Friday, November 1, 2013.
Earlier in the season, we wondered about the lack of involvement by tight ends and running backs in the Boise State passing game. So where is it now going into tomorrow night’s Colorado State game, two-thirds of the way through the 2013 campaign? It seems like the tight ends have come alive via Connor Peters and Jake Hardee, but Peters still has just seven catches on the season and Hardee five. Tight ends have zero touchdowns this year. And you know what? Bronco running backs have gone scoreless through the air, too. The receiving stats by the backs are even more striking. Jay Ajayi leads the group with all of eight catches—for just 26 yards. All told, the running backs have 16 receptions and are averaging just three yards per grab.
No question about Ajayi’s involvement in the Boise State running game, though. The sophomore standout needs just 83 yards tomorrow night to reach 1,000 for the season. Even with his fumbles, Ajayi has probably been the MVP of the Bronco offense this season. Boise State’s past two 1,000-yard rushers, Doug Martin in 2010 and 2011 and D.J. Harper in 2012, were in the mid-700 yard range after eight games. Ajayi has 917 yards on the ground, the most in the Mountain West (he’s second to New Mexico’s Kasey Carrier in yards-per-game). Ajayi’s 12 touchdowns are tied for the conference lead with tomorrow night’s Bronco adversary, Colorado State’s Kapri Bibbs.
I would say the Boise State defense needs to nip this in the bud, but these 500-yard games are in full bloom now. The Broncos have already absorbed three of them this season, including last week’s 568-yard assault at BYU. They didn’t yield any 500-yard games last season, when they finished 12th in the country with a 315-yard average. In fact, Boise State opponents had topped 500 yards just seven times combined in Chris Petersen’s first seven years. Currently the Broncos are 79th nationally in total defense at 415 yards per game.
Raise you hand if you’re among the growing legion out there that thinks there’s a Colorado State upset of Boise State brewing. Really? I’m not among them. As much stock as CSU is putting into this game, I think the Broncos are better than the Rams in the trenches, better at the skill positions, and better at quarterback. Grant Hedrick has been through his initiation and can take a major step tomorrow night in Fort Collins. Hedrick was better in the second half than the first half at BYU, and he’ll be better in the first half at CSU. It feels like a down year for Boise State until you put it in persective. For example, the Broncos are “only” 5-3 for the first time since 2001. UNLV is as high as 5-3 for the first time since 1994.
Idaho hosts Texas State tomorrow for Dad’s Weekend, looking for win No. 2 on the season and atonement after a 38-7 loss last fall in San Marcos, TX. If there’s one skill player the Vandals can depend on this year, it’s wide receiver Dezmon Epps. The JC transfer from City College of San Francisco has 51 catches for 582 yards and three touchdowns, with a career-best 62-yard reception for a TD last week at Ole Miss. Epps is also Idaho’s primary kick returner on both punts and kickoffs, helping his all-purpose yardage top 109 yards per game.
One local tie in the NFL and one in college football stand out after the Halloween TV games. Former Boise State star George Iloka led Cincinnati with six tackles last night, although the Bengals fell in overtime at Miami on, believe it or not, a safety. Former Bronco Jamar Taylor, by the way, was finally back in action for the Dolphins and recorded one special teams tackle. And Eagle High grad Taylor Kelly toyed with Washington State last night on ESPN, throwing for 275 yards and five touchdowns and running for two more in Arizona State’s 55-21 rout of the Cougars in Pullman.
The Boise State men’s basketball team goes into its exhibition game against Lewis-Clark State tonight with some cache. The Broncos received 22 points in the preseason AP Poll yesterday, putting them seventh in line to get into the Top 25. No. 1 is Kentucky, BSU’s opponent December 10 at Rupp Arena. New Mexico was the only Mountain West team in the rankings, coming in at No. 23. The only other conference school to receive votes was UNLV with eight. This is uncharted territory for Boise State, which last month received 11 votes in the preseason Coaches Poll. As for tonight’s game, L-C State will provide an opportunity for the Broncos to play defense—and then some. The Warriors are 4-0 (albeit against very small schools) and are averaging 105 points per game.
Something’s gotta give in the third period when the Idaho Steelheads and Ontario Reign tangle tonight and tomorrow night in CenturyLink Arena. The Reign have outscored their opponents 6-0 in the third period in the young season, while the Steelheads are second in the ECHL with seven third-period goals. Watch for those short-handed goals by the Steelheads as well after they tallied twice on the penalty kill last Saturday. Idaho tied for second in the league last season with 12 short-handed goals, including a pair of games where the team scored twice while on the penalty kill. The Steelies now have 14 short-handed goals in 76 games under coach Brad Ralph. Also on the pro sports front, the Idaho Stampede host their annual draft party in conjunction with tonight’s D-League Draft at Legends Sports Pub & Grill.
Graham DeLaet zoomed up to a tie for 11th today at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, but he’s still seven strokes behind red-hot Dustin Johnson. The former Boise State star fired a four-under 68 after his first-round 71. DeLaet has hit 83 percent of greens in regulation, equaling the best mark in the tournament. Meanwhile, DeLaet has been named to the 24-player field for the 25th Franklin Templeton Shootout December 9-15 in Naples, FL.
You’ve gotta love the headline at ESPN.com: “Jockey Stevens like a fine wine.” Gary Stevens, the one-time Capital High student who got his start at Les Bois Park, will have nine mounts in the Breeders’ Cup tomorrow at Santa Anita, capped with a ride aboard Mucho Macho Man, which finished second in the Classic last year. In that feature race, Gary West’s ESPN.com piece points out, two of the jockeys Stevens will compete against weren't even born when he won his first Breeders' Cup race. Writes West, “Before the sun sets on the Breeders' Cup, he'll be among the top 20 jockeys in the country based on earnings—and he's 50. He won't say it, and he doesn't have to because others are saying it for him: He's riding better than ever.”
This Day In Sports…November 1, 2003, 10 years ago today:
Arkansas outlasts Kentucky 71-63 in seven overtimes, equaling the record the Razorbacks already held for the longest game in NCAA history—and setting the mark for highest-scoring Division I-A game since official records began in 1937. That I-A scoring standard would be broken four years later by Boise State’s 69-67 quadruple-overtime victory over Nevada (and would be exceeded again four weeks after that by Navy’s 74-62 triumph over North Texas).. Incidentally, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt had one overtime game in his one season with BSU, the 30-23 win over Idaho in the 1997 season finale at the Kibbie Dome.
(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.)