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There’s never been a Bronco like D.J. Harper

There’s never been a Bronco like D.J. Harper

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on November 16, 2012 at 8:22 AM

Updated Friday, Nov 16 at 8:22 AM

Friday, November 16, 2012.

I haven’t used the “don’t blink” idiom this year in relation to how fast the season goes.  But, did you blink?  The end is already here for Boise State’s seniors with tomorrow’s Senior Day matchup against Colorado State.  It’s especially hard to believe it’s over for one Bronco.  We were beginning to think it would go on forever for D.J. Harper.  But the sixth-year running back is indeed one of 23 seniors who will be honored tomorrow on the blue turf.  The first game Harper played was Boise State’s first appearance after the Fiesta Bowl upset of Oklahoma.  It was against Weber State in August of 2007, and the first time Harper touched the ball as a Bronco, he ran for a 10-yard touchdown.  There have been 37 various TDs since.  The biggest remains the 71-yard scamper against Virginia Tech in the 2010 opener.

How about some of the guys Harper played with when he was a true freshman?  Harper and Jerremy Avery made their collegiate debuts on the same night, with Avery busting a 50-yard run the first time he touched the ball in that game against Weber State.  But check out some of the guys who seem like Bronco relics now.  Also on that 2007 team were Marty Tadman, Nick Schlekeway and the Cavender brothers, Jeff and Pete.  Ian Johnson and Vinny Perretta were juniors, for cryin’ out loud.

There are two other seniors bowing out tomorrow who played on the 2008 team.  Dan Paul and Jamar Taylor were both true freshman who later used redshirt years due to injury.  Taylor was playing behind Kyle Wilson and Brandyn Thompson and nabbed his first career interception before sitting out the following season.  Paul came to Boise State as a linebacker in 2008 and actually had an interception of his own before switching to fullback mid-season.  Who can forget the Nevada game late in the 2009 season, when Paul came out of nowhere to enthusiastically gather in three touchdown passes from Kellen Moore?  He didn’t score another until two weeks ago versus San Diego State.

Compared to the star power of Boise State’s seniors a year ago, this is kind of a no-name class.  These guys knew that coming in, and they rolled with it.  But three of them played key roles in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl win over TCU.  Jerrell Gavins was inserted into the starting lineup at cornerback in the Broncos’ special 4-1-6 scheme.  Brenel Myers was pressed into service as the starting right tackle as a freshman after Garrett Pendergast broke his ankle during a bowl practice.  And Myers held up well against Horned Frogs star defensive end Jerry Hughes.  J.C. Percy was calling signals on the punt team and recognized the perfect TCU alignment that facilitated the 29-yard pass from Kyle Brotzman to Kyle Efaw that led to the Broncos’ winning touchdown.  Percy has gone from walk-on special teams contributor to heart-and-soul linebacker.

So, how is it that Boise State is 8-2 in a transition year such as this one?  The easy answer is defense, with the Broncos ranked 10th nationally in total defense, eighth in scoring defense, and sixth in pass efficiency defense.  But the answer inside the answer is turnovers.  Boise State has 29 takeaways, one off the national lead shared by Fresno State, Kent State and SMU.  The Broncos are fourth in the nation in turnover margin at plus-16.  For that matter, you can’t have a great turnover margin if you’re not taking care of the ball on the other side.  Boise State has turned it over just 13 times—that’s 23rd in the country.  With the new dynamic on offense this year, the Broncos will take that.

No word yet on how long former Boise State star Shea McClellin will be out with the Chicago Bears.  McClellin, the 19th overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, left last Sunday night's 13-6 loss to Houston with a concussion immediately after the Bears’ opening kickoff.  The Chicago Sun-Times story on McClellin’s injury said, “The defensive end from Boise State reportedly had three concussions in college.  But McClellin disputed that, saying he could only recall having one concussion.”  The former Marsing Husky has 2½ sacks and nine quarterback pressures this season as a third down pass-rushing specialist.  The Bears next play the 49ers on Monday Night Football.  San Francisco is the easiest destination for McClellin’s friends and family, but his status is unclear.

