How relevant it is this week is a matter of debate, but Boise State has lost two straight games at Aloha Stadium, and each carried its own little parcel of pain. Both happened in 2007. Hawaii's 39-27 victory two years ago is still recognized as the most important in the history of the program--and of the Islands. Colt Brennan threw for 495 yards and five touchdowns, and that was all she wrote as the Warriors captured the game that decided the WAC championship. The Broncos returned a month later for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, and on a rare night that saw BSU take the field with a lack of focus, East Carolina hung on for a 41-38 win behind Chris Johnson. It's the only two-game losing streak Chris Petersen has experienced at Boise State. There should be no complacency among the Broncos in that venue Saturday night.
There aren't many faces on the Hawaii defense that are familiar to Boise State, as the Warriors entered the season with nine new starters. But there's one guy who will ring up some bad memories. Linebacker Blaze Soares was a freshman during that wild night on Thanksgiving weekend in 2007, when the sellout crowd of 50,000 celebrated what ended up being a temporary end to the Broncos' reign atop the WAC. Soares helped stop Ian Johnson cold after the first quarter with three tackles for loss and added a sack. Soares has started every game this season for the Warriors, rotating among all three linebacker spots.
One thing really stands out on Hawaii's depth chart this week: no depth on the offensive line. The Warriors have one player, Austin Hansen, who backs up three of the five positions. No doubt that's a factor in Hawaii's habit of allowing lots of sacks. UH is currently 110th in the country, with 19 sacks yielded in six games. It's not pacing to be as bad as last year, though, when the Warriors were the worst in the country, allowing a whopping 57 sacks. Greg Alexander, now out for the season with an injury, absorbed 32 of those 2008 sacks, prompting the Honolulu Advertiser's Ferd Lewis to describe him as "equal parts passer and pinata in a rookie year spent learning on the run." Boise State looks to pick up where it left off last week at Tulsa, where it recorded four sacks on G.J. Kinne.
Hawaii is known for playing a lot better at home than on the road. It's the state's team, and when things are going well, the fans go wild. Visitors can be entirely out of their element. With that said, Boise State goes into Saturday night's game as a 25-point favorite over the Warriors. According to people on the Islands, that's the second-widest spread over Hawaii at Aloha Stadium for a WAC game in 30 years. Then again, the Broncos have not covered the spread the last two weeks versus UC Davis and Tulsa.
If Boise State gets past Hawaii Saturday night, hope really dims for the Warriors in their quest for another Sheraton Hawaii Bowl berth. Hawaii is guaranteed the spot if it's bowl-eligible, but it would have to win five of its last six games. The Warriors have a shot against Utah State and Louisiana Tech at home and San Jose State on the road. But if they picked off all three of those, they'd still have to beat two of these other foes: Nevada, Navy and Wisconsin. That's very unlikely to happen. The absence of Hawaii would put a huge financial burden on the bowl--this is not the year you'll see a lot of folks travel to the Islands right before Christmas.
By the time Boise State and Hawaii kick off, we'll know if TCU remains on BSU's tail in this year's BCS-busting quest. The Horned Frogs face their first ranked opponent of the season at BYU. The 16th-ranked Cougars will have a full house backing them as they try to jump into the driver's seat in the Mountain West race. A TCU win will bring the 10th-ranked Frogs ever closer to the Broncos in the polls. And that is predicated upon BSU beating the Warriors, of course.
If Kyle Wilson's current numbers can earn him first-team midseason All-America honors from The Sporting News, what might happen if he explodes the rest of the way? Wilson is one of the cornerbacks on the team unveiled yesterday by The Sporting News, despite only 16 tackles and one pass breakup through six games. It's been a quiet senior year so far for Wilson, but there's still a lot of football left to play. The pride of Piscataway is one of only four players from non-BCS schools on the squad. Wilson has also been named one of 20 quarterfinalists for the Lott Trophy.
The game within the game Saturday in the Idaho-Nevada game? The Wolf Pack running attack against the Vandals' rush defense. The stunning difference in Idaho's defense this year is its ability to stop the run--going from almost 210 yards a game last season to just 96 this year. Then again, the Vandals haven't faced a run-first offense with Nevada's potency yet. The Pack is leading the nation in rushing at 293 yards a game. Idaho has to deal with three guys who have finally hit their stride: Vai Taua at 93 yards a game, Luke Lippincott at 83, and Colin Kaepernick at 77.
TicketCity, a national ticket broker, rolls out a list of the "top 25 hottest games of 2009" every week during the season. The list is based on average ticket price, since TicketCity has a vested interest in that--trying to move tickets on the "secondary market." Well, the Boise State-Idaho game on November 14 has debuted at No. 11 after demand skyrocketed last weekend, according to TicketCity. It's sandwiched right in between Texas-Texas A&M and Auburn-Georgia. Again, this has to do with ticket demand. TicketCity points to the Broncos' BCS ranking, the Vandals' 6-1 start, the stadium capacity limited to 34,000 fans, and the rivalry. Better get your tickets before the price reaches quadruple-digits.
If Marty Flichel's going to be a player-coach for the Idaho Steelheads, he hopes to spend his time on the right side of the ice. Last weekend Flichel was across the way a lot and actually led the Steelies in penalty minutes with 10 in the three-game sweep of Stockton. So the penalty box was almost as familiar as the Steelheads bench, where he'll be helping out coach Derek Laxdal this season. Flichel did contribute elsewhere, though, collecting two assists in the three victories. The Steelheads have Friday and Saturday dates on the road with the Utah Grizzlies this weekend.
It's a big weekend for Troy Merritt, as the former Boise State star takes his final shot at an automatic PGA Tour card for next season. Merritt is playing in the Nationwide Tour Championship at Charleston, SC, and PGA Tour.com has done some calculating on what Merritt has to do to finish in "The 25," the top 25 on the Nationwide money list that earn cards for 2010. Merritt is currently 36th in winnings and would have to finish between fifth and seventh in this weekend's tournament to get in.
This Day In Sports...October 22, 1977:
In a showdown between the top two teams in the Big Sky, Boise State beats Northern Arizona, 26-13, at Bronco Stadium. Freshman tailback Terry Zahner became the first Bronco ever to rush for 200 yards in a game, going for 205 against the Lumberjacks. Amazingly, a fellow true freshman would break that record the same season when Cedric Minter ran for 210 yards against Cal Poly.
(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.)