Wednesday, October 12, 2011.
No sooner do you try to pin the “trap game” tag on Saturday’s matchup than the point spread is blaring “32 points.” But Colorado State forges ahead undeterred as it hosts No. 5 Boise State. The Rams, despite a surprising loss to San Jose State on October 1, are professing to carry a new mojo this season, something that was missing last year. CSU was supposed to be the team that makes a significant move in the Mountain West this year—the jury’s still out on that. But the Rams are coming off a bye and have spent two weeks cramming for the Broncos. Interesting that they were also coming off a bye in 2008 when Case Keenum and Houston came to Fort Collins, and CSU beat the Cougars in dramatic fashion, 28-25. Colorado State is 3-2 this season, including an overtime victory at Utah State, a win that looks better by the week.
With the Broncos’ permission, the Rams are going to wear all-white on their home field Saturday for the first time since they were Colorado A&M 55 years ago. So Boise State can wear its all-blue uniforms one more time if it chooses to, since the field in Fort Collins is, of course, green. The white-out promotion is in conjunction with a “fight cancer” campaign with a local hospital. Little-known fact: Boise State has worn all-white in Bronco Stadium four times, all in the postseason: in 1975 against Steve Mariucci and Central Michigan in the Division II playoffs, in the 1980 Division I-AA semifinals against Grambling, in 1981 versus Eastern Kentucky, also in the I-AA semifinals, and in 2005 against Boston College in the MPC Computers Bowl.
Will Boise State indeed use the unexpected opportunity at Colorado State to go all-blue one last time this season? Coach Chris Petersen isn’t saying. But he did notice the Rams wearing all-green on their green field while breaking down tape of CSU’s game against San Jose State. "I'd have to file a protest, green on green," Petersen said, only half-kiddingly. "I'm waiting for the Mountain West Conference to tell them they can't do that."
The Boise State running game is still a couple steps away from the consistency it craves. Sure, the Broncos rushed for 183 yards in their 57-7 rout of Fresno State last Friday. But 103 of them came on three plays: a 25-yard touchdown by Mitch Burroughs, a 55-yard scamper down to the one-yard-line by Doug Martin, and a 23-yard TD by Grant Hedrick at the end. Boise State’s other 35 carries went for 80 yards, just 2.3 yards per attempt. The ground attack had a semi-breakout versus Nevada two weeks ago. It’s still looking for that total breakout.
Tom Luicci of the Newark Star-Ledger has an update on “As The Big East Turns.” Luicci writes, “Adding Boise State for football only remains an option the league is aggressively pursuing, despite some resistance from certain Big East factions.” Luicci didn’t identify those factions. He says the Big East has two models for six-team divisions, one that includes the Broncos and one that doesn’t. Wow. There is absolutely no guarantee the Big East would hang onto its automatic-qualifying status in BCS bowls even with Boise State’s BCS standings performance numbers factored in. And after the 2013 season, the BCS could reduce its AQ club to five conferences and call it good. At that point, TV will call the shots. What if the Broncos accepted a Big East invite and ended up a non-BCS school after leaving the geographic fit of the Mountain West?
In this week’s power rankings at SI.com, Andy Staples turns the Top 25 into an “ultimate college football dining list.” For Boise State, still No. 6, Staples tabs the Westside Drive In. “The menu, like Boise State's offense, is incredibly diverse,” writes Staples. “Peanut ginger chicken has a place alongside Pepsi-soaked ribs. But, like Boise State's offense, Westside is great because it gets the basics right. The burgers are delicious, and so are the shakes. Anyone who watched former offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin's Texas unit struggle Saturday should understand now that it isn't the trick plays that make the Broncos so good. It's the fact that the line opens holes, and Doug Martin doesn't go down on first contact. It's the fact that the receivers know how to find holes in a zone, and Kellen Moore knows how to deliver the ball as soon as they hit an open patch.”
Former Boise State star Winston Venable has been released by the Chicago Bears after playing in five games and making two tackles. Venable, the Broncos’ starting nickelback the past two seasons, had made the Bears roster as an undrafted free agent. Speculation is he’ll end up on the team’s practice squad. The Bears also signed ex-Idaho wide receiver Max Komar to their practice squad. Komar had 12 catches for 117 yards in eight games with the Arizona Cardinals last year. In Chicago, he’ll be reunited with former Vandal quarterback Nate Enderle.
Enderle’s successor, Brian Reader, is absorbing the brunt of the criticism for Idaho’s 1-5 start and its punchless offense, ranked 113th among the nation’s 120 FBS teams. Now, what looked like a sure win in preseason handicapping is now anything but when the Vandals go to New Mexico State Saturday. Reader’s pass efficiency rating has sunk to 103.9, last in the WAC. As a reminder, a rating of 150 is solid, and 130 is average. Reader’s completing only 51 percent of his pass attempts—41 percent the past two games. Coach Robb Akey doesn’t think it’s time yet to give Reader the hook. “I’m giving him that opportunity to play it out,” said Akey.
As always, the Idaho Steelheads roster is flush with new faces. But there’s one “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” facet of the Steelheads’ game. They’d be happy if defenseman Steve Oleksy picks up where he left off when the season opens Friday night at Utah. Oleksy had seven goals in 55 games last season for Idaho after tallying just five times in 179 college and pro games the previous seven seasons. In fact, Oleksy can pick up where he left off last week—he scored the game-tying goal last Saturday in the Steelheads’ exhibition win over the Grizzlies in Logan. The 25-year-old Oleksy is one of five former Lake Superior State players on the Steelies’ roster.
If NBA commissioner David Stern keeps lopping off the league’s regular season schedule in two-week chunks, a couple more will take it past Thanksgiving and give the D-League a corner on America’s pro basketball market. Not that it would be a bonanza, but it can’t hurt the Idaho Stampede, whose season begins on November 26. The D-League is unaffected by the NBA lockout. One interesting aspect of this mess is the talent pool. If NBA players take some of the premium spots in Europe—and most European leagues are limited to how many American players they can have on their rosters—it may send some talented Americans already over there back to the U.S. and into the D-League talent pool.
This Day In Sports…October 12, 1979:
Magic Johnson makes his NBA debut for the Lakers, scoring 26 points in a 103-102 win over the L.A. Clippers. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the game on a last-second shot, and Johnson leaped into Kareem’s arms, overcome by his infectious enthusiasm. Magic’s legend would be sealed at the end of the season when he moved from guard to center in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, replacing Abdul-Jabbar and scoring 42 points to give the Lakers the title over the Boston Celtics. NBA, where are you?
(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.)