Thursday, September 26, 2013.
It was in August of 2011 that Boise State scheduled Southern Miss for a home-and-series in 2012 and 2013. It sounded pretty good at the time. The Golden Eagles were on their way to an 18th straight winning season, a streak that had started in 1994. It was going to be a match-up of mid-major powers from the Mountain West and Conference USA. So any barbs thrown the Broncos’ way for playing Southern Miss now are not germane to the strength-of-schedule argument. Tennessee-Martin? That’s another conversation. But when you throw in USM as it was known in 2011 with Washington and BYU on this season’s non-conference slate, it looks just fine.
No one could have predicted the disastrous season that befell the Golden Eagles last year. New Southern Miss coach Todd Monken spent a lot of his team’s bye week not cramming for Boise State, but working on togetherness and chemistry. This proud program is coming out of its mental funk and is going to put it together against somebody pretty soon to break this 15-game losing streak. The Broncos are trying to make sure it isn’t against them.
The Boise State defense just wants to get stops Saturday night. The Broncos are still 118th in the country against third down conversions, allowing 54 percent. They can’t afford quarterback Allan Bridgeford the luxury of third-and-short, because he’ll be throwing a lot. At least he’s not Derek Carr. The Fresno State star’s 460-yard game last Friday night was only the fourth time in Chris Petersen's 96 games that an opponent has passed for more than 400 yards on Boise State, and the first since TCU did it with Casey Pachall in 2011. In fact, even 300-yard games are rare against the Boise State defense. The Broncos had a stretch of 49 games from the end of 2007 until the TCU barrage when they allowed only one 300-yard game.
As quickly as Shane Williams-Rhodes broke out, he has slipped back into the fringes of the Boise State offense. That could change in a flash, of course. Fresno State’s defense consciously filled the space the Broncos were trying to create for Williams-Rhodes last Friday. SWR has nine catches for only 39 yards the past two games, an average of just 4.3 yards per reception. What’s more, he was replaced by Dallas Buroughs as Boise State’s primary kickoff return man, and the Rocky Mountain High graduate produced with five returns for 155 yards.
Former Boise State standout Joe O’Brien, whose life has come full-circle from his imprisonment for conspiracy to distribute meth, will appear live today on “Outside The Lines” on ESPN2 at 2:30 during a re-airing of the program’s “Road To Ruin” feature on him. An extensive feature article on O’Brien is also scheduled to be posted today at ESPN.com. O’Brien is now the head coach at Simms High School, a small school about 25 miles west of Great Falls, MT. His hiring in February was controversial, but Simms is now 4-1 in O’Brien’s first season.
Nevada appears to be getting Air Force at a good time Saturday. The Falcons are in disarray. Quarterback Jaleel Awini has been suspended by the Falcons, with a statement from the Academy saying he "is no longer a cadet in good standing and is not allowed to represent the Academy in any outside activities, effective immediately." Awini had become Air Force’s big hope for the future—he rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns while operating the Falcons’ option on the blue turf two weeks ago.
After playing two teams below its level and one way above, Idaho State opens Big Sky play Saturday at UC Davis. Believe it or not, this is only the second meeting between the two schools—the first was last year, a heartbreaking 52-45 loss for the victory-starved Bengals. As it is, ISU has lost 27 straight conference games and 40 consecutive road games. If the Bengals are to end the pain, they’ll need to get continued production from their front seven. Through the first three games of the season the Idaho State defense has 10 sacks, topping the total of nine the team had all of last year.
Former Boise State standout Orlando Scandrick has hit his stride in this, his sixth NFL season. Scandrick was a key part of a stellar Dallas effort last Sunday in a 31-7 win over St. Louis. "Orlando's a good football player,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “He's one of those guys that sometimes you pigeon hole guys and say, 'Hey, he's an inside guy. He's a nickel.' He's got a little something to him. He always has. A little bit of a chip on his shoulder, kind of like a boulder or a mountain. We think that's good. He brings that with every opportunity we give him.” Scandrick will be as close as he can get to his Los Alamitos hometown Sunday as the Cowboys visit the San Diego Chargers.
It all comes down to this week—and hopefully weekend—for Troy Merritt. The former Boise State star goes into the Web.com Tour Championship today in Ponte Vedra, FL, with a chance to get back to the PGA Tour. On the Web.com postseason money list, Merritt is ranked 19th among those not already guaranteed PGA Tour cards; he needs to stay in the top 25 when the final round of the season concludes Sunday. Merritt was solid in the first two events of the Web.com Finals this month before missing the cut in the third. He spent the 2010 season on the PGA Tour after winning the six-stage Q-School at the end of 2009. Now, it’s the Finals that get you to the Show.
Here’s a guy who can help the Idaho Steelheads. He did last year. The Steelheads have agreed to terms with forward Tyler Gron, who joined the club midway through last season and scored 21 goals in 34 games. Gron tallied twice in his Steelies debut against the Alaska Aces January 18. He was also a force in the Kelly Cup Playoffs for Idaho as he scored eight more goals, two of them game-winners in overtime. The Steelheads’ training camp opens a week from Sunday.
Back to football: College of Idaho coach Mike Moroski’s Monday segment on KTIK’s Idaho SportsTalk has become one of the highlights of the week as he analyzes the latest Boise State game from an inside perspective. Moroski’s day job has ramped up, though, as football practice has begun at the C of I after a 36-year absence. The Coyotes have 63 players out for this fall’s ground floor sessions and will hold an open practice Saturday morning at 9:30 at Symms Field, the college’s on-campus soccer field in Caldwell. The Yotes tee it up again for real next year.
This Day In Sports…September 26, 1998, 15 years ago today:
One of the more storied drives in Boise State football leads to a 31-28 upset of Utah in Salt Lake City. With 2:08 left, quarterback Nate Sparks replaced Bart Hendricks, who had a pretty good night. The Broncos had the ball on their own one-yard-line, trailing 28-24. Sparks marched BSU 99 yards, capping the drive on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Smith with 45 seconds left.
(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.)