Tuesday, September 9, 2014.
Everything evolves in football, so whatever Boise State's offense becomes this year, it isn't going to mirror the one Bryan Harsin last put on the field for the Broncos in 2010 (did you notice Kellen Moore is no longer around?). But maybe what we saw Saturday versus Colorado State is similar to what the offense would have become had Harsin never left for Texas. He has tailored schemes to mobile quarterback Grant Hedrick, and he fine-tuned some things for Game 2 after a sub-par Game 1. Hedrick has the green light to scramble and set up Boise State's second touchdown against CSU himself with two long runs. The senior had a net 80 yards on the ground (gaining 97 and losing 17 on sacks) and scored a TD on a sneak.
The Boise State offense grew in the second game. There were quarterback draws, the Wildcat, reverses, inside double-reverses, and a fake on the latter that sprung Jay Ajayi for a TD. There were six offensive linemen at times, with Eli McCullough coming in as an extra tackle before taking over the rest of the game for the injured Rees Odhiambo. And there was this major difference: tempo. The Broncos were mainly no-huddle versus CSU—just because. "We'll be different every week," said Harsin. "Do we want to move (with tempo)? It depends on what we think we can do."
Off the top at his Monday press conference, Harsin lavished praise on Boise State's rush defense, which has allowed only 99 yards combined so far. Then he added, "Now we have to improve in the pass game." That has been made more difficult with Saturday's third-quarter knee injury suffered by cornerback Cleshawn Page. That left backups at both corner spots when CSU quarterback Garrett Grayson went off. "Cleshawn will miss this game (at Connecticut Saturday)," said Harsin. "I don't know his status after that." But Donte Deayon could be back for UConn. Deayon, despite being declared out by Harsin, had designs on getting in the CSU game and snuck into the locker room. "He went straight Superman on us—from street clothes to straight pads in about five seconds." Harsin wasn't amused at the time, but he is now.
Jonathan Moxey, who filled in for Deayon when he was injured in the loss to Ole Miss and started against Colorado State, is listed as the starter this week opposite Deayon. Senior Bryan Douglas is the first backup at both spots (Mercy Maston is out for five weeks with a stress fracture in his shin). Redshirt freshman Cameron Hartsfield played a lot of corner against the Rams once Page left the game, but he's actually Corey Bell's backup at nickel. Harsin said yesterday the Broncos are toying with playing Chaz Anderson at corner, the spot he occupied before being moved to wide receiver this summer. "That's a thought that we've had—we'll utilize that in practice," said Harsin. "It'll be like high school for Chaz." Anderson was a two-way standout at Loyola High in Los Angeles.
Seems like an easy choice—Ajayi has been named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 219 yards and adding 61 receiving yards in the Broncos' 37-24 win over Colorado State. It's the first time Ajayi has ever won the award. Through the first two weeks of the season Ajayi ranks third in the nation in all-purpose yardage (229.5 yards per game) and sixth in rushing yards (305 total). One facet of the junior's game has surprised coach Bryan Harsin. "The one thing I didn't know about Jay is how good he's been in the passing game," Harsin said.
It was assumed UConn sophomore quarterback Casey Cochran was out for the Boise State game this Saturday. Now, due to multiple concussions, Cochran has elected to end his football career with the Huskies. It was Cochran who saved Connecticut's season last year, becoming the starter after the Huskies had lost their first eight games and going 3-1 over the final four weeks. Cochran was injured in a loss to BYU in the season opener after going 17 of 31 for 171 yards and an interception. Senior Chandler Whitmer is now the starter.
The good ol' blue-on-blue looked good Saturday night. There's nothing like being able to read the numerals from the stands. Did you catch Nevada's 24-13 win over Washington State on ESPN Friday night? The Wolf Pack elected to wear all-white at home, which was fine. The Cougars went with dark gray jerseys and crimson numerals, which was not. And you thought the Broncos' gray uniforms were tough on the eyes? Boo, Wazzu. Nevada's victory was the best of the week in Mountain West non-conference play, because—again—it was the only one over an FBS school.
Tom Mason has been down this road before—taking over a team when its coach is suddenly absent. Mason, SMU's defensive coordinator, has been named head coach of the Mustangs for the rest of this season following yesterday's resignation of June Jones. Mason was Boise State's interim coach in 1996 while Pokey Allen was away getting treatment for the cancer that ultimately took his life. Jones bolted Hawaii for SMU after taking the Warriors to the Sugar Bowl following the 2007 season. He won two Conference USA titles and led SMU to four straight bowl appearances but started this season with losses of 45-0 at Baylor and 43-6 at North Texas. Mason's first assignment next week after a bye: seventh-ranked Texas A&M.
After one victory, it's too early to compare the new College of Idaho football team with the 1953 squad considered to be the best in school history. I say that with tongue firmly in cheek. But history is a good subject this week as the Coyotes prepare for their first home game since 1977. So let's remember 1953, when the C of I compiled an 8-0 regular season and won the Northwest Conference championship, defeating both Idaho State and Montana State along the way. Led by quarterback Boyd Crawford, halfbacks Ted Martin and Ed Bonaminio, ends R.C. Owens and Jack Kennevick, and lineman Joe Kahahawai, the Yotes averaged over 40 points per game and were invited to the Refrigerator Bowl in Evansville, IN, where they lost 14-12 to Sam Houston State. The C of I hosts Montana Western Saturday afternoon at Simplot Stadium.
In the sportswriting category, Boise's Andy Benoit is the epitome of the American dream. He started writing NFL stories as a hobby when he was a fourth-grader, and it turned into an annual magazine. When he was a sophomore at Boise High, he negotiated a deal with a Pennsylvania printing company to publish his "Touchdown 2003" NFL preview (I still have a copy of "Touchdown 2006" at my desk). Benoit later moved on to Ballantyne Books as he was going through the College of Idaho—then he became an NFL contributor for CBSSports.com, and his work appeared in the New York Times and USA Today. That led Benoit to Sports Illustrated's lead NFL writer, Peter King, who picked him up when the MMQB.com website was established.
Now the pinnacle. I grabbed the new Sports Illustrated over the weekend, and there was Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck on the cover. The accompanying cover story, making a case for Luck as the "Best QB In The NFL," is written by Andy Benoit. His detailed, well-crafted piece covers pages 28-33 and is worthy of every drop of ink. His family—and anyone who has run into Andy during his formative years—is extremely proud of him. He did it himself. Did I mention? In May, Andy turned 28 years old.
This Day In Sports…September 9, 1995:
Boise State coach Pokey Allen makes good on his vow to return to the Broncos in time for the season opener at Utah State. Allen had been away from the team for eight months while battling a rare form of cancer that would eventually take his life a little over one year later. BSU won the opener against the Aggies and new head coach John L. Smith, 38-14.
(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.)