Advancing the sticks

The Boise State offense sure appears to be rolling right now. So what could possibly go wrong Friday night? The Boise State offense sure appears to be rolling right now. So what could possibly go wrong at Utah State Friday night? Oh, you know. Third-down conversions. Against a defense like the Aggies have, the Broncos could get stuck in neutral. There’s nothing wrong with a one-play, 85-yard touchdown drive like Boise State had in the second quarter at Colorado State last Saturday. But the likelihood of that kind of thing in Logan is nearly nill, so the ability of the Broncos to methodically move the chains will be paramount. It hasn’t always worked out so well this year. They converted just 4-of-12 third downs at CSU and are at 36 percent for the season, ranked 92nd in the country. USU will present the best defense Boise State has faced since Washington, one good enough to allow the Aggies to hang around.

Coach Bryan Harsin notes that the Utah State defense is not passive. “They don’t just sit back and keep things in front of them,” said Harsin. “They’re aggressive. They’ll attack. They make you spend time on a lot of different things.” That brings us to quarterback Brett Rypien, who has been masterful at standing in the face of pressure and delivering the ball just before taking a shot. “We don’t want him to get hit,” Harsin said. Attention to detail will be key Friday night. “Doing a better job in protection—doing a better job in the blitz game,” said Harsin. Rypien has been sacked only once the past two games, but there have been close calls aplenty.

For Rypien, there were numerous teaching moments that came out of the win at Colorado State. He threw his first career interception against the Rams, and you can bet the video has been shuttled back and forth about a hundred times in the meeting room. “They did a nice job disguising the coverage,” said Harsin. “That gives us something to learn from.” Then there were back-to-back pass knockdowns late in the second quarter. Did those balls need more loft? Or should they have been thrown away? In the second half at CSU, Rypien was 6-of-11 for 94 yards and the interception. Teaching moments.

You may look at Utah State’s home attendance for its game against Colorado State two weeks ago and think you can walk right up to the booth in Logan Friday night and buy a ticket. Think again, though. The crowd count for the 33-18 win over the Rams was just 22,059. But construction at newly-renamed Maverik Stadium this season has dropped capacity at the facility to…22,059. It was a sellout. There were only 500 tickets left for this week’s game as of Monday morning. Boise State has always traveled a solid throng to Utah State—none bigger than in 2007, when more than 8,000 Bronco fans turned it into a home field, in effect. That was before the Aggies were good. The final was 52-0.

When Dallas traded for quarterback Matt Cassel three weeks ago, he was clearly ticketed to displace the Cowboys’ interim backup quarterback, Kellen Moore. Now Cassel has bumped Brandon Weeden as the starter. What’s that mean for Moore? For now, the former Boise State star’s situation is the same as it was in Detroit—he’ll be on the 53-man roster but will be inactive on game days. And there’s no game day this week, as the Cowboys have a bye. We’ll see where Kellen stands when Dallas visits the New York Giants a week from Sunday.

Idaho coach Paul Petrino says he expects quarterback Matt Linehan to play in Saturday’s game at Troy. An ankle injury caused Linehan to miss the Vandals’ loss at Arkansas State, where he was replaced by Jake Luton, and last week was a bye week. Linehan leads the Sun Belt in completion percentage, completions per game and total offense, and is second in passing yards per game. His favorite target, Dezmon Epps is No. 1 in the conference in total receiving yards, receiving yards per game and receptions per game. But those stats will remain hollow until Idaho can start winning. The Vandals are 1-4 and have lost 46 of their last 52 games.

The Mountain West men’s basketball preseason media poll is out, and defending regular-season champion Boise State is predicted to finish second behind San Diego State. The Aztecs have been picked to finish first in four of the last six preseason polls. Both teams return three starters this season. Two of the five players on the all-conference first team are Broncos, Anthony Drmic and James Webb III. The preseason MW Player of the Year is senior guard Marvelle Harris of Fresno State. Rounding out the all-conference first-team are SDSU’s Winston Shepherd and Wyoming’s Josh Adams.

There aren’t watch lists galore in college basketball like there are in football, but Drmic has made one of them—for the 2016 Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award. There are only 20 players on the list, compiled by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Drmic was the Broncos’ leading scorer (over Derrick Marks) each of his first three seasons and was averaging 15 points per game last year before season-ending ankle surgery cut his campaign short after just seven games. The popular Australian is within reach of not only Boise State’s career scoring record, but the career three-pointers mark as well.

Just two days now until the beginning of the Idaho Steelheads season. And the Steelheads continue to tweak their roster ahead of the opener against the Rapid City Rush in CenturyLink Arena. The Steelies have acquired forward Joe Basaraba from the Orlando Solar Bears in exchange for defenseman Mark Louis. Basaraba (that’ll be a great name on the public address system) is entering his second full pro season after splitting the 2014-15 campaign between San Antonio of the AHL and Cincinnati of the ECHL. Basaraba was a third-round NHL draft pick of the Florida Panthers in 2010.

It wasn’t an announcement. It was just a comment to the Statesman’s editorial board. But Mayor Dave Bieter says a new baseball stadium at the southwest corner of Broadway and University, right across from Albertsons Stadium, is possible. Boise State has discussed plans to bring baseball back, maybe as soon as 2017. One thing’s for certain—a stadium had better not be publicly financed. We’ve been down that road when the Cubs were wielding a big stick with the Boise Hawks. That’s where the new Hawks ownership may come in. The group has been known for multi-purpose real estate developments. Is that the direction this would take? In conjunction with Boise State? I’m not sure it’s realistic.

We milk the “former Boise Hawks” thing for everything it’s worth this time of year, even with guys who just had a cup o’ coffee here. Javier Baez was one of those in 2011, and in 2014 he hit the most important home run of his career for the Chicago Cubs. Like, yesterday. Baez blasted a three-run homer in the second inning against St. Louis in Game 4 of the National League Divisional Series, and the Cubs never trailed again, winning 6-4 to move on to the NLCS. Baez’s blast snapped a streak of 74 2/3 homerless innings in the postseason by another Boise alum, John Lackey. It was the longest such run by a pitcher who was primarily a starter since Yankees great Whitey Ford from 1956-62. For good measure, ex-Hawk Kyle Schwarber hit one into next week in the seventh to cap Chicago’s scoring.

This Day In Sports…October 14, 2003:

It wasn’t a record-setting inning per se, but it was historic in baseball lore. The Chicago Cubs, leading 3-0 and cruising toward their first World Series in 58 years, were five outs away in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against Florida. Minutes later, Wrigley Field fan Steve Bartman had knocked a foul ball away from being out number two, a big error had been added at shortstop, and the Marlins had scored eight runs to stun the Cubs. They couldn’t recover in Game 7, and their legions of followers may never get over it. On the other hand, maybe they will…this fall.

(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.)