Wednesday, September 4, 2013.
Boise State has disappeared from the Top 25 after its 32-point loss at Washington. Getting back in will be a chore that requires a lengthy winning streak. BSU received votes totaling five points in both polls. This is where 2005 comes into play again. The Broncos fell out of the rankings after their 35-point loss at Georgia and never got back in. The Scott Slant column following that game in Athens strikes a familiar tune today. “The national limelight is gone for awhile. Boise State will be judged on this game until it can prove it was an aberration. And that could take some doing.” Well, they were positioned to jump back in with a 9-3 record going into the Humanitarian Bowl against Boston College, but the 27-21 loss to the Eagles put the kibosh on that.
Washington has been rewarded for its performance last Saturday, debuting at No. 20 in the AP Poll and No. 23 on the Coaches list. Fresno State is knockin’ on the door—fourth in line to get into the Coaches Poll and seventh on the waiting list for the AP rankings. One additional Mountain West school is ahead of Boise State in the “others receiving votes” category in the Coaches Poll, as San Jose State is ninth in line.
Speaking of the national limelight, Boise State is still contractually obligated to a sliver of it. There are still three Bronco home games without kickoff times—and TV assignments. Those, of course, are controlled by ESPN. The theory is that ESPN was waiting until after the game at Washington to decide where to put the matchups against Southern Miss, Wyoming and New Mexico. You can bet the network will now exercise its right to put one of them on ESPN3. As for the other two, ESPNU will come into play. Weird start times are possible.
The one Boise State position group getting props after the loss at Husky Stadium is the offensive line. “I thought they came off the ball pretty well—they played physical, pass-protected pretty well,” said coach Chris Petersen. The offense couldn’t hit any big plays against Washington, but it wasn’t the line’s fault. Despite the wall-to-wall noise from 71,963 fans, the Bronco O-line did not commit a false start penalty, nor was it called for holding. The quintet kept the UW pass rush away from quarterback Joe Southwick, who was not sacked. And it opened up lanes for Jay Ajayi and Aaron Baltazar. The line did its job, and the rest of the offense couldn’t cash in.
The Boise State offense is veteran enough to do a lot better than it did at Washington. The defense, Petersen feels, is enduring some growing pains. “When you have new guys, and you haven’t really had a chance to show ‘em things, you’ve got to adjust on the fly—speed of the game, big environment,” said Petersen. “That can be tough.” The speed of the game was an obvious factor for the Broncos’ newbies. Because of the pace of the Huskies’ offense, the Boise State defense had to call time-out with 2½ minutes left in the third quarter. Three plays later, Keith Price hit Joshua Perkins with the 18-yard touchdown pass that put the Huskies up 24-6, and it was game-set-match.
As far as Boise State is concerned, the timing was perfect last weekend when no fewer than seven FCS schools upset FBS teams on the road. Because the Broncos have an FCS school paying a visit Saturday—Tennessee-Martin, the first one since UC Davis in 2009. Boise State has seen what Eastern Illinois did to San Diego State, a shocking 40-19 victory that included a mind-numbing 533 yards of total offense by the Panthers. That Bronco game versus Davis produced the most lethargic win of Boise State’s undefeated season, a 34-16 decision. Tennessee-Martin stayed within its division last week and beat Tennessee-Chattanooga, 31-21. The Skyhawks had two rushers, D.J. McNeil and Trent Garland, top the 100-yard mark. And what offense does UTM run? The no-huddle.
“This Day In Sports” below talks about Boise State’s opener at UCLA in 1999. The only Bronco touchdown pass thrown in that game came from…Bryan Harsin, who would become Boise State’s offensive coordinator under Petersen. Good time to check in on Harsin. He made his head coaching debut last Saturday for defending Sun Belt champion Arkansas State, which pounded Arkansas-Pine Bluff 62-11. Harsin’s offense racked up 672 total yards, including a whopping 509 on the ground. He got a Gatorade bath—and a surprise visit from his dad, Dale, who flew in from Boise. I remember the one time Boise State visited Jonesboro, a 42-14 victory in 2000, when a couple people in the traveling party hand-counted the crowd and came up with 800. The attendance for the Red Wolves’ opener last Saturday: 30,451.
More on the Carolina Panthers’ signing of Quintin Mikell. If the former Boise State star does appear in the season opener against Seattle Sunday, that will make him an 11-year NFL veteran. It was a whirlwind weekend—Mikell first received a call from the Panthers last Saturday, and by Monday he was suited up and going through drills. "I was kind of in shock because I didn't expect it,'' he told ESPN.com. "But I'm definitely excited.'' Q-Mike, a two-time conference player of the year for the Broncos, has played in 155 NFL regular-season games and has 91 starts. He has 742 career tackles, eight sacks and 12 interceptions.
After allowing 49 runs during a regular season-ending five-game losing streak, Boise Hawks pitchers yielded exactly zero last night, opening the Northwest League playoffs with a 3-0 victory over Salem-Keizer. Paul Blackburn was brilliant, going seven innings and giving up just two hits, none after the second inning. The 19-year-old righthander struck out a career-high eight batters. Then Zach Godley came on to record a six-out save. Godley allowed a leadoff single in the ninth inning, but sandwiched a couple strikeouts around a fly-ball out to give the Hawks a one game-to-none lead in the best-of-three series.
The Hawks did need some offense last night, of course. Yasiel Balaguert, who won the Northwest League RBI crown by one over teammate Jacob Rogers, knocked in a pair of runs in Game 1. Balaguert went 3-for-3 on the night, while NWL batting champion Kevin Encarnacion was 3-for-4. The South Division series now moves to Volcano Stadium in Keizer, OR, tonight, with Boise needing one win to advance to the NWL Championship Series.
Luke Babbitt won’t be assigned to the Idaho Stampede this season by the Portland Trail Blazers. That’s because he won’t be with the Blazers. The former Nevada star has signed a one-year contract with BC Nizhny Novgorod in Russia. Babbitt apparently just wants playing time—and wants to be paid well simultaneously. Chris Lucia of BlazersEdge.com points out that D-League players make between $12,000 and $24,000 a season, while in Europe, most players earn a starting salary between $65,000 and $100,000, often untaxed. Babbitt was sent to the Stampede in 2010-11 and 2011-12 by Portland and thrived in a couple short stints, but he saw very little floor time with the Blazers. Nolan Smith, who played two games for the Stampede on a Portland assignment last season, is also going overseas to Croatia.
This Day In Sports…September 4, 1999:
Boise State plays its first-ever game against UCLA, opening the season in the Rose Bowl. A pre-game ceremony honored the late Paul Reyna, a Bronco freshman who had died tragically two weeks earlier. BSU fell to the Bruins, 38-7—providing no clue as to the fate of each team’s season. UCLA would go 4-7, while the Broncos would win the Big West and Humanitarian Bowl titles with a 10-3 record, kicking off the Golden Era that continues today.
(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.)