Monday, October 21, 2013.
I swear—scout’s honor—that I wrote this down at halftime of the Boise State-Nevada game Saturday night. “You got the feeling that the first possession of the third quarter was going to tell you a lot about the rest of this game.” That was after the Wolf Pack had stolen the momentum back following the Broncos’ first touchdown of the game by scoring with a minute left in the half, taking a 17-7 lead into the locker room. Was it adjustments? Was it a scolding by coaches? Was it Joe Southwick’s talk to the team? The first possession after halftime was spirited, with Boise State serving notice by going 66 yards in eight plays. The Broncos then played one of their most inspired halves in recent memory, outscoring the Wolf Pack 27-0 after the intermission and rolling to a 34-17 victory in Bronco Stadium.
There was kind of a sad irony Saturday night. Joe Southwick’s picture adorned the Nevada ticket in Boise State’s season ticket packets. Then the game started. One seven-yard scramble on the Broncos’ first play from scrimmage, and Southwick’s night had ended with a broken ankle. It’s a bitter pill for a senior who has worked so hard. The first inclination is to refer to Ryan Dinwiddie’s timeline the last time a Boise State quarterback was lost to injury. Everyone heals differently, but Dinwiddie was out for six weeks in 2002 after he broke his ankle at Arkansas. In Southwick’s case, six weeks would put him at Senior Day on November 30 against New Mexico, with a bowl game yet to go.
So on came junior quarterback Grant Hedrick, and it looked like it took the Boise State offense a half’s worth of football to adjust its mindset to his different style. A 49-yard run by Hedrick that led to the Broncos’ first touchdown looked like it would inject life into the listlessness. But Boise State was still in the dumps at the end of the first half. Hedrick settled in when the Broncos re-took the field and ended up rushing for 115 yards and two touchdowns on the night, the first time a Boise State quarterback has topped the century mark since Jared Zabransky in a 69-3 win over Hawaii in 2004. (It was in that game Zabransky recorded the longest run from scrimmage ever by a Bronco—QB, running back or otherwise—an 85-yard TD scamper.) The fact that Hedrick was 18-of-21 through the air in his first game with meaningful playing time became an afterthought.
What do you do against the Nevada Wolf Pack? You run against ‘em. And that’s what Boise State ultimately did. But the success the Broncos had once they got rolling was record book stuff. They rushed for more than 400 yards for just the fifth time ever and the first time in nine years. And Jay Ajayi’s 222-yard night was the fifth-best in school history and the top mark since Ian Johnson romped for 240 against Oregon State in 2006. The back-breaker for the Pack was Ajayi’s 71-yard run in the third quarter that brought out all of Bronco Stadium’s loudness and gave Boise State a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Interestingly enough, that run equaled the longest dash of Ajayi’s career—he had a 71-yard non-scoring run in his freshman breakout game at New Mexico last season.
The Broncos were dealt a tough hand with Southwick’s injury, as the offense was out of sync without him in the first half. But the second quarter defensive lapses were just as much to blame for Boise State’s 10-point halftime deficit. The Broncos needed a spark on defense as much as anything, and they got it. With 246 yards in the first half, Nevada was on track to threaten a 500-yard night before Boise State clamped down to hold the Wolf Pack to 127 total yards, 35 rushing yards, 1.7 yards per carry and one third-down conversion after halftime. And Demarcus Lawrence was at his level-best. The junior defensive end almost personally put out Cody Fajardo’s light, as he was credited with 3½ of the Broncos’ six sacks.
Beyond the Boise State-Nevada tussle, there was one surprise and two expected results in the Mountain West Saturday. Colorado State ran roughshod over what is now a porous Wyoming defense to recapture the Bronze Boot in the 106th edition of the Border War, winning 52-22. The Rams had 509 yards of total offense while picking up their first conference win of the year. Also, Derek Carr went wild in cooling off Cinderella UNLV in a 38-14 Fresno State victory. The Bulldogs were No. 17 in the first BCS Standings of the season last night. And Utah State’s defense left New Mexico’s patented running game dumbfounded in a 45-10 win at Albuquerque.
BYU quarterback Taysom Hill is what Grant Hedrick might hope to be by next year. The sophomore out of Highland High in Pocatello looks to be in tune going into Friday night’s ESPN clash against Boise State in Provo. Hill has figured out the passing game, throwing for 417 yards against Houston Saturday as the Cougars eeked out a 47-46 victory. He also ran the ball an incredible 34 times for 128 yards. BYU and the Broncos have a lot of similarities now—they’re both 5-2 and appear to be on an upward trajectory.
Doug Martin was not the focal point of the Tampa Bay offense yesterday. This time the Buccaneers went to the air, but the end result was loss No. 6, 31-23 at Atlanta. Martin had 11 carries for 47 yards before leaving the field with a shoulder injury in the third quarter. The former Boise State star told reporters after the game that x-rays showed the shoulder wasn’t separated. Also of note in the NFL, George Iloka logged seven tackles in Cincinnati’s 27-24 win at Detroit. Kyle Wilson, sidelined last week with concussion symptoms, made three tackles and had a pass deflection in the Jets’ 30-27 upset of New England. And former Idaho standout Shiloh Keo grabbed his second career interception in Houston’s 17-16 loss at Kansas City.
You might want to mark Wednesday, November 20, on your calendar to see if Utah’s Jamie MacQueen still has it when he visits CenturyLink Arena for the first time. MacQueen sure had it on Opening Night, tallying four goals and accounting for all of the Grizzlies’ scoring in their 6-4 victory over Idaho in West Valley City. Pat Nagle, making his first appearance as a Steelhead, stopped all 31 of the Grizzlies’ other shots on goal. The Steelies didn’t score until Ryan Button tallied with 3:46 left in the game. Their other goal came from Tommy Grant with 10 seconds remaining. Steelheads came into the season 57-22-13 all-time against Utah. That middle number is now 23.
The Steelheads were hoping and expecting that Texas of the AHL would return goalie Josh Robinson to them in time for Wednesday night’s home opener against San Francisco. Now they’re not so sure. Robinson made his AHL debut Saturday night and stopped all 26 shots he faced, leading the Texas Stars to a 6-0 win over the San Antonio Rampage. Will Texas hang onto Robison now? One other Steelheads note: Thomas Gillespie has joined the team’s staff as certified Athletic Trainer. That’s significant because Steelies trainer Jason Switzer has left to serve as the Athletic Trainer for the US Snowboard Slopestyle team at the 2013 Sochi Olympics.
Also on the weekend checklist: Graham DeLaet rallied Friday with a three-under 68 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. But the 72 he shot Thursday in the first round was too much to overcome in the PGA Tour’s first event of the new season, and the former Boise State star missed the cut. And the Idaho men’s tennis team is attempting to close the gap on long-dominant Boise State. In fact, the Vandals shut the gap off in the doubles finals of the 2013 USTA Mountain Region Championships in Las Vegas. The Vandals’ Jose Benceck and Cristobal Ramos downed the Broncos’ Garrett Patton and Brendan McClain, 8-2. Boise State had five players make the singles round of 16. Andy Bettles advanced to the semis before falling to New Mexico’s Samir Iftikhar.
This Day In Sports…October 21, 2000:
Boise State opens the final season of Big West play with a 59-0 annihilation of North Texas, the Broncos’ first shutout in 13 years. BSU outgained the Mean Green 583 yards to 162, with freshman tailback David Mikell rushing for 122 yards and three touchdowns—and freshman quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie throwing the first of his 82 career touchdown passes. The Broncos would go unbeaten in the Big West on their way to a second straight title and Humanitarian Bowl championship.
(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.)