Former Boise State star Nate Potter gets to face the Atlanta Falcons at a really good time.  Not.  The angry Falcons, coming off their first loss of the season, host Arizona Sunday, and it looks like Potter will get his first NFL start at left tackle.  The seventh-round draft pick replaced D'Anthony Batiste during the Cardinals’ loss at Green Bay two weeks ago.  Coach Ken Whisenhunt praised Potter’s overall play and is ready to give him a shot coming out of Arizona’s bye week.  He’ll line up next to another one-time Boise State standout, veteran left guard Daryn Colledge, who has mentored the Timberline High grad.

Idaho welcomes UT San Antonio to the Kibbie Dome tomorrow for its Senior Day.  It may be Jason Gesser’s final home appearance as Vandal head coach (he’s the interim guy right now).  Gesser says it’s not about the 6-4 UTSA Roadrunners, nor coach Larry Coker, who once led Miami to a national championship.  It’s not even about the 16 seniors who will play in the Dome for the final time.  “We are our opponent this week,” Gesser said. “It is doing and controlling things we can control.  Executing, making the block, making the catch, making the throw.  That’s what it’s going to be this week.”

If you use the common opponent theory, the Boise State men’s basketball game Sunday against Louisiana-Lafayette should be a good one.  The Broncos beat Oakland Tuesday night, 88-80, and the Ragin’ Cajuns topped the same team 90-79 at home last Sunday.  There’ll be another barometer tonight when ULL plays at Texas Southern in this weird round-robin “tournament” that also involves Michigan State (the Broncos’ road opponent next Tuesday).  Boise State downed Texas Southern 81-63 in the opener last Sunday.  Are you following this?  The attendance number will be one worth watching.  Sunday afternoons are a tough sell—there were 1,950 in Taco Bell Arena five days ago, while 2,616 showed for the Tuesday night matchup versus Oakland.

A couple other basketball notes: the College of Idaho hosts the 26th Annual Golden Rule Shoot-Out this weekend.  The Coyotes face Montana Western tonight and Westminster tomorrow night in the J.A. Albertson Activities Center.  And the Idaho Stampede have made their first cut of training camp, as guard Malik Allen has been waived.  The roster has to be trimmed from the current 16 players to 10 by next Wednesday.  The Stampede play an exhibition game Monday night against the Reno Bighorns in Winnemucca.  Kind of a neutral site.

The Idaho Steelheads play their first-ever game against the San Francisco Bulls tonight at the Cow Palace.  The Bulls have been a decent draw in their corner of the Bay Area, averaging 5,619 fans a game.  They haven’t been very successful on the ice yet, though, going 3-9-2.  The Steelheads go to Stocton Sunday, with Mathieu Tousignant eligible to play again then after a four-game suspension.  Officials felt he finished a check late into the boards against Bakersfield last week.  That’s a pretty hefty suspension.

Troy Merritt slipped to a two-over 74 yesterday in the second round of the PGA Tour Q-School tournament at Rancho Murrieta, CA.  The former Boise State star is tied for 49th at two-over.  The top 19 plus ties advance to the Q-School championship beginning November 28 at PGA West in La Quinta, CA.  The Rancho Murrieta tournament is one of six that make up the second stage of Q-School.

This Day In Sports…November 16, 1996:

In one of the most emotional games in Boise State history, cancer-stricken Pokey Allen returns to the sidelines to coach the Broncos against New Mexico State in Las Cruces.  Allen had been away all season undergoing treatment, and Boise State had struggled with a 1-9 record that included a school record eight-game losing streak at that point.  But three Tony Hilde-to-Ryan Ikebe touchdown passes—the last with less than a minute left—gave Pokey his first and only victory as a Division I-A football coach, 33-32.  The cancer would claim his life a month and a half later.

(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.)