BOISE, Idaho — Friday, August 30, 2019.
Boise State versus Florida State was never really a neutral site contest. Jacksonville, after all is just 163 miles from the FSU campus. But like Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, this season opener has morphed into a true Seminoles home game in Tallahassee thanks to Hurricane Dorian. It’s weird for the ‘Noles, too, but they’ll be on their home turf and sleeping in their own beds. The Broncos are making all sorts of changes to adjust to the move, like walk-through, meals, pregame routine, and kickoff at 10 a.m. Mountain time. Boise State, however, practiced in the early morning throughout fall camp and internal clocks should not be off that much. It’s just unsettling because there are so many unknowns with these Broncos—and their performance is so important in fan perception moving forward this season.
CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS
This is Boise State’s ninth “made-for-TV” season opener since 2005, with eight of them on ESPN—until Thursday’s announcement. With the game now slated for ESPNews, the Broncos can only hope fans nationally have access to it. At any rate, Boise State is 4-4 in these high-profile openers. The most recent was in 2015 when the Broncos edged Washington 16-13 in Coach Pete’s return to the blue turf. But they were routed in the two before that: a 35-13 loss to Ole Miss in 2014 and a 38-6 loss to the Huskies in 2013. The glory days were 2009-11, with consecutive wins over ranked teams (Oregon, Virginia Tech and Georgia).
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WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN FOR HANK
Today, of course, marks the debut of Boise State true freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier. The first thing he needs is protection from the offensive line. The O-line has been notorious for slow starts the past two seasons. In 2017, the Broncos allowed 13 sacks over the first four games. Last September, they gave up seven sacks against Oklahoma State alone—a situation that may prove to be similar to the one Saturday. That cannot happen.
And there’s the running game. There have been slow starts the past two seasons, and that includes Alexander Mattison. Let’s look at the first four games last year against teams not named UConn. Boise State averaged just 89 yards per game on the ground and just 2½ yards per carry. If Robert Mahone can take pressure off Bachmeier by producing a solid game on Saturday, he’ll be a hero. Brett Rypien threw 56 times at Oklahoma State last year. Don’t make Bachmeier do that.
YOU KNOW BACHMEIER’S FORMER TUTOR
Dave Southorn had a nugget not many of us had heard in a fall camp feature on Bachmeier at The Athletic. The last three years, Bachmeier has trained with, interestingly enough, former Arizona State QB and Eagle High grad Taylor Kelly at 3DQB in Huntington Beach, CA. “When I first met him, he was very up to date on the game of football,” Kelly said in Southorn’s piece. “If a workout was going bad, he would keep going until it got right. There would be times if it wasn’t quite clicking, it would be like, ‘We can do it tomorrow, Hank, it’s OK.’” That kind of goes along with what coach Bryan Harsin said throughout camp: that Bachmeier hardly ever makes the same mistake twice. We’re also hearing that Bachmeier, who hasn’t met with the media, has a quirkly, engaging, contagious personality. That’s a good thing.
FOOTBALL’S FULL MEAL DEAL IS HERE
Week 0 in college football just whets the appetite. Week 1 is the real thing, and it kicked off Thursday night. Utah thumped BYU 30-12, helped by two pick-sixes from Zach Wilson. The Mountain West got started with San Jose State’s 35-18 victory over Northern Colorado of the Big Sky. Of the remaining games involving the conference this weekend, Utah State at Wake Forest tonight and Fresno State at USC are the most intriguing. The Aggies have star quarterback Jordan Love with very little left around him from last year. The Bulldogs have a new QB, Jorge Reyna, but they have a lot returning around him. USU is a 3½-point underdog against the Demon Deacons, and Fresno State is a 13 ½-point ‘dog versus the Trojans. Both games are winnable, though.
THE PRICE YOU PAY FOR A PAYDAY
Idaho visits Penn State’s Beaver Stadium as a 39½-point underdog Saturday, trying to function in a facility that holds 106,572 fans. But the Vandals will walk away with a payout of $1.45 million, by far the biggest check an FCS school will get from an FBS opponent this year. In fact, it’s almost $900,000 more than the team in second, Montana, gets for playing at Oregon in two weeks. You gotta do what you gotta do. Closer to home, College of Idaho opens a season of high expectations at toasty Simplot Stadium Saturday against rival Eastern Oregon. The excitement over senior Coyotes quarterback Darius-James Peterson is palpable. As a freshman, Peterson was a serviceable passer and solid scrambler. Now DJP’s game is well-rounded—and potentially lethal to NAIA defenses.
PINS AND NEEDLES FOR THE ‘BUBBLE GUYS’
There were 21 former Boise State players in NFL locker rooms going into Thursday night’s final games of the preseason. That number could easily be sliced in half by Saturday afternoon, as Cutdown Day is upon us. At 2 p.m. Mountain time Saturday, each NFL roster officially goes from 90 players to 53. That’s a difference of 1,184 guys total. Among former Broncos trying to hang on Thursday, Brett Rypien was 8-of-11 for 86 yards with an interception for Denver. In the same game, a 20-7 Broncos’ win, Arizona’s Tanner Vallejo returned a blocked field goal 32 yards while making five tackles, two for loss. Cedrick Wilson made his case to stick with Dallas via five catches for 49 yards Thursday night.
Everett Sheen has only been coach of the Idaho Steelheads for about seven weeks. But Sheen, who had previously been a Steelheads assistant, has something going. On Thursday he signed defenseman Brady Norrish to a second season in Boise. That makes 12 players, including six defenseman, who are returning to the Steelies off last season’s club. Noorish played 50 games for Idaho in 2018-19, scoring 10 goals with 24 assists. And the Boise Hawks’ grueling Western Idaho Fair road trip has one game to go. The record is now 2-13 after a 4-1 loss at Hillsboro Thursday night. The Hawks return home for Saturday night’s game with a pleasant surprise: no competition from Boise State football on TV.
This Day In Sports…August 30, 1997:
Houston Nutt makes his debut as head coach at Boise State, watching his team fall to Cal State-Northridge 63-23 before a record crowd of almost 27,000 in newly-expanded Bronco Stadium. BSU would rebound to come within 49 seconds of upsetting Wisconsin a week later. The Broncos went 4-7 under Nutt, who left after the season for his dream job at Arkansas (although his record was amended to 5-6 after Northridge forfeited for using an ineligible player). Exactly 11 years later, there was another Bronco Stadium grand opening, as the $36 million Steuckle Sky Center debuted during a 49-7 win over Idaho State in Kellen Moore’s debut.
(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.)