Monday, November 2, 2009.
There’s a leapfrog every week. Last week it was Horned Frogs, among others. This week, it’s Cincinnati jumping Boise State in the BCS standings, going inexplicably from eighth to fifth while the Broncos remain at seventh and TCU sixth. So, instead of trying to make sense of it, BSU pays no attention to it. Because the Broncos would rather concentrate on being everything they can be before worrying about BCS bowls.
Their 45-7 win over San Jose State was a case in point, starting with the running game. The Spartans went into the game allowing 260 yards a game on the ground. Take away the 38-yard run by Jeremy Avery and the 36-yard touchdown by Doug Martin, and BSU had just 66 yards rushing. The feast plays are fine—the famine plays are not. It’s been that way all season, with the possible exception of the Hawaii game. The Broncos seek not national love, but good ol’ consistency in their rushing attack.
There’s a moment that will be marked from Saturday’s game—at the 9½-minute mark of the first quarter. It was, of course, the first college football touchdown connection between brothers Kellen and Kirby Moore. And it was a decisive one, a 61-yard hookup that brought the house down. When Kirby reached the north end zone, he looked like he had been there before. Not that particular end zone, but many like it in the state of Washington. The younger Moore holds the national high school record for receiving touchdowns with 95 during his days at Prosser High School. He had 32 of them during his freshman and sophomore years, most if not all of them coming from Kellen, who was in his junior and senior seasons.
Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson had waited almost two months for a day like Saturday. He knew opposing offenses would stay away from him this season—both in the air and on the ground. But the affect on his numbers was stark, with just one pass breakup and no interceptions going into the San Jose State game. In the third quarter, Wilson had already put together a good afternoon with a handful of tackles and his first tackle-for-loss of the season. Then came a big first: his first career pick-six, as he took the ball out of the hands of the Spartans’ Kevin Jurovich and weaved his way 27 yards to paydirt. Now for those punt returns. Keep in mind all three of Wilson’s touchdowns on punt runbacks last year came in the month of November.
It’s become an afterthought during the WAC era, this winning season thing. It happens every October, and nobody really notices anymore, with championship fish always left to fry. But Boise State clinched its 12th straight winning season Saturday—and its 36th in 42 years as a four-year school. That’s rarified air and speaks to long-term tradition, not just the incredible run the Broncos have put together the past 10-plus years. This is also the 11th consecutive season BSU has won eight or more games.
As for Oregon’s 47-20 pounding of USC. Let’s do a little before-and-after. Late last week, Rece Davis wrote this at ESPN.com: “The Ducks don't look like the same team that embarrassed itself against Boise State in Week 1. Could it be it hasn't played a team as good as Boise State since then? Just asking.” Then Davis said, “This week, the Ducks definitely face an elite-level team, and it's a real measuring stick game for them. It's also the game on which Boise State's season résumé will be built.” Yes sir, at least among those who aren’t discounting the Broncos’ domination of Oregon in September as a fluke.
Now for the after, from Ken Goe in the Oregonian: “In some cases, Oregon's season-opening loss to Boise State is going to hurt the Ducks because of the perception that the unbeaten Broncos don't play in a top-level conference, and losing to them is less acceptable than losing to a heavyweight from the Big Ten or Southeastern Conferences. I would suggest the opposite, that the way Oregon dismantled USC ought to convince people that Boise State is pretty damn good.” There are those people out there who can see September 3 for what it was. The real deal.
So Oregon’s resounding win bodes well for Boise State’s fading BCS hopes, right? Not necessarily, as we said during the telecast Saturday. There’s a lot of football to be played, but if things go as expected from here on out, the Broncos’ BCS chances may be on life support, thanks to the Ducks’ victory. Oregon now appears headed for the Rose Bowl. There goes one of the 10 BCS spots. The SEC will take two, as will the Big Ten. The Big 12 will probably take one, as will the ACC and Big East. TCU is cruising toward the guaranteed berth that goes to qualified non-BCS schools. That leaves one at-large position available. Would, say, the Fiesta Bowl choose undefeated Boise State or 10-2 USC? You know it would be the Trojans. The BCS would have had trouble taking a 10-2 Oregon team over an unbeaten squad it had lost to.
Back to the subject of winning seasons, Idaho now has one for the first time since 1999. And the Vandals got it by doing what they’ve been doing all season—scratching out gut-wrenching come-from-behind wins. With six minutes left Saturday against Louisiana Tech, Idaho trailed by 13 points and had given up almost 500 yards to the Bulldogs. Then came a pair of well-managed drives capped by DeMaundray Woolridge touchdowns, the last with 52 seconds left. The Vandals are now 7-2 and are in great shape for the second bowl bid in their history. A case can be made that Idaho really needs a win over Fresno State Saturday if Boise State is somehow relegated to one of the WAC’s three affiliated bowls in December. That’s an ugly thought. But it’s not impossible. That would leave Nevada, Idaho and Fresno State jockeying for two open spots.
Such is life in WAC men’s basketball these days. I don’t know if you noticed at the end of last week, but in the preseason AP Poll, not a single vote was cast for a WAC team. And only Utah State got mention in the Coaches Poll, netting all of three votes. This comes despite the fact the conference seems to be packed with young talent. Boise State, picked in the middle of the WAC this season, has some new young guns itself and will get a first look at them tomorrow night in its first exhibition game against Willamette at Taco Bell Arena.
The Idaho Steelheads’ Evan Barlow went into the weekend leading ECHL rookies with four goals. He comes out a hero after scoring an overtime goal last night that gave the Steelheads a 3-2 victory—and two wins in their three-game series in Alaska. Saturday night’s loss to the Aces was of the shootout variety, so the Steelies’ record is 7-0-1. The successful trip to Anchorage came without the assistance of No. 1 goalie Rejean Beauchemin, who was called up by the Manitoba Moose late last week. Richard Bachman went the distance versus the Aces, making 64 saves and allowing seven goals. Bachman is now 4-0-1 with a goals-against average of 2.35.
This Day In Sports…November 2, 1974:
Hank Aaron, baseball’s all-time home run king, is traded from the Atlanta Braves to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Dave May. In April of that year, Aaron had passed Babe Ruth on the career homer list with number 715. He would play his final season in Milwaukee in 1975, ending up with 755 career dingers.
(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 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He also handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)