As good as the Boise State defense is, San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny will get his yards tomorrow night. And when he isn’t, quarterback Christian Chapman will sneak in a big pass play here and there. Chapman has gone 111 throws since his last interception (a Hail Mary on the final play of the first half in the season opener versus UC Davis). One could see the Aztecs scoring 30 points at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. So how will the Broncos score more than that? As much as they controlled the game last Friday with a redesigned offense in the victory at BYU, they did not hit 30. And in three of its last four games, San Diego State has held its opponents to 283 yards of offense or less. We thought Brett Rypien would have to throw-throw-throw to win last week, and he didn’t. Tomorrow night, he probably will.
For Boise State, it’s all about building on the BYU game. Rypien needs to take that next step after hitting the refresh button in Provo—and look like the guy who was tearing it up a year ago. Alexander Mattison has to prove he’s not a one-hit wonder. It sure would help if Sean Modster became a legitmate No. 2 vertical threat next to Cedrick Wilson after scoring his first career touchdown at BYU. That 24-yard strike was Modster’s only catch of the game. And Wilson just needs to get the ball again versus the Aztecs. He had just three catches for 43 yards against the Cougars. The big picture: the Broncos have to play like the underdogs they are.
When you talk about San Diego State’s special teams, you harken back to Penny’s roots. The two-time Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year has not abandoned them. Penny is averaging 34 yards per kickoff return this season and had a 99-yard touchdown at Arizona State. But the Aztecs special teams guy Boise State is most familiar with is punter Brandon Heicklen, who called BSU his “dream school.” Heicken was set to join the Broncos as a preferred walk-on last winter—until his mom underwent a kidney transplant, with the kidney donated by his dad. They needed him close to home, so he withdrew from Boise State and arranged a transfer to San Diego State, and neither the Broncos nor the conference tried to block it. Heicklen is averaging 38.8 yards per punt this season
San Diego State’s website says it expects “one of the larger crowds of the year” against Boise State tomorrow night. So what does that mean? The Aztecs are leading the Mountain West in attendance at 41,630 per game. Is it the opponents? San Diego State drew 43,040 for Stanford and beat the Cardinal 20-17. So, consequently, is it performance? The Aztecs had 46,132 for UC Davis in the opener—most of those came because of the annual mega-fireworks show. The crowd dropped to 35,717 for Northern Illinois two weeks ago. Is it because the Chargers are gone? San Diego State is up overall from an average of 37,289 last season. But that’s not enough for some. “We are in a seminal moment for this program,” writes the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee. “Show the heck up—or shut the heck up.”
The Mountain Division picture in the Mountain West will clear up considerably this weekend. Should Boise State’s upset bid at San Diego State fall short, Colorado State should be in the driver’s seat. After all, the Rams are favored by 24½ points at home against Nevada. At 1-0, Wyoming is trying to hang in the divisional race as it goes to Utah State, but it took overtime for the Cowboys to beat Hawaii in Laramie. USU is tied for third nationally with 16 takeaways (nine fumble recoveries and seven interceptions), and that’s the Waterloo for Pokes quarterback Josh Allen. Who’d a thunk before the season that the Aggies would be a three-point favorite?
It’s a pivotal week for Idaho, as it hosts Sun Belt co-leader Appalachian State tomorrow in the Kibbie Dome. The Vandals need an A-game from quarterback Matt Linehan if they’re going to upset the Mountaineers. Last week versus Louisiana-Lafayette, Linehan moved into sole possession of first place on Idaho’s all-time completions list with 814 in his career. But he was below 50 percent (13-of-28) in the loss to the Ragin’ Cajuns for the first time since, ironically, the overtime win at UNLV more than a year ago. Linehan will have to be acutely aware of App State defensive back Clifton Duck, who was named Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week after snagging three interceptions in last Saturday’s win over New Mexico State.
College of Idaho has home-and-homes with three Frontier Conference opponents this season, and the first double-duty game is tomorrow at Simplot Stadium versus Montana Western. The Coyotes lost to the Bulldogs 16-14 in Dillon, MT, to open the season. It’s crunch time in the Yotes’ quest for a winning season—they’re 2-4 with five games left. Idaho State, meanwhile, is on the road this week, facing Sacramento State in what promise to be smoky conditions. ISU has won two of the last three games against the Hornets, with both wins coming in Pocatello. The Bengals offense has shown a knack for making the big plays through six games. Already this year ISU has 21 plays of 20-29 yards, seven plays of 30-39 yards, four plays of 40-49 yards and six plays of 50 yards or more.
With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie having walked out on the New York Giants, former Boise State cornerback Donte Deayon has been promoted from the practice squad and signed to the 53-man roster. Here’s hoping Deayon actually makes his NFL debut on Sunday Night Football when the Giants visit Denver. You’ll recall that Deayon was listed at 143 pounds when he burned his redshirt year in November of 2012. Now he’s 5-9, 163—I’d be shocked if he isn’t the smallest player in the NFL. But Deayon has always played big. That’s why he’s still in New York. And he had an outstanding preseason, highlighted by a 36-yard pick-six against the Jets. Not that Deayon’s going to turn around the downtrodden 0-5 Giants, but he’ll lighten the sour mood with that ear-to-ear grin of his.
The ECHL’s 30th season begins tonight with eight games, including the Idaho Steelheads’ season opener against the Norfolk Admirals in CenturyLink Arena. This season will mark the Steelies’ 15th in the ECHL, and there’s a buzz in Steelheads country that it is “go” time. Neil Graham coached the team to high-level production last season—a 43-win campaign—but the feeling that the first-round loss to Colorado in the Kelly Cup Playoffs was a gut-punch is palpable (never mind that the Eagles went on to win it all). By the way, the Steelheads have announced that the team’s career leader in goals, assists and games played, Marty Flichel, will be rejoining the organization as a color analyst with the broadcast team this season. The popular former captain retired in 2011.
This Day In Sports…October 13, 2012, five years ago today:
An intense (albeit one-sided) 12-year rivalry appears to come to an end as Boise State beats Fresno State and Derek Carr 20-10 behind a stifling defense and 122 yards from sixth-year senior running back D.J. Harper on the blue turf. The Broncos were set to move to what was then the Big East the next year, but that never happened. At that point Boise State had won 11 of the 12 games against the Bulldogs in the WAC and Mountain West, and the Milk Can trophy that goes to the winner was retired in the Allen Noble Hall of Fame Gallery. But only temporarily, as it turned out.
(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.)