BOISE, Idaho — Wednesday, November 13, 2019.
I started putting this together for Sunday Sports Extra expecting to find something not so pretty, comparing rushing from Boise State’s wide receivers to that of the running backs since the beginning of October. Over the last five games, the wideouts have been strong, averaging 10.6 yards per carry and scoring four touchdowns. But the running backs have been serviceable, even including last Saturday night's struggles and offensive line problems, averaging 4.9 yards per carry with eight TDs. The wide receivers didn’t skew the numbers as much as I thought they would. The Broncos’ traditional running game can still be viable.
George Holani is good. He’s a true freshman, and an off-night in a physical game like the one against Wyoming is going to happen. Holani rushed for just 30 yards on 11 carries and lost one of his two fumbles after a missed block up front (and it was costly). Andrew Van Buren can be good if he can string together two solid games in a row. And even though it seems like Robert Mahone peaked in the opener with his 142 rushing yards at Florida State, the potential remains. He can contribute once he’s healthy again. The Broncos are not going to let one bummer game stop them from being true to their fabric. There’s still time for the O-line to live up to its potential.
SEPARATION IN THE CFP
Boise State’s road is a little steeper now in the New Year’s Six race. The Broncos moved up one spot in the new College Football Playoff rankings to No. 21 Tuesday night, but Texas and Iowa, at Nos. 19 and 20, are wedged between the Broncos and Cincinnati and Memphis, who are at Nos. 17 and 18. Those teams could meet in the American Athletic Conference championship game, but they play each other in the regular season finale first. To have a chance, Boise State has to win its remaining three games, plus the Mountain West championship game (of course), and hope a two-loss team gets into the AAC title game and wins it. Navy out of the AAC is No. 23, but SMU dropped off the list, replaced by No. 25 Appalachian State.
PRACTICING THROUGH THE PAIN
New Mexico has been preparing for Boise State this week with heavy hearts following last week’s death of defensive lineman Nahje Flowers. Coach Bob Davie said Tuesday there was “no chance” his team could have played a game in the aftermath, and the Lobos’ game against Air Force last Saturday was postponed as a result, with UNM players finally returning to practice on Sunday night. “Football is so much a part of our lives you get to a point where you need it,” said D-lineman and captain Trent Sellers. “When something like that happens, to take time away and reflect is good but to get back into the routine a little bit makes you feel a little normal in a situation that no one could imagine. There’s no right way or wrong way. It gives you some type of normal feeling when you come out here and practice.”
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RYPIEN WAITS, FINLEY STARTS
Former Boise State star Brett Rypien was in town for the Wyoming game last weekend, serving as an honorary captain with Rees Odhiambo. Rypien is now back in Denver following the bye week, preparing to back up Brandon Allen again this Sunday at Minnesota. Rypien didn’t play in Denver’s win over Cleveland 10 days ago. Drew Lock, the Broncos’ second round draft pick who injured his thumb in the preseason, finally returned to practice on Tuesday. Rypien’s one-time teammate in the Boise State quarterback room, Ryan Finley, is headed for his second start with Cincinnati this Sunday at Oakland. Finley threw for 167 yards and a touchdown last Sunday against Baltimore, but he also tossed a pick-six and suffered a strip-sack that went for a TD. Nevertheless, Bengals teammates said they were “encouraged.”
WHAT TWO IDAHO WINS WOULD MEAN
A winning season is out the window now for Idaho, who is 4-6 with two games remaining. To get to .500, the Vandals will have to sweep Sacramento State this Saturday in the Kibbie Dome and Northern Arizona in Flagstaff next week. The odds are long. Sac State is in the midst of a winning season itself, currently 7-3 and one game behind Weber State in the Big Sky race with a 5-1 record. The Hornets are second in the conference in total offense and third in total defense. If the Vandals were able to get to 6-6, it would be only the fourth time in the past 20 years they’ve won that many games. And Idaho would avoid an 18th losing season this century.
LIVIN’ OUT OF A SUITCASE
We’ll see the Idaho Steelheads again a week from tonight in Century Link Arena. Until then, the Steelheads have to wind up a wild stretch of travel that sees them playing 13 of their first 16 games this season on the road. This weekend will be grueling—the Steelies travel to Wichita, KS, Tulsa, OK, and Allen, TX, in consecutive nights. After being swept last week at Rapid City, Idaho has fallen to 7-7-3 and has slipped to third in the ECHL Mountain Division (not that it’s significant at this point).
NO BREAK FOR THE BRONCO MEN
The Boise State team that scored 126 points and allowed 49 in its season opener versus Life Pacific now has to recover from a 106-75 knock up ‘side the head at Oregon last Saturday. How the Broncos do against UC Irvine Friday night in ExtraMile Arena will tell us a lot. How do they deal with allowing the most points in 45 years? Boise State will have to shore things up quickly to stay with the Anteaters, who went 31-6 last season and beat Kansas State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. UCI opened with a road win at San Diego before falling at Pepperdine last Saturday. And who did Irvine play last night? Life Pacific. Anteaters 98, Warriors 52.
CANYON COUNTY CRUISE
Northwest Nazarene clamped down on College of Idaho last night to win the first leg of the United Heritage Mayors Cup Series 66-57. The Nighthawks held the Coyotes to 32 percent shooting from the field and 19 percent from three-point land. Jaylon Fox led NNU with 15 points, and Sam Roth added 14. Talon Pinckney was the only Yote in double-figures with 13. The rematch is next Tuesday in Caldwell. Attention on the C of I campus now morphs to the football field, where the Coyotes take on Montana State-Northern on Saturday. There’ll be a huge Senior Day ceremony before the game, as 24 senior Yotes are honored. One is all-everything quarterback Darius-James Peterson, the face of this incredible Coyotes run.
This Day In Sports…November 13, 1993:
No. 1 against No. 2—Florida State and Notre Dame in South Bend. The Fighting Irish won 31-24 after fighting off a Seminole desperation drive led by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward, who the year before had played for the FSU basketball team in the NCAA Tournament at the BSU Pavilion. But the Irish would lose the following week to Boston College, opening the door for Florida State’s run to the national championship. We’re about 10 months away from FSU’s long-awaited visit to the blue turf. (Who’s going to be the coach?)
(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.)