BOISE, Idaho — Friday, September 13, 2019.
It’s been hard to miss Boise State’s John Bates over the first two games. The junior tight end has eight catches for 114 yards after only 10 receptions all of last year. What you notice about Bates is that he goes up and gets it—and that’s important for a guy who’s 6-6, 255 pounds. There was a glimpse of that at the end of the 2017 season when Jake Roh was injured, but Bates didn’t see the ball much last year. Now the Broncos are seeing everything they had hoped for when Bates arrived from Lebanon, OR. Add in two long grabs by Mountain View High grad Garrett Collingham, and Boise State’s tight ends are on pace for 60 catches this year. They combined for 33 in 2018. The year before, Roh had 39 grabs for 410 yards and nine touchdowns by himself.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOT SPECIAL ENOUGH
Boise State special teams coaching responsibilities have gone to a committee this season, and the results are mixed. At least that was coach Bryan Harsin’s approach after the Marshall game, when he said, “I thought special teams were inconsistent for our standards—that needs to improve. Eric Sachse’s five field goals at Florida State may have masked some other concerns. But last week, Sachse missed his only attempt, a 49-yarder, and Joel Velazquez averaged just 36.3 yards on three punts. It was concerning enough that Harsin went for a first down on a fourth-and-27 from the Thundering Herd 35. The Broncos didn’t get it. On the other hand, kickoff coverage was good—plus John Hightower managed kickoff returns of 38 and 28 yards. Harsin would like to see the full meal deal on special teams Saturday versus Portland State.
BUCKLING DOWN ON PASS ‘D’
Passing stats are not very attractive for the Boise State defense right now. The Broncos are 95th in the country in pass efficiency defense with a rating of 140.5. But look for a silver lining, and you’ll definitely find one. Just compare Game 1 and Game 2. Boise State allowed 327 yards through the air to Florida State, and just 56 to Marshall. Yards per attempt dropped from 9.6 to 3.1 over the two games, and yards per completion went from 14.2 to 5.6. The Broncos were out of sorts in the first half in Tallahassee, trying to figure out how to survive after DeAndre Pierce’s injury and how to deal with the Seminoles’ speed. They’ve been solid against the pass since then. It’s trending in the right direction.
POKEY ALLEN, ROUND 2
A week ago, we were reminiscing about Boise State’s win over Marshall in the 1994 Division I-AA Playoffs and Pokey Allen’s subsequent horse ride down Broadway. None of that may have happened were it not for Portland State’s visit to the blue turf in 1992. Allen had built a Division II powerhouse in Portland, and the Broncos were ambushed. Utilizing an amazingly smooth play-action game, the Vikings routed Boise State 51-26. After that game, fans clamored for Pokey’s offense. And in December of that year, Allen was introduced as the Broncos’ new coach, and he brought his Portland State staff with him. It actually took a while for it all to take root. Boise State went 3-8 in 1993, so Pokey loaded up on junior college transfers, and the magical 13-2 season in 1994 followed.
PUMPING THE BRAKES ON THE POWER 5
This will probably be the week the Mountain West finally falls below .500 on the season against Power 5 opponents. The conference has five more games versus the Power 5 Saturday, and all of them are on the road. The team with the best shot at an upset, at least according to the oddsmakers, is Air Force in its in-state test at Colorado. The Buffaloes are favored by 3½ points—if the Falcons can pull this off, they’ll really have their chests puffed out when they run onto the blue turf a week from tonight. The degree of difficulty for the rest of the MW, in appreciating order: Colorado State at Arkansas, UNLV at Northwestern, Hawaii at Washington and New Mexico at Notre Dame (ouch).
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COYOTES CRUISIN’ WITH CALZARETTA
College of Idaho will keep running the ball until somebody stops it. Hard to say when that might be. The next team to try will be Southern Oregon Saturday afternoon in Simplot Stadium. C of I currently leads the NAIA in rushing, averaging 362 yards per game. And feature running back Nick Calzaretta just earned a second straight Frontier Conference Offensive Player of the Week honor after his 247-yard day in last week’s win at Montana Tech. Calzaretta also leads the NAIA with 185.5 rushing yards per game. The junior from Larkspur, CA, is peeling off 8.8 yards per carry has yet to be stopped for a loss this season. Elsewhere, Idaho is eyeing a struggling Wyoming secondary with visions of James Cotton reprising his 16-catch performance of last week. The Cowboys are 2-0 and confident, though.
IT WOULD BE COOL IF THE HALL CALLED
Jordan Gross, the one-time Fruitland High Grizzly, was named Thursday as one of the “modern-era nominees” for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next summer. There’s a lot of competition, with 122 players on the list. But Gross is a solid candidate. He went on from the Treasure Valley to star at Utah, and then was the eighth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. Gross spent all of his NFL career with the Carolina Panthers, starting in all 167 games he played. Gross’ skills were not diminishing when he retired after the 2013 season—the last football game he played in was the Pro Bowl.
THE AZTECS BY A NOSE
I don’t know how badly Boise State feels about losing Che Evans to San Diego State, but coach Leon Rice should feel good about coming so close to landing a top 75 recruit. The Broncos have raised the bar. Evans chose the Aztecs over Boise State on Thursday, but he also had offers from Arkansas, Georgetown, Texas Tech, Villanova, Boston College, Ohio State and Florida, among others. SDSU appears to have assured Evans of immediate minutes as a true freshman, and you can bet there were photos and video of Kawhi Leonard all over the place in the Aztecs’ hoops complex. But there’s no denying that San Diego State assistant coach Chris Acker was a major factor. Acker started recruiting Evans while he was on Rice’s staff—he left for SDSU in June.
Raimee Sherle gets another shot at her 50th career goal as Boise State women’s soccer hosts Weber State this evening and Portland State Sunday afternoon. The Broncos suffered their first loss of the season last Sunday in a rain-soaked 1-0 double-overtime battle with Utah at the Boas Complex. And the Idaho Steelheads will tune up for the season the way they usually do, with a home-and-home exhibition series against Utah. The Steelies and Grizzlies will meet in the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Friday, October 4, and will head for Boise the following day to play in CenturyLink Arena.
This Day In Sports…September 13, 2013:
Boise State breaks a 30-year-old FBS record for pass percentage in a game, going 29-of-31 in a 42-20 win over Air Force at Albertsons Stadium. The 93.5 percent clip eclipsed the old mark set by UCLA against Washington in 1983. Quarterback Joe Southwick was 27-of-29 for 93.1 percent, breaking the Boise State school record. Backup Grant Hedrick was 2-of-2. As a sidebar, sophomore tailback Jay Ajayi notched the first four-touchdown game of his career in the Mountain West victory.
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(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.)