Thursday, October 24, 2013.
It’s been 10 years since Boise State’s first and only trip to Provo, the 50-12 Bronco rout the night before Halloween in 2003. It was an interesting time. The Broncos were on a roll in their second season as a ranked team and were on their way to a second straight WAC championship. BYU was starting to struggle under coach Gary Crowton. Current coach Bronco Mendenhall was the Cougars’ defensive coordinator and was tinkering with new concepts. Along those lines, the 50 points were deceiving, as the Boise State defense contributed a pick-six by Wes Nurse and the special teams blocked a punt for the Broncos’ first touchdown. Mendenhall’s defense held Ryan Dinwiddie to 12-of-24 passing, but he covered 247 yards, 209 of them to Tim Gilligan.
The game was on ESPN, called by Mike Tirico, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit. Who’d have ever thunk Boise State’s biggest problem after playing still-legendary BYU for the first time—on the road, no less—would be criticism for running up the score? Corso was highly critical of coach Dan Hawkins for leaving Dinwiddie in the game with a 43-12 lead in the fourth quarter, with Tirico and Herbstreit defending Hawkins. Then Dinwiddie hit Gilligan for one last touchdown with 3:45 left, and Tirico and Herbstreit came over to Corso’s way of thinking.
BYU is a lot better this year, of course. The Cougars are 5-2, and their two losses have been by a combined 10 points (19-16 at Virginia and 20-13 versus Utah). You can tell by those scores the BYU defense wasn’t exactly the issue. Taysom Hill was only 13-of-40 through the air against the Cavaliers, and just 18-of-48 versus the rival Utes. It’s well-documented that the Cougar offense is a lot different now. As coaches love to say these days, Boise State defenders are going to have to keep their eyes right, especially now that Hill is truly a dual threat. And eyes have to adjust quickly to a team that ran off 115 plays last week. “We’re just trying to go a little faster in practice just to get used to it,” said Bronco defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe.
One guy on the spot tomorrow night is linebacker Ben Weaver. The redshirt freshman saw spot duty before the throng of 72,000 at the grand re-opening of Husky Stadium eight weeks ago. Now Weaver’s the main man, with a moment of truth in front of 60,000 awaiting him at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Few young Broncos have received the raves that Weaver is getting from coaches and teammates. Chris Petersen said his staff had a hunch when it was pursuing him out of Klein, TX. “Sometimes when we’re recruiting guys you see a defensive end or outside linebacker and think, ‘That guy would really look good as an inside linebacker.’” Petersen added that you never know until that guy gets out there. But Weaver has been out there, and the proof is in the pudding.
Weaver has been leading Boise State in tackles since he took over the starting spot at Will linebacker from Tyler Gray. In fact, Weaver has opened up a 25-tackle lead in that category, showing 63 stops for the season now. The 6-0, 233-pounder has 26 in the past two games. Tackles are a subjective stat. And I must say the Boise State stat crew is conservative compared to some of its colleagues when counting them. Some schools give players assisted tackles if they so much as get a hand on a guy with the ball. Hence the fact that Weaver is tied for eighth in the Mountain West.
Idaho State tries to snap a 42-game road losing streak Saturday when it visits Southern Utah in a Big Sky clash. The Bengals were game in their last road outing last week at Northern Arizona before falling 39-30 in Flagstaff. ISU led the Lumberjacks 14-12 at halftime, its first lead at the intermission on the road in seven years. Idaho State quarterback Justin Arias leads the Big Sky and is fourth nationally in the FCS with 336 passing yards per game. Now, if the Bengals could lead the other team on the scoreboard at the end of the game on the road. Just once.
The first two periods were scoreless last night in the Idaho Steelheads’ home opener against San Francisco at CenturyLink Arena. The third period—and overtime—made up for it. After the Steelheads finally tallied the first goal of the game, the Bulls scored twice and were on the verge of sending the crowd of 4,146 unhappily home. But Anthony Nigro rammed one in on a power play with just 18.6 seconds left in the game to knot it at 2-2. Then Nigro cashed in again just under two minutes into overtime to give Idaho a 3-2 victory. Coach Brad Ralph hinted earlier this week on Idaho SportsTalk there was a chance Jeremy Yablonski would play because of the physical nature of San Francisco’s lineup. Yablonski was activated—and yes, he did drop the gloves, picking up a fighting major midway through the first period.
As Boise State basketball grinds through week No. 4 of preseason drills, the Australian connection is front and center. Anthony Drmic, the Broncos’ leading scorer last season, and Igor Hadziomerovic, poised for a breakout season after some invaluable international experience this summer at the World University Games, join Derrick Marks, Ryan Watkins and Jeff Elorriaga as returning starters. Drmic and Hadziomerovic both played as true freshmen two years ago. Now will fellow Aussie Nick Duncan follow suit? The guy’s got skills. Duncan was a key part of the Australian team that finished fourth at the FIBA U19 World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic, in July.
Graham DeLaet is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, today for the second tournament of the PGA Tour’s new season. With the money he made last season, more than $2.8 million, the former Boise State star can certainly cover his expenses. The CIMB Classic tees off this morning, with DeLaet trying to get untracked after missing the cut last week at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.
Former Boise Hawk John Lackey takes the mound tonight in the World Series for the first time since making history with the then-Anaheim Angels 11 years ago. Lackey is set to start Game 2 for Boston against St. Louis tonight. In 2002 with the Angels, he became the first rookie to win a Game 7 of the Series in 93 years when the Angels won their only world championship by finishing off the San Francisco Giants with a 4-1 victory. The Angels roster that night included eight former Boise Hawks—the game-winning hit in Game 7 came from another ex-Hawk, Garret Anderson, who clubbed a bases-clearing double. Lackey has momentum in the 2013 postseason, as he’s coming off a gem in Game 3 of the ALCS when he fired 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a 1-0 Red Sox win at Detroit.
This Day In Sports…October 24, 1992:
Division II power Portland State comes to Bronco Stadium to face Boise State, which had upped its record to 5-2 after an 0-2 start. Coach Pokey Allen’s offense dismantled the Broncos, amassing 605 yards—at the time the most ever surrendered by BSU. The Vikings won 51-26, and Boise State would not win another game that season. It was a live audition for Pokey, who would be named head coach of the Broncos less than two months later.
(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.)