Wednesday, September 11, 2013.
Air Force has Boise State on edge, but you’d never know it from the point spread of 23½ points for Friday night’s game. Let’s ponder that point spread. The Falcons came to the blue turf two years ago as 29-point underdogs and lost by 11. And that was because the Broncos were able to make it a two-possession game with a Dan Goodale field goal in the final minute. Air Force held the ball for 36 minutes, ran off 82 plays, and converted nine third downs, including a third-and-21 early in the fourth quarter—on a running play. There’s been a lot of turnover on the Boise State defense since then, but guys like Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe and Blake Renaud remember it well. So does graduate assistant coach Byron Hout, who was called upon to make 18 tackles as a Bronco linebacker that day.
Not that it was easy to stop Tennessee-Martin’s rush-heavy offense, but the task will be tougher for Boise State against Air Force, and the Broncos will need Demarcus Lawrence. The star defensive end has missed two of the past three games (including the Las Vegas Bowl) due to suspension, but he’s scheduled to play versus the Falcons. Lawrence has speed and savvy, and he’ll need the latter to deal with Air Force’s traditionally funky offense. He had six tackles at Washington, including Boise State’s first sack of the season. The entire Bronco defense knows it has to keep from being fooled. “The main thing about the triple-option is you’ve got to have good eyes, so that’s what the coaches are harping on,” said safety Darian Thompson.
Coach Chris Petersen is concerned about more than just the run. “The problem with Air Force is, they do a lot,” said Petersen. “They’re not just the triple-option.” So you look at the box score from the Falcons’ 52-20 loss to Utah State last week, see that quarterbacks Jaleel Awini and Karson Roberts combined to go 6-of-18 for 108 yards, and shrug your shoulders. Petersen is not doing that. “They dropped seven passes, and they won’t drop ‘em again,” said Petersen. “That score was completely deceiving.” Petersen noted a couple of the drops would have been TDs. And Awini is said to have a strong, accurate arm that could change the dynamic of the Air Force offense as the season progresses.
If the walk-up is as strong as last week, attendance should be okay for the Air Force game. But how long will “okay” suffice for the Boise State athletic department? About 7,000 tickets remain for the tilt, just slightly less than for the UT Martin game a week ago right now. But these are not the Skyhawks from the FCS, these are the Falcons from the Mountain Division of the Mountain West. It’s a key game for this early in the season. And it’s going to be a dandy September night, with the National Weather Service forecasting a Friday high of 85.
A 63-14 victory will do wonders to heal a team’s ailing averages. Boise State is now averaging 34½ points per game. Fancy that after the messy night at Montlake. The Bronco offense is averaging 409 yards now. And the Boise State defense is now allowing 26 points per game. Way above that to which it is accustomed, but it’s a lot better than 38. The yardage on defense is still a bit sobering—477 yards per game.
Around the Mountain West, the conference has handed down a rare suspension of an assistant coach. Hawaii special teams coordinator and safeties coach Chris Demarest will miss one game for his “inappropriate actions on the sideline” during the Rainbow Warriors’ 33-14 loss at Oregon State last Saturday. The Mountain West cited a sportsmanship rule that deals with obscene gestures and language directed at other people during games. And Nevada coach Brian Polian says quarterback Cody Fajardo is “day-to-day” after spraining an ankle last week in the Wolf Pack’s 33-7 win over UC Davis. It’s pretty darn important for Fajardo to be ready Saturday—the Pack visits Florida State.
Northern Illinois brings one of the nation’s premier quarterbacks into the Kibbie Dome to face Idaho Saturday. Jordan Lynch, who led the Huskies to the MAC championship and a berth in the Orange Bowl last season, threw for 3,138 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2012. That’s solid in itself. But Lynch also rushed for 1,815 yards and 19 touchdowns. The NIU athletic department is striking while the iron is hot with a Heisman Trophy campaign. Voters are receiving a collapsible foam lunchbox. You know, the blue collar thing. If the Vandal defense is going to shore things up, it had better start now. Idaho is 120th in the FBS, allowing 577 yards per game.
Graham DeLaet made a surprise visit to Bronco Stadium last Saturday and was introduced between quarters at the Tennessee-Martin game, accompanied by a short video tribute. Now his mini-vacation is over. Around here, DeLaet is known as the former Boise State star who lives in Meridian—and happens to be having a boffo season on the PGA Tour. In his native Canada, DeLaet is called “the heir apparent to Mike Weir as this country’s Great Golf Hope,” according to “Eh Sports” (love that name), a Canadian sports blog at Yahoo.com.
DeLaet is the first golfer from north of the border to make the Presidents Cup International team since Weir five years ago. What DeLaet needs now to be considered in Weir’s league, contends Eh Sports, is a PGA Tour victory or two. He’s playing the best golf of his life, posting a second place tie and a third place finish in the first two events of the FedExCup Playoffs. Maybe drawing on his hockey roots has helped—DeLaet has been growing a playoff beard. After a break last week, the playoffs resume tomorrow with the BMW Championship.
Let’s wrap up the Boise Hawks for 2013 with a thumbnail sketch. The season that ended Monday night was the Hawks’ first winning one in five years (a 40-36 regular season record). And for the second straight summer, they were on the doorstep of a Northwest League championship. Attendance was up at Memorial Stadium. And one individual player drew the most fan interest of any Hawk in years, as Kris Bryant became the highest big league draft pick (No. 2 overall) to ever suit up for Boise. Bryant played 18 games for the Hawks and batted .354, with four home runs, 16 runs batted in and a 15-game hitting streak. He kept it up when he was promoted to Daytona, helping the D-Cubs to the Florida State League championship with a .333 average and four more homers.
Dallas Stars training camp opens today in Fort Worth, and four players who skated with the Idaho Steelheads last season, Justin Dowling, Austin Smith, Hubert Labrie and Josh Robinson, are there. Three past Steelheads are also in the Stars camp: Dan Ellis, Luke Gazdic and Francis Wathier. As for the Steelies, they have signed rookie forward William Rapuzzi, who finished a four-year career at Colorado College last spring. Idaho has also invited forward Jesse Todd, a cousin of former Steelheads defenseman Scott Todd, to its training camp, which opens October 6.
This Day In Sports…September 11, 2001:
Nobody needs to tell you what happened this day. But it had an effect on sports for months to come. Immediately following the events of 9/11, every scheduled sporting event was either postponed or cancelled entirely. Boise State’s September 15 home football game against Central Michigan was moved to Thanksgiving weekend. The Ryder Cup was canceled altogether. The World Series was pushed into November for the first time, and the residual effects of NFL postponements resulted in the first February Super Bowl.
(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.)