Thursday, July 29, 2010.
On November 12, Boise State and Idaho will meet on the football field for the 40th time. And for the Vandals, it will be the biggest one of all—their first regular season appearance ever on one of the two feature ESPN networks, and a chance to keep the Broncos from matching Idaho’s 12-game winning streak in the series from 1982-93. With the sparks flying right now, the chances of Boise State ever returning to the Kibbie Dome seem remote. To me, the only hope remains Martin Stadium in Pullman, as I mentioned yesterday. Really. As distasteful as that would be to the Vandals, it might be take-it-or-leave-it. And it wouldn’t be every other year. With Governor Otter washing his hands of the mess, don’t expect the Legislature to dive in. Geez, it feels like the Greater Boise Auditorium District and the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Because Kellen Moore and Jeron Johnson were the featured Broncos at WAC Media Days this week, the focus of non-Boise media was on Moore’s engineering of the offense, and Johnson anchoring what Fresno State coach Pat Hill calls “by far” the WAC’s most dominant defense. Under the radar was Boise State’s running game, which could be as good as it’s ever been with Jeremy Avery, Doug Martin and D.J. Harper. The return of Harper gives the Broncos an envious problem, with (in effect) three starters at one spot. “We’re going to have to make some decisions down the road—establish a pecking order—and guys will have to accept their roles,” said coach Chris Petersen.
It’s been a very concentrated 10-month effort by Harper since the knee injury that ended his season at Fresno State last September. Harper hasn’t been going full-tilt in player-run practices this summer, saving himself for fall camp. “The only thing D.J. hasn’t done is, he hasn’t been tackled by someone,” said Petersen. “We feel so lucky and blessed to get him back. He was so diligent and worked so hard—the doctors said all along he was way ahead of schedule.”
It’s the Mountain West’s turn for Media Days in Las Vegas, and yesterday commissioner Craig Thompson au-contraired an observation made by WAC counterpart Karl Benson Monday. Benson said now that Utah’s going to the Pac-10—even with the addition of Boise State—the Mountain West “is not even going to be close to meeting the criteria” for automatic qualification into the BCS. “I don’t know what numbers he’s looking at,” Thompson said. “Boise State has finished sixth and ninth in the past two years in the BCS final rankings. And I don’t mean this disparagingly at all—I talked to Kyle Whittingham (Utah coach) about this last night—Utah has finished sixth and 23rd. I’m not a mathematician, but six and nine is better than six and 23.”
After Boise State’s first WAC championship season, the Broncos adopted the slogan, “Prove It.” Idaho certainly wouldn’t copy its friends to the south, but coach Robb Akey invoked that phrase when describing what the Vandals have to do this year. “We’ve got to prove we can handle success,” said Akey, coming off U of I’s first winning season in 10 years and a Humanitarian Bowl victory. “Is 8-5 good enough? Is 4-4 (in the WAC) good enough? We’ve got to do a little better than that.” If it’s going to happen, it’ll depend on three things: putting together a new offensive line, compensating for the loss of DeMaundray Woolridge, and shoring up the defense.
Kyle Wilson reports to training camp with the other New York Jets rookies today in Cortland, NY. Now the former Boise State star and first round draft pick begins to earn his keep. Wilson completes what many consider the best secondary in the NFL. Just in time for the big day, Wilson’s brother Gerry has launched his new website, teamkdub.com. Bro is already posturing on Kyle’s behalf.
Gerry picked this up from Rich Cimini of ESPN.com: “(Wilson had) better be ready to go in Week 2. According to reports out of Boston, Patriots WR Wes Welker, coming off a major knee injury, has made a terrific recovery and will be ready to go in camp. Welker is one of the premier slot receivers in the league. Wilson, the projected nickel back, will face slot receivers. Good luck, kid.” Gerry promptly brings up what Kyle had to say after the 2010 Fiesta Bowl: “Everyone counted us out. I don’t know why they keep doing that, but keep it coming.”
The Boise Hawks are in a pothole and can’t seem to climb out. The Hawks dropped their sixth straight game last night, victims of a four-run fourth inning that led Vancouver to a 5-3 victory. The Hawks had to go at it without one of their top bats. Matt Szczur will make a quick stop in Peoria before he reports to Villanova’s fall camp. The Wildcats football star has been promoted to the Cubs’ long-season Class A club after hitting safely in all 18 games he played for Boise, batting .397.
Meanwhile, the Hawks have their first hometown player since 2007, and it’s the same guy. Jordan Latham, the 2005 Centennial High graduate who also pitched for College of Southern Idaho, has been sent back to Boise from Peoria. Latham missed all of last season as he was on the Cubs’ restricted list. He had struggled of late with Peoria—he was 1-3 with a 4.83 ERA and 11 saves. Hawks pitching coach Jeff Fassero wasted no time in reintroducing Latham to Memorial Stadium, as the 23-year-old righthander was plugged in last night in the eighth inning. Latham threw a scoreless frame with two strikeouts and one walk.
Boise has not one, but two players entered in the U.S. Senior Open, which begins today in Sammamish, WA. Both are long-time popular club pros: Ron Ptacek, formerly of Plantation, and Jeff Thomsen of Indian Lakes. Ptacek got into the tournament by winning a three-hole sudden death playoff earlier this month in Salt Lake City. The first drama he’ll face at Sahalee Country Club is how his name will be pronounced by the starter when he tees off. Say it with me—it’s “Puh-TAW-check.” This experience will not be entirely new for Thomsen, who was on the PGA Tour from 1979-82. Thomsen played in the 1978 British Open, the 1983 U.S. Open, and the PGA Championship in 1990 and 1998 (the latter held at Sahalee).
This Day In Sports…July 29, 2000, 10 years ago today:
The best player of the Boise Junior College era, Dave Wilcox, joins two other San Francisco 49ers greats, Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott, as new inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Born in Ontario and raised in Vale, Wilcox played for Lyle Smith at BJC in 1961 and 1962 before moving on to Oregon. He was a star linebacker for the 49ers for 11 seasons. Wilcox’s son, Justin, was Boise State’s defensive coordinator from 2006-09. Also inducted that day were former Raiders defensive end Howie Long and Steelers owner Dan Rooney.
(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’s also handled color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football the last five seasons.)