All three phases converge at the right time

Boise State’s offense had been handed plenty of short fields last night—it seemed like more than all of last year combined—but had cashed in on only one by the time the fourth quarter began.Cradling a 14-7 lead, the Broncos got a field-flipping 63-yard punt from Joel Velazquez that rolled dead at the New Mexico one-yard line. Three Lobo plays gained nothing on the Bronco defense. Next, Avery Williams returned the ensuing punt 29 yards to the UNM 17. And the Boise State offense accepted the setup. Jake Roh capped the short drive with a six-yard touchdown out of the wildcat (Jake Roh in the wildcat?) to take a commanding 21-7 lead with 11:55 left. The defense and special teams had done enough. They just needed a little participation from the “O” in the 28-14 win.

You’re probably wondering when the last time was that a Boise State tight end had two receiving touchdowns and one rushing TD in the same game. How about never? I don’t know that for sure, but when have we even seen a tight end run for a score? That hat trick was quite a feat last night by Roh, who now has three touchdown catches in three games this season to go with his rushing TD after recording none in his injury-plagued 2016 season. The Bronco offense, however, treaded water for much of the night. Its 264 yards were its fewest on the blue turf since the 261 against BYU in a 7-6 win in 2012. Boise State began the second half with three straight three-and-outs and had just one first down in the third quarter—12 for the game. The Broncos had just two plays that went 20 or more yards.

The defense continues to set the tone for this team. New Mexico went back to its roots on offense, and Boise State was gashed by the triple-option in the first quarter, allowing 111 yards on the ground. But the rest of the way, the Broncos yielded just 87 rushing yards and gave up only 277 yards of total offense for the night. Leighton Vander Esch took charge in the middle again as he logged 13 tackles, forced a first quarter fumble recovered by Kekoa Nawahine, and made his second career interception in the fourth quarter. Vander Esch wasn’t the only one with double-digit tackles. DeAndre Pierce made 12 stops, including 2.5 for loss, and Tyson Maeva recorded 11 tackles before leaving with an injury.

Brett Rypien was in a jersey and sweatpants last night, so it was Montell Cozart’s game at quarterback. Cozart wasn’t exactly a game manager—his explosive plays keep us from calling him that—but he wasn’t able to drive the Boise State offense down the field with the exception of a nice 90-yard march that answered New Mexico’s first touchdown. Cozart was efficient through the air, going 15-for-19 for 137 yards with the two TDs to Roh. He was also (by far) the Broncos’ leading rusher with 71 yards on nine carries. But the Lobos are known for their vulnerability through the air—witness the 897 yards they gave up to the Broncos in the past two meetings. It would have been interesting to see what Rypien could have done.

Talk about picking up where you left off. The Tour Finals have turned into a farewell tour for Peter Uihlein, who is off to the PGA Tour next season. Uihlein, who won the first leg of the Finals two weeks ago after a strong season spent primarily on the European Tour, carded a nine-under 62 at Hillcrest Country Club yesterday to take the first round lead at the 28th annual Albertsons Boise Open. Uihlein started his day with three straight birdies—and then finished the same way. The scores at Hillcrest were typically low, so former Boise State star Troy Merritt is on the bubble to make the cut after his one-under 70. This is a big day for Merritt, as his chances at retaining his PGA Tour card are on the line.

Fans hangin’ out at the 17th hole at Hillcrest saw the equivalent of a half court buzzer-beater in hoops. Twice. Nate Lashley landed the first hole-in-one of the tournament when his pitching wedge bounced twice and spun back into the hole. Alex Cejka came along later and produced a slam dunk—his shot dropped directly into the cup. Cejka’s ace wasn’t a fluke. The 46-year old German-born player fired an eight-under 63 and sits just one shot back of Uihlein going into today’s second round.

Back to gridiron things—with Idaho’s six-game winning streak now history, the Vandals play their first road game tomorrow against a team that’s loaded for bear, Western Michigan. The WMU version of the Broncos haven’t won since the MAC Championship Game last December, preceding their trip to the Cotton Bowl. They’re battle-tested after opening the campaign with losses at USC and Michigan State. Idaho is hoping its real rush defense stands up. After holding Sacramento State to 95 yards on the ground in Week 1, the Vandals were gouged for 357 last Saturday by UNLV. Western Michigan is averaging 190 yards rushing, a good number after having to face the Trojans and the Spartans.

Eyes are on the secondary as College of Idaho tries to snap a three-game skid to start the season. The Coyotes host Eastern Oregon tomorrow at Simplot Stadium after allowing five pass plays of 25 yards or more in third-down situations in last week’s loss to Southern Oregon. The Yotes are still looking for their first interception of the season, and that’s saying something for a unit that features senior Nate Moore, who has nine career picks. C of I, in fact, hasn’t grabbed any turnovers in the past two games.

It’s a rare opportunity for the Boise State women’s volleyball team. The Broncos host the top-ranked team in the country, Minnesota, tonight in Bronco Gym in the Boise State Classic, an event that also includes Oregon State and Idaho State. The Broncos are coming off a title at the UC Davis Invitational last weekend, led by star Sierra Nobley, who combined for 48 kills in the tournament to break the Mountain West career record with 1,626.

This Day In Sports…September 15, 1973:

One of those early-season games between Boise State and Idaho—early in the Bronco-Vandal rivalry. The game was played in New Idaho Stadium, the place that would get a roof and become the Kibbie Dome two years later. The Vandals, who had beaten UTEP the week before 62-14, marched through the visitor’s locker room before the game taunting the Broncos. Boise State responded on the field with a 47-24 win behind quarterbacks Ron Autele and Jim McMillan.

(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.)