boise State men’s basketball team was picked eighth in a nine-team conference in last year’s Mountain West preseason media poll.  This year the Broncos are forecast to finish second in an 11-team league, tied with UNLV for the runnerup spot behind New Mexico.  The Lobos were the dominant choice, garnering 23 of 24 first place votes.  But for Boise State to draw that kind of expectation from Mountain West media is extraordinary.  The Broncos also placed two players on the preseason All-Mountain West first team, juniors Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks.  The Preseason Player of the Year is New Mexico’s Kendall Williams.

Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts was on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday and gave Idaho Stampede fans hope for what they may see this winter.  “I think our approach to the D-League will be a little different this year,” said Stotts.  He says he could see the Blazers sending players to Boise for extended stays this season rather than just the two-game weekend stints that were the norm last season.  The happiest fan would be Stampede managing investor Bill Ilett, who expressed frustration last January on that very issue.  “The Blazers aren’t going to change what they do because they want to develop players,” said Ilett at the time.  “Just give us a little more opportunity to let them be a part of our community and team, that's all we're asking.”  Maybe it’ll happen now.  Stotts and the Blazers host the Utah Jazz in CenturyLink Arena Friday night.

One-time Boise State basketball player Fred Williams coached his Atlanta Dream in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals last night and endured a second straight 25-point rout at the hands of Minnesota, falling 88-63.  The Lynx drilled the Dream 84-59 in Game 1 on Sunday.  Williams was known as “Fast Freddie” when he was the Broncos’ point guard in the Bus Connor days from 1977-79.  He reminisced last Friday on Idaho SportsTalk about being sold on BSU by one of his host players during his recruiting visit, then-Bronco star forward and now TCU head coach Trent Johnson.  Williams has been coaching on the women’s side the past 30 years.  Game 3 of the WNBA Finals is tomorrow in Atlanta.

The Boise State men’s golf team won its first team tournament title in six years yesterday, storming from behind to win the Utah Invitational in Park City.  The Broncos trailed Utah State by six strokes entering the final round but rallied to win the event by 10, their largest margin of victory in 18 years.  Boise State’s Ty Travis finished second to USU’s Seokwon Jeon for the individual crown in a sudden-death playoff.  And the BSU men’s cross country team made history yesterday when it debuted at No. 19 in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association weekly poll.   It’s the Broncos’ first appearance in the rankings since the end of the 1996 season, when they finished No. 8.

You have to try to take your personal prejudices out of the battle between CableOne and Turner.  I was personally looking forward to watching the Oakland A’s in the playoffs.  It would be easy to lay the blackout of TBS (et al.) at the feet of CableOne, whose fonted response on the blacked-out networks has been a little awkward.  But sports rights fees keep skyrocketing, because the networks bid them up on the assumption that the viewer is always going to pay the piper.  That means demanding ever-higher per-subscriber rates from the providers, even though much of the subscriber base doesn’t give a diddly about sports (or, as the case may be, the networks’ other programming).  This will not end until cable product is offered a la carte.  Then supply and demand will kick in, and we’ll see which networks are strong enough to survive.

This Day In Sports…October 9, 1919:

The Cincinnati Reds defeat the Chicago White Sox, 10-5, to win the World Series.  A year later it was learned that the White Sox threw the Series, leading to the infamous “Black Sox Scandal”.  Shoeless Joe Jackson was at the center of it, and his guilt or innocence has been debated ever since—right through the 1989 motion picture “Field Of Dreams”.

(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.)