A lot is being made of Boise State being in the “driver’s seat” for the Group of 5 berth for the New Year’s Six bowl’s this season. The only thing people generally have to go on are the traditional polls, and the Broncos are up to No. 14 in both AP and the Coaches Poll this week. But keep in mind that we’re still four weeks away from the release of the first College Football Playoff rankings of the year, and that is the poll that counts. The CFP committee doesn’t care what the AP and Coaches Polls say and isn’t bound by them. There are now three American conference teams chasing the Broncos in the AP Poll: SMU, Memphis and Cincinnati. All three have pedigrees this season that might be attractive to the CFP committee. Boise State is undefeated, but it’s unpolished right now and livin’ on the edge.
POSTGAME TALKING POINTS
One of the many priorities going into the UNLV trip was getting the running game untracked. Didn’t happen Saturday night—unless you consider the wide receivers’ role in Boise State’s 38-13 win at Sam Boyd Stadium. Through the first three quarters, Broncos wide receivers had three carries for 74 yards and a touchdown, while the running backs carried 15 times for just 34 yards, an average of 2.3 yards per carry. This against a Rebels team that gave up 374 yards rushing to Wyoming the week before. George Holani’s 46-yard run in the fourth evened it out a bit, but it’s critical that Boise State gets the ground game squared away this week.
It’s tough to nitpick a team that just won a road game by 25 points (hey, they covered the spread). Boise State had its true freshman quarterback, Hank Bachmeier, who threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover, and wide receivers Khalil Shakir and John Hightower, who both had 100-yard nights. But there were two major areas of concern (in addition to running game basics): the Broncos’ most penalty yards in 22 years, 10 flags for 130 yards, and a 2-for-13 performance on third down. Thing is, these could be seen as aberrations. For example, Boise State’s penalty numbers the previous week versus Air Force: two for 10 yards. And I talked Friday about how good Bachmeier has been at moving the chains.
THE ‘D’ WEAVER
On the positive side, it was another dynamic defensive night for the Broncos. That’s been the key to this 5-0 start. The starters were pulled with 5½ minutes left in the game, and the backups were pretty busy after that. But to that point, Boise State had allowed only 198 yards, an average of three yards per play, and they had logged five sacks. Did somebody mention that Curtis Weaver had three of them? Weaver, of course, is now the Mountain West career sacks leader with 29.5. At any rate, the Rebels gained 133 yards in the final 5½ minutes, averaging 6.3 yards per play—the final count of 331 yards of total offense for UNLV was a little deceiving.
NOT AS WONDERFUL A WEEKEND FOR MW
There were hopes that Utah State would strike a chord Saturday for the Mountain West, which has won eight games against the Power 5 this year. But the Aggies couldn’t stay with No. 5 LSU in a 42-6 rout in Death Valley. The potent USU offense was held to only 159 yards, and preseason MW Player of the Year Jordan Love was just 15-for-30 for 130 yards with three interceptions. And Air Force was favored over Navy in the first leg of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy series Saturday. The Falcons were in position to win after roaring back from a 21-9 fourth-quarter deficit to take the lead with three minutes remaining. But the Midshipmen took it back with 23 seconds left, then scored on a fumble return on the game’s final play to win 34-25.
VANDALS CAN’T BRING DOWN THE ‘CATS
The way Idaho played Weber State Saturday makes you think the loss at Northern Colorado was an aberration—and that the Vandals are close to being a really good football team. The Wildcats won 41-35, allowing more points by Idaho than by Mountain West foes San Diego State and Nevada combined. We’re talking the fourth-ranked team in the FCS. Two things did the Vandals in: a fake field goal that resulted in a 30-yard Weber touchdown, and three lost fumbles by quarterback Mason Petrino. The bottom line is that Idaho is in an 0-2 hole in Big Sky standings.
SCANDRICK’S STILL TICKIN’
The top NFL highlight Sunday involving former Boise State standouts came from Philadelphia’s Orlando Scandrick, who scored on a 44-yard fumble return in a 31-6 win over the New York Jets. It was better than a scoop-and-score—Scandrick ripped the ball out of quarterback Luke Falk’s hands and raced to the end zone, showing the savvy of an 11-year NFL veteran. Elsewhere, after gaining only five yards on two carries the previous week, Alexander Mattison was productive again Sunday for Minnesota. He rushed for 52 yards on seven totes in the Vikings’ 28-10 victory over the New York Giants. Mattison would be seeing a lot more time if Dalvin Cook wasn’t so good. Cook had 132 yards on 21 attempts in the win.
The new Boise State baseball team needed to play somebody else for the first time, and they split their exhibition games over the weekend, beating Northwest Nazarene 11-9 and falling to Montana State-Billings 26-8 (not a misprint). “It’s good to get a little dose of humble pie,” said Broncos coach Gary Van Tol of the second game. Boise State now has 4½ months to get things squared away. And the Bronco women’s soccer team had its seven-game winning streak snapped in a 2-1 loss at Fresno State Sunday. Boise State defeated San Jose State 1-0 Friday on a Raimee Sherle goal in the 76th minute. It was the 10th goal of the season for Sherle, one of the nation’s top 10 scorers.
ON THE PRO DOCKET
After three stellar rounds at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, Troy Merritt sure took it on the chin Sunday. The former Boise State star soared to a five-over 75 thanks to three double-bogeys and three more bogeys, and he tied for 63rd. Graham DeLaet missed the cut Friday in Vegas, but it must feel good to complete two rounds on the PGA Tour after a two-year layoff due to debilitating back problems. And the Idaho Steelheads and Utah Grizzlies took turns dominating each other in their exhibition games. The Grizzlies won 5-2 on Friday in West Valley City, and the Steelheads won 5-1 Saturday at CenturyLink Arena. The Steelies’ season opens for real this Friday, back in the Maverik Center against Utah.
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October 7, 1984: The late Walter Payton becomes the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Payton rushed for 154 yards in the Chicago Bears’ 20-7 win over New Orleans to surpass Jim Brown’s career mark. “Sweetness” ended up with 16,726 yards in 13 seasons; Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith eventually broke Payton’s record. It wasn’t all roses for Chicago that day, though, as the San Diego Padres beat the Cubs in the final game of the National League Championship Series to extend the Cubbies’ World Series-less streak to 39 years.
(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.)