Monday, August 18, 2014.
Full disclosure: I was not at Friday night's Boise State scrimmage. More on that later. But trying to analyze a scrimmage is like trying to dissect an NFL preseason game. Do you look at Friday's session and see a defense with tremendous upside, or an offense that needs to get its footing? As always, the answer is probably somewhere in between. But if the Broncos are to have a chance against Ole Miss next week, it's obvious the offensive line needs to circle the wagons. A Boise State unit that allowed just five sacks the entire 2009 (and eight in each of the two seasons after that) yielded seven in the scrimmage. The Rebels defense will not be forgiving. With that said, quarterback Grant Hedrick will have more latitude to get out of trouble in the Georgia Dome—many of the sacks could be categorized as quickly-whistled "touch fouls."
Troy Ware has re-inserted himself squarely into the race for the No. 3 receiver's role. Ware made some tough grabs Friday night and led the team with five catches. Converted cornerback Chaz Anderson had just two receptions for four yards but drew praise from coach Bryan Harsin after the scrimmage. Was Terrell Johnson's crowd-pleasing 62-yard touchdown catch from Ryan Finley an aberration or an indication of things to come? That will become clearer when we see how much playing time he gets against Ole Miss. The good news for the Boise State passing game: the three quarterbacks averaged 11.1 yards per completion as the offense guns for more verticality this season. That's a good figure for a Bronco scrimmage.
Boise State's running game seldom racks up big numbers in scrimmages, and this one was no exception. The Broncos, thanks in part to the sacks, netted only 34 yards on 32 carries. And that was with defensive tackles Armand Nance and Justin Taimatuia sitting out Friday night. Of course, the Boise State staff gave Jay Ajayi only five courtesy carries before pulling him. No telling what will happen with the Broncos' backup running back spot. It looks like Devan Demas has the edge for No. 2, and true freshman Jeremy McNichols is making a bid for No. 3.
For the first time in more than a decade the non-power conference schools have been shut out of both the preseason AP and Coaches Polls. When the AP version was released yesterday, the closest school from the Group of Five was Central Florida at No. 26. Boise State received 10 points in the AP Poll and is 16th in line to get into the Top 25. The Broncos were 14th among those also receiving votes in the Coaches Poll. Among the BSU opponents on the AP list, Ole Miss was No. 18 while BYU had eight points, and Louisiana-Lafayette, Nevada and Utah State picked up one point apiece. Elsewhere, Washington mirrored its Coaches Poll spot, with Chris Petersen's Huskies landing at No. 25.
Kellen Moore's primary task remains making the Detroit roster rather than chasing Dan Orlovsky for the Lions' No. 2 quarterback spot. Moore was 5-of-8 for 49 yards in Friday night's 27-26 loss in Oakland and was sacked once by Khalil Mack, the star linebacker out of Buffalo who finished his career last December in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Orlovsky was much better in his second preseason game for Detroit after being outplayed by Moore in Game 1. Matthew Rothstein had this footnote, though: "Part of the backup quarterback's job, (coach Jim) Caldwell said, is to be a collaborator with starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi." Doesn't that sound like a tailor-made role for Moore? Meanwhile, we're still waiting to hear if Kellen has indeed become a daddy.
By Paul Petrino's standards, Idaho's second scrimmage of fall camp Saturday morning was pedestrian in length. The Vandals ran only 128 plays, but that's still almost two games' worth for each unit. The defense made a statement in the Kibbie Dome session, recording nine sacks and picking off six passes. All four of defensive lineman Anthony Rice's tackles were sacks, while Jayshawn Jordan added three sacks and an interception. The bright spot on offense was the running of Kris Olugbode, who racked up 158 yards on only 13 carries and scored two touchdowns.
The Boise Hawks played the waiting game last night, as they have been wont to do sometimes this season. The Hawks spotted Salem-Keizer five runs in the first inning and watched the deficit hold until the top of the seventh. That's when the Hawks loaded the bases with no outs and got a Charcer Burks two-run double and consecutive RBI groundouts to get within a run. Then in the top of the eighth, Jesse Hodges led off with a solo homer to right to tie the game at 5-5. After the Volcanoes regained the lead in the bottom of the frame, Boise's Kevin Brown blasted a two-run homer in the ninth to win it, 7-6. It was the the fourth time this season the Hawks have allowed four or more runs in the first inning—and believe it or not, the Hawks are now 4-0 in those games.
Troy Merritt had a wildly uneven back nine in the final round of the Wyndham Classic yesterday, but he likes the big picture. The former Boise State star posted four bogeys and two birdies down the stretch, leaving him with a one-over 71 for the day. Merritt finished tied for 51st, winning $12,473 to bring his season total to $861,470. More importantly, Merritt stays at No. 111 in the FedExCup standings as the regular season comes to a close, ensuring him of a PGA Tour card for the 2014-15 season. He also cemented a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs, which begins with The Barclays this Thursday.
I missed the Boise State scrimmage because I was in San Francisco for Paul McCartney's "Farewell to Candlestick" concert. It was kind of strange walking in. Candlestick Park looked the same—all the 49ers markings were still there from the last game played in December. The Niners' "Ring of Honor" still circled the top of the upper deck, including No. 27 R.C. Owens of College of Idaho fame and No. 64 Dave Wilcox from the Broncos' Boise Junior College days.
There were 49,000 fans, minus a few thousand who couldn't make it to the stadium because of gridlock. There's a reason Candlestick Park is being torn down. But my brother and I were lucky—we arrived early, while the concession stands still had food (they ran out before the concert). Albertsons Stadium, especially the west side, is a palace compared to that place. And I won't even go into the nightmares people experienced trying to leave Candlestick. It's hard to believe the Giants lasted 40 seasons there before moving downtown in 2000.
We attended the Giants' 5-3 10-inning loss to Philadelphia Friday night at AT&T Park, which is a treasure. Generally protected from the wind, in a beautiful setting on the bay, the park drew 41,000 (as it does every time out) for a game that would have been hard-pressed to attract 20,000 to Candlestick. As for the concert, McCartney was really into the moment, referring often to the Candlestick finale—and harkening back to the Beatles' finale there in 1966. His set list was 40 songs long (the Beatles played 11 songs at Candlestick in '66). "Live And Let Die" was a fireworks show, and McCartney's crew added extra pyrotechnics at the end of the night. A splendid time was guaranteed for all.
This Day In Sports…August 18, 1934:
The late Roberto Clemente is born. Clemente, inducted in 1995 into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall Of Fame in Boise, was a Baseball Hall of Famer who collected exactly 3,000 hits in his major league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. While still a marquee big leaguer, Clemente was killed in a plane crash while trying to help deliver supplies to victims of a Nicaraguan earthquake on New Year's Eve, 1972. Roberto Clemente would have been 80 years old today. Another World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Famer, former Olympic decathlete Rafer Johnson, turns 79 years old today.
(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.)