BOISE, Idaho — Friday, November 8, 2019.  

What is happening in the stands at Albertsons Stadium this season?  Boise State is averaging 34,105 fans per game in a year when the home schedule was missing marquee opponents.  The Broncos will be home for the first time in four weeks when they host Wyoming Saturday night.  It won’t be at capacity, even though it’ll be clear and about 50 degrees at kickoff—you can’t ask much more out of the second weekend of November.  The last time out, Boise State drew 36,902 for Hawaii with an 8:15 p.m. kickoff in October.  How did that happen?  Well, the Broncos combined homecoming and parents’ weekend for the first time, and people liked it.  It seems there were lots of first-time fans in the stands, too.  Maybe the hoards of newcomers in the valley are finally sampling the product.

This bucks the trend, as schools across the country struggle with attendance (especially in the Mountain West).  The first-timers took awhile to get into the swing of things at the Hawaii game.  It wasn’t quite as loud as it was for Air Force, but the noise grew as newcomers came to understand the drill on defensive downs.  It was interesting.  And we have to mention this: it doesn’t feel like Boise State is in a bandwagon situation.  UCF might be, however.  If you watched any of the Golden Knights’ home win over Houston last Saturday, well, attendance was announced as 41,361.  What?  You saw a massive swath of empty seats all the way around the stadium.  It was shocking.

HATADA OR NO HATADA? 

Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said Monday that the injured players who missed last week’s game are expected back for Wyoming.  But Harsin didn’t mention the guy who was hurt during the San Jose State game.  Defensive end Chase Hatada had his bell rung midway through the first quarter against the Spartans and didn’t return.  Stopping the Cowboys’ formidable run—and getting a pass rush on quarterback Tyler Vander Waal—will be affected Saturday night if Hatada is out.  He had one of the Broncos’ five sacks of Vander Waal in Laramie last year.  Matt Locher and Jabari Watson share the No. 2 spot behind Hatada (according to the depth chart, anyway).  Maybe the Broncos will move around some of their defensive line chess pieces. 

A WEEK OF DEFENSIVE MORPHING

We’ve talked about how Boise State will probably flip the script to a more pass-heavy offense Saturday night.  There’ll be script-flipping on defense, too.  San Jose State has the worst running attack in the Mountain West, averaging only 82 yards per game, and the Broncos held the Spartans to 59 on the ground last week.  Wyoming is second in the conference behind Air Force, rushing for 241 yards per game.  Stop the run, eh?  Boise State yielded 438 yards through the air to Josh Love and the Spartans last week, but the Cowboys are 11th in the league in passing at just 125 yards per game.  With Vander Waal stepping in tonight, the Pokes should do better than that on the blue turf, though. 

VANDALS NEED TO RUN – OR BE RUN 

Idaho quarterback Mason Petrino will probably be under duress Saturday when the Vandals take on Montana in Missoula for the Little Brown Stein.  And as far as anyone can tell, Petrino won’t have the injured Colton Richardson to back him up.  So if Petrino’s going to be able to operate in one of the toughest stadiums in the FCS to operate, well, the running game will have to operate.  The good news is, it did last week in the win over Cal Poly.  After missing two games, Aundre Carter returned to the lineup and promptly burst for a career-high 179 rushing yards.  Carter leads the Vandals in rushing this season with 557 yards and seven touchdowns. 

THE ‘D’ AS WELL AS THE ‘O’ AT C OF I 

At College of Idaho, the conversation always starts with the Coyotes’ offensive stars, Darius-James Peterson, Nick Calzaretta and company.  But the Yotes defense—Forrest Rivers, Taeson Hardin and company—will be in the spotlight tomorrow against Montana Western at Simplot Stadium.  C of I allows just 287 yards per game and will be up against the best passing attack in the Frontier Conference, averaging 267 yards per game.  Bulldogs quarterback Jon Jund has thrown 25 touchdown passes this season against just three interceptions.  Jund has also rushed for six scores.  The undefeated Yotes are going for a school-record 15th consecutive victory.

EARLY MOMENT OF TRUTH 

Was it real, or was it a mirage?  Probably somewhere in the middle.  But the closer Boise State can get to the 126-point performance it produced against Life Pacific Tuesday night, the better the chance it’ll have of hangin’ with Oregon.  The Broncos now have to get it done against an opponent with size and speed Saturday night in Eugene.  There were seven Boise State players in double-figures versus Life Pacific: Derrick Alston, Justinian Jessup, RJ Williams, Alex Hobbs, RayJ Dennis, Max Rice and Marcus Dickinson.  Each of those guys is capable of reprising a night like that, but not all at the same time.  Who will stay hot—and who will not—against the Ducks? 

CAMPUS THINGS 

It sure looks like Boise State women’s soccer is intent on winning the Mountain West championship, doesn’t it?  The Broncos hung a stunning 6-0 shutout on New Mexico Thursday in the semifinals of the conference tournament at the Boas Complex.  Raimee Sherle (who else?) led the way with a hat trick.  Gabby Gillespie added two goals for Boise State, who now faces San Diego State Saturday for the title—and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.  Indoors, the Bronco women’s basketball team, like the men, take a significant step up in competition tonight when it hosts defending Big Sky Tournament champion Portland State in the first round of the preseason WNIT in ExtraMile Arena.  Should the Broncos win, they’ll host the winner of the first-round Missouri State-Texas A&M Corpus Christi matchup on Sunday. 

STEELIES SEEK TO REEL IN THE RUSH 

The 2019-20 Idaho Steelheads have a very new experience to deal with: coming back from a blowout loss.  The Steelheads have played in one-goal games during seven of their first 11 contests this season, the most of any team in the ECHL.  Wednesday night was not one of them.  For all his accolades, goalie Tomas Sholl was lifted following two periods at Rapid City after allowing all five Rush goals in the 5-1 defeat.  The game was strange from there.  Rapid City put up just two shots on goal in the third period, and backup netminder Colton Point stopped them both. 

This Day In Sports…November 8, 1970:

One of the all-time NFL highlight clips.  The disbelieving Detroit Lions watch New Orleans kicker Tom Dempsey, born without toes on the foot he uses for kicking, come in to attempt a 63-yard field goal.  The boot sailed through the uprights as time expired, giving the Saints a 19-17 win.  It was an NFL record—tied by Denver’s Jason Elam in 1998 and broken by the Broncos’ Matt Prater with a 64-yarder in 2013.  Four other NFL kickers have connected from 63 yards, including Brett Maher of the Dallas Cowboys this season. 

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK.  He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)