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What’s a defense to do in the face of Nevada’s flash flood?

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on November 25, 2009 at 8:34 AM


Wednesday, November 25, 2009.
One of Boise State’s defensive goals is typically to hold the opponent under 100 yards in rushing. So what should the goal be against Nevada Friday night in the WAC championship game? Under 300 yards? Seriously. Then the Broncos would actually like their chances. It’s common knowledge that the Wolf Pack leads the nation in rushing, cascading through opponents at a 373-yards-a-game clip. That’s a whopping 59 yards a game better than second-place Georgia Tech. The Pack, of course, has three 1,000-yard rushers for the first time in NCAA history. There are eight FBS schools that haven’t even rushed for a thousand yards as a team yet. 
Last year, the BSU defense had Nevada dialed in and was able to limit the Pack to 141 yards on the ground. But then, Nevada’s rushing monster had just two heads instead of three. The difference this year is the addition of Luke Lippincott to Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua. Lippincott was injured in the second game of 2008 and missed the rest of the season. His role has steadily increased this fall, and he led the Wolf Pack in rushing last week at New Mexico State with 162 yards and two touchdowns. Don’t forget what Lippincott did the last time he played on the blue turf. The senior from Salinas, CA, ran for 187 yards and four scores in the four-overtime clambake that saw Boise State outlast Nevada, 69-67.
The threat of a big play every play in the running game has made Kaepernick’s play-action deadly this year. Kaepernick can also make an option move toward the line of scrimmage and then pull up and fling it downfield. The Boise State secondary is going to have to be disciplined. Last week at Utah State, Bronco defensive backs were victimized a couple times when elusive Aggie quarterback Diondre Borel reared up and threw long—once on a 46-yard pass that set up USU’s first touchdown. But Kaepernick was just 19-of-50 against the Broncos in Reno last year for 241 yards and a touchdown. He was forced into a lot of bad throws, and the Broncos—if they can somehow neutralize the running game and induce the Pack to throw—will endeavor to do that again.
Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman seems to have even-keeled himself in time for what could be one of his most important games. If the Boise State attack stalls on the occasions it keeps the ball away from what is currently the nation’s hottest offense, it’s going to need whatever points it can get. Brotzman hasn’t faced one of those mind-altering field goal tries from the left hash since the Louisiana Tech game. Last week he connected on a career-long 52-yard field goal at Utah State from the middle of the field. The Broncos need Brotzman in the same zone as he was his freshman year, when the Nevada game was one of his highlight games. The former Meridian Warrior connected on four kicks at the end of regulation and in the overtimes that—had he missed them—would have ended the game in defeat (two field goals and two extra points).
Big games at Bronco Stadium have never been known to be student-driven. Boise State students pick their spots—and a lot of ‘em are doin’ something else Friday night. BSU has put 1,500 student tickets on sale to the general public for the WAC title clash. They’re in the student area on the east side. Boise State is banking on the allure of a game with gigantic ramifications, as the newly-available seats are going for $64 apiece. I threw out that 34,000 number yesterday. Uh, might have to adjust that.
A story out of the Bay Area says San Jose State athletic director Tom Bowen is “very interested” in talking with 10 head coaching prospects to replace the retiring Dick Tomey. One is Boise State defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, one of the hottest assistants in the country. It would seem like an extreme longshot, though.  The budget crunch at San Jose State is acute, and the Spartans aren’t going anywhere without an upgrade in facilities. There also wouldn’t be much of a pool for Wilcox to use in compensating a coaching staff in a very expensive place to live. Besides, he’s currently at the school with the highest-paid staff among all non-BCS schools, according to USA Today.
It’ll be reunion day for Utah State's Gary Andersen and Idaho's Robb Akey when the Aggies and Vandals play the season finale in the Kibbie Dome. Andersen and Akey were assistant coaches together on the Northern Arizona staff in the mid-1990’s. They’ll face off Saturday in a tense game for both sides. The Aggies want to prove how deceiving their 3-8 record is—fraught with a slew of close losses. The Vandals want to cement their bowl fate once and for all and are currently favored by 2½ points. It promises to be an emotional Senior Day in Moscow as 12 seniors bow out. The group is led by Outland Trophy finalist Mike Iupati and Max Komar, the wide receiver who’s one of six seniors to start his career in 2005 and last through the tumultuous transition from Nick Holt to Dennis Erickson to Akey.
Former Boise State stars Daryn Colledge, Korey Hall and Orlando Scandrick will be busy entertaining you on Thanksgiving Day. Green Bay plays at Detroit in the early game tomorrow, with Colledge searching for consistency at left guard with the Packers and Hall seeking to re-establish his role after missing a chunk of this season with an injury. Dallas hosts Oakland in the late game, with Scandrick’s responsibilities having increased now following a rash of injuries in the Cowboys secondary.
I talked yesterday about the time it takes to assimilate junior college transfers into a Division I basketball program. Well, Boise State coach Greg Graham decided not to wait last night, sitting veterans Anthony Thomas and Paul Noonan and starting newcomers Westly Perryman and Reggie Arnold. It paid off with an 82-69 win at Eastern Washington, a nice answer to the humbling 26-point loss at Wyoming last Saturday. Arnold scored 18 points, while Ike Okoye did what he would have liked to do to his old Wyoming teammates, pouring in 21 points, blocking five shots, and yanking down an amazing 17 rebounds. Noonan contributed 10 points off the bench, but Thomas went scoreless for the second straight game. The Broncos finally return home Saturday for their home opener against North Texas.
It seems to be all Stockton all the time for the Idaho Steelheads. They’ve faced the Thunder six times already this season, and they have three more down in the Central Valley starting tonight. The Steelheads were just there a week and a half ago, registering a three-game sweep of Stockton. The Steelies’ 13-3-1 start has been built on balance. Despite leading the league in wins, Idaho has just one player in the top 20 in ECHL scoring. That’s veteran center Tyler Spurgeon, who’s 10th in the league with 21 points—17 of them on assists. The Steelheads do have three rapidly-rising rookies, though, as Mathieu Tousignant, Evan Barlow, and Brandan Kushniruk have combined for 12 goals and 16 assists in November.
There have been some hot former Steelheads in the NHL recently, too. Jay Beagles scored his first NHL goal Monday night for the Washington Capitals, the third Steelies alum in three days to score in an NHL game. Beagles joined two Dallas Stars in lighting the lamp—Warren Peters tallied his first goal of the season Saturday night, with Tom Wandell scoring the game-winner in that game. Meanwhile, one-time Steelies fan favorite Zenon Konopka is tied for the NHL lead in penalty minutes. The Tampa Bay center also registered his first assist of the season over the weekend.
This Day In Sports…November 25, 2006:
The most important day to that point in Boise State football history, as the Broncos cap an unbeaten regular season and ensure themselves a Fiesta Bowl berth with a dominating 38-7 win over Nevada, a team that had allowed just 35 points total during a five-game winning streak. Ian Johnson, coming back from a partially-collapsed lung two weeks earlier, rushed for 147 yards and three touchdowns and Jared Zabransky threw for 299 yards and a score. All the while the BSU defense was holding the Wolf Pack to 141 yards as 6,000 Bronco fans turned Mackay Stadium into a home field.
(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.)