A lesson for football teams everywhere

There’s plenty of teams that would mail it in when trailing by 25 points with 10 minutes left in a college football game. Colorado State was not one of those teams Saturday night. After Boise State took a 28-3 lead in the fourth quarter on Thomas Sperbeck’s 11-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Richardson, the Rams embarked on a 17-play possession. During the drive, my son texted from out of town and said, “They’re acting like they’re trying to win this game!” They were. CSU’s sideline energy was through the roof. The drive ended with a TD to make it 28-10. Okay, fine. Then onside kick, touchdown, onside kick, touchdown, and it was 28-23 with more than 3½ minutes still left. Okay, not so fine. Props to Colorado State and coach Mike Bobo for never saying die—and to the Broncos for gutting it out.

Cedrick Wilson had one catch Saturday night. It was not one you’d expect. Boise State’s emerging star at wide receiver played just one offensive snap in the win over Colorado State, as a decoy in the third quarter. But he was there on the “hands team” late in the game trying to defend the Rams’ infamous onside kick attempts. After CSU’s two successful ones, Wilson gathered in the third on a pop-up kick to help preserve the victory. We may never know why Wilson was limited to those plays in the game, but if it was disciplinary, he wouldn’t have played at all. Wilson was banged up the week before at New Mexico. Coach Bryan Harsin said after the game Wilson should be “ready to go” for this Thursday’s showdown against BYU.

You can’t extract Colorado State’s bizarre rally from this game, but you can do that on paper to examine how the ever-steady Boise State defense performed. Sure, the Broncos are disappointed they logged only one sack of CSU quarterback Nick Stevens, and that they’re still stuck on three turnovers forced through six games of the season. But look at the numbers between the Rams’ scoring drives, the one that netted a field goal on their first possession and the crazy three-TD spurt toward the end of the game. In that stretch, which amounted to almost three quarters of game time, Boise State limited Colorado State to 149 yards. The Rams’ three touchdown drives at the end, one of them going 53 yards on one play, covered 182 yards.

BYU set the blue turf table for this Thursday with a 28-21 double-overtime win over Mississippi State in Provo Friday night. Taysom Hill threw the game-winner to tight end Trent Balderree before getting smacked (Hill reportedly had “bruises and cuts all over him” after the game). Boise State did its part by simply winning—and moving up one spot to No. 14 in the AP and Coaches Polls. Houston, by the way, is No. 11 in both rankings. Elsewhere in the Mountain West, Air Force has been effectively, and surprisingly, eliminated from the Mountain Division race after its 45-40 loss to New Mexico at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Paul Petrino finally got his breakout game in his third season as Idaho’s head coach. The Vandals ran roughshod over New Mexico State Saturday in the Kibbie Dome, posting their largest margin of victory over an FBS opponent in 13 years in their 55-23 win. Idaho hasn’t been over .500 this late in the season since 2010 and, at 4-3, is two wins away from bowl eligibility. Quarterback Matt Linehan, who had not lit the world on fire the first six games but had been avoiding turnovers, threw for 476 yards, the fifth-most in Vandal history. Idaho racked up 651 yards overall. It was enough to send Capital High grad Steven Matlock into a sideline dance at the end of the game. The Spokesman Review called it “a full-body gyration that included the Idaho center pretending to be a trumpet player in the UI marching band.”

It’s not just the turnovers that have plagued College of Idaho this season, it’s the damage they have done. Montana Western put the Coyotes in a deep hole early Saturday with two interceptions in the first quarter, one of them returned to the C of I four-yard line and both converted into touchdowns, in a 30-20 win over the Yotes. Tyler Cox threw both of the picks, but he did throw for 189 yards, and he led the Coyotes in rushing with 45 yards. The offensive star of the day, as he often is, was Eagle High grad Marcus Lenhardt. The junior tight end gathered in eight catches for 140 yards. It was C of I’s fourth straight loss.

Speaking of breakouts, how about Miami’s Jay Ajayi yesterday? The Boise State product rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Dolphins to a 30-15 win over Pittsburgh. Ajayi did it on 25 carries, averaging 8.2 yards per tote. It was a stellar performance, with a slew of broken tackles at the second level. The capper was a 62-yard TD run on his final carry that was vintage Ajayi. The Jay-Train was mobbed so quickly by teammates he didn’t have a chance to do his train whistle fist-pump. Ajayi thus becomes only the second former Bronco to post a 200-yard rushing game in the NFL. Doug Martin also accomplished the feat as a rookie for Tampa Bay in 2012 with his 251 yards at Oakland.

Last season didn’t start so well for the Idaho Steelheads, but they gained steamed about a month and a half in. The Steelheads would prefer not to wait that long this year, but opening weekend was not one to write home about. Utah pelted Idaho 4-1 and 3-0 Friday and Saturday nights in West Valley City. The Steelies went with Landon Bow between the pipes the first night and Brandom Komm the second, and neither could stem the Grizzlies’ tide. The only Idaho goal was tallied by defenseman Joe Faust on Friday. The Steelheads regroup now for a rematch against Utah Friday night at CenturyLink Arena, launching their 20th season celebration.

Troy Merritt had one hiccup in an otherwise solid week at the PGA Tour’s 2016-17 season opener in Napa, CA. The former Boise State star struggled Saturday with a 74, but he carded a three-under 69 in yesterday’s final round with birdies on two of the final three holes at Silverado to finish in a tie for 15th. Merritt earned a tidy $96,000 for his efforts. Fellow former Bronco Graham DeLaet shot 71-75 on Thursday and Friday and missed the cut.

Other campus notes: There was no Sports Illustrated jinx for Boise State cross country standout Brenna Peloquin. After being featured in SI’s “Faces In The Crowd” last week, Peloquin won the prestigious Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational in Madison Friday. She adds that to the major title she won last month at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis. The Broncos’ Allie Ostrander won the Wisconsin meet last year. And David Wacker had 11 points in 12 minutes’ worth of scrimmage time in the Boise State men’s basketball open session Saturday afternoon. The 6-10 sophomore is anxious to get back to the real thing—his season ended last December after seven games with a foot injury.

This Day In Sports…October 17, 2010:

The first BCS standings of the season are released, and Boise State earns the highest BCS ranking ever by a non-automatic qualifying school. The Broncos were third on the BCS list behind Oklahoma and Oregon on the same day they were voted a record-high No. 2 in the AP, Harris and Coaches Polls. But Boise State’s combined computer ranking was No. 7. BSU was 6-0 at that point, having beaten its previous three opponents by a combined 164-14. The Broncos were first in the nation in total defense, rushing defense, and pass efficiency.

(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.)