Tuesday, October 8, 2013.
Naturally, Boise State players were asked at yesterday’s press conference about Utah State’s loss of star quarterback Chuckie Keeton. Safety Dillon Lukehart said he felt for Keeton, but it doesn’t affect the way the Broncos view the Aggies going into this Saturday night’s game. “It’s not really going to change the way we prepare,” said the sophomore from Eagle High. “We know they have solid athletes all around. We’ll just prepare for the good team we know they are.” Keeton was lost for the season in the first quarter of last Friday night’s loss to BYU. The Aggies won’t reveal their new starter until gametime this week. Coach Matt Wells said yesterday that Craig Harrison, who came in for Keeton against the Cougars, will compete with true freshman Darell Garretson. “You’ll know on game day. That’ll be about the last time I answer that," Wells said.
Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick watched the Utah State-BYU game. “I was just feeling bad for Chuckie,” said Southwick, who got to know Keeton at Mountain West Media Days in July. “He’s just an outstanding guy—my heart goes out to him.” It reminds him how fragile life at QB can be, especially in this new era of up-tempo offenses. “I think the number of plays is the biggest difference,” Southwick said of the toll that is taken on signal-callers. “Over the season that builds up.”
At the moment, Southwick is more concerned with the Utah State defense, a unit that hasn’t been decimated by injuries like its offensive counterpart. “Their playbook’s pretty thick, probably the thickest we’ve seen so far,” said Southwick. “That shows they can handle it. I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys.” The Aggies are first in the Mountain West in total defense, limiting opponents to 335.8 yards per game. They also lead the conference in scoring defense, rushing defense and preventing third down conversions and are second in pass efficiency defense.
That Utah State rush defense figure is just 132 yards per game, making a revelation by Boise State coach Chris Petersen yesterday even more relevant. True freshman running back Aaron Baltazar has been lost for the season due to a torn MCL suffered against Southern Miss. Baltazar had run for 36 yards on just four carries before going down. And that was on the heels of his 92-yard, two-touchdown performance at Fresno State. It’s too late for Baltazar to use his redshirt year. The Broncos aren’t alone on the running back injury front. Wells also announced yesterday that USU starter Joe Hill is out for the year with an ACL tear. But Hill has been capably replaced by Joey DeMartino, who’s averaging 6.7 yards per carry and has scored four touchdowns.
Boise State has also lost backup safety and key special teams player Ebo Makinde to a torn pectoral muscle in the Southern Miss win. Makinde is a fifth-year senior, so his college career is over. The 5-10, 185-pounder from Phoenix was thrown into the fray in his first collegiate game against Virginia Tech in 2010 but never did crack the starting lineup. Makinde had 33 tackles in his career. He also had one interception—a key one in the 37-26 victory over Air Force in 2011.
How this affects the Nevada locker room during its bye week remains to be seen, but coach Brian Polian has caused a stir in Reno with comments about his team’s makeup. In the wake of the Wolf Pack’s 51-44 overtime loss at San Diego State last Friday, Polian says his roster could turn over by a third in the next year. “This is a tightrope I have to walk,” Polian said in the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Every member of our program that is doing things right, I love them as if they were my own children. You’ll never hear me say, ‘I didn’t recruit the guy.’ But there is a myth out there that I inherited a well-oiled machine. And that is a myth, because there were issues with this program when I arrived.” All that fun the Pack was having at practice in spring football may just wither away as the team prepares for its next game—a week from Saturday on the blue turf.
Kyle Wilson made two tackles on Monday Night Football last night. The Jets cornerback and one-time Boise State captain was relatively quiet in the Jets’ 30-28 win at Atlanta, a far cry from two weeks ago. Wilson took all sorts of heat—and in New York City you get heat—for committing three consecutive penalties while the Jets were surviving their test against the Buffalo Bills. Wilson was called for holding, illegal contact and a personal foul and was benched for a series. Coach Rex Ryan then moved him back to slot corner. We saw quite a bit of Wilson last night but didn’t hear that much about him, and that’s a good thing.
The preseason pub Boise State basketball is getting is rather remarkable, considering it didn’t previously exist. In case you missed this at ESPN.com, the Broncos are among the 10 teams in the nation with the most to prove, according to Eamonn Brennan. Writes Brennan: “The Broncos did manage to get into the tournament last season, albeit it as a play-in team that failed to survive Dayton. But the appearance was an accomplishment in itself for third-year coach Leon Rice, who has assembled an impressive group of previously unheralded players—all of whom are back this season. It's the kind of talent that makes any celebration of a No. 12 seed feel quaint. This group is capable of ascending much more notable heights.”
In advance of the Portland Trail Blazers’ exhibition game against Utah Friday night at CenturyLink Arena, the NBA club has named two assistant coaches to Michael Peck’s Idaho Stampede staff. Rob Werdann and Zendon Hamilton might be the two tallest assistants in the D-League, as both are 6-11. Werdann and Hamilton both played college basketball at St. John’s during its heyday (though not together). They each had stints as NBA players. Werdann has spent one season each on the coaching staffs of the New Orleans Hornets, Golden State Warriors and Charlotte Bobcats.
Lest you think the Blazers-Jazz game is sold out Friday night, there are almost 1,000 tickets left for the NBA exhibition. And I’d say they’re very reasonably priced. Understandably, there’s been a run on them the past few days, with three more sections selling out. CenturyLink Arena is configured to seat 5,200—with the suites and Sports Zone overlook included, it’s just under 6,000.
Remember Jeremy Yablonski, Idaho Steelheads fans? I mean, he goes way back—all the way to 2001 in the WCHL days. Well, it’s never too late. Yablonski, now settled down in Boise with his family at the age of 33, has been invited to Steelheads training camp to try out for the club. The 6-1, 235-pound forward had two different stints with the Steelies, earning a Kelly Cup championship ring in 2007. Yablonski also had a cup of coffee in the NHL, sticking with the St. Louis Blues long enough to pick up a fighting major. More importantly for the fortunes of the Steelheads this season were the signings yesterday of forwards Tommy Grant and Justin Mercier. The duo has a combined 349 games of AHL experience. Idaho is readying for a home-and-home exhibition series against the Utah Grizzlies this weekend.
This Day In Sports…October 8, 1956:
One of the defining moments in World Series history, as Yankee pitcher Don Larsen pitches a perfect game in a 2-0 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Larsen would end up Series MVP as the Yanks won another world championship. Nothing else in Larsen’s major league career came close to what happened that day—he was 81-91 with nine different teams over 14 years.
(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.)