Back to the Broncos’ original paradigm

Bryan Harsin said, “We’ll see what happens down the line.” Well, something happened Saturday. After the 52-26 drubbing Boise State absorbed on October 16, coach Bryan Harsin pledged to get his team’s collective nose back to the grindstone, and said, “We’ll see what happens down the line.” Well, something happened Saturday—Utah State’s 14-13 loss at New Mexico, giving the Aggies two defeats in Mountain West play and erasing the tiebreaker advantage they had held over the Broncos in the Mountain Division. For more than three weeks, it was all about Boise State fans pulling for Air Force to upend USU on November 14 to get their team back in the race. Now, Bronco Nation would be wise to switch allegiances in that game this Saturday. The Falcons are getting better every week and are coming off a 20-3 victory over rival Army. Hey, it’s football. The ball is shaped that way for a reason. It bounces funny.

Right now Boise State has to be all about New Mexico. We’ll hit on the Broncos’ fright night in Albuquerque last year as the week goes on. But at the moment, the Lobos are the team that derailed Utah State, and they’re coming to the blue turf Saturday night after what coach Bob Davie called the best performance his defense has put together during his 46-game tenure. Here’s the thing. New Mexico has something both Boise State and Air Force have: control of its own destiny in the race for the Mountain Division’s spot in the Mountain West championship game. UNM has the Broncos, Colorado State and Air Force left on the schedule. If New Mexico (currently 3-2 in the MW) wins all three, then everyone in the division will have at least two conference losses, and the Lobos will have beaten all of them.

New Mexico will be without startng linebacker Kimmie Carson for the first half at Albertsons Stadium this Saturday after he was suspended by the Mountain West “for forcible contact to the head and neck area of a defenseless player,” according to the conference’s release. The player was Utah State quarterback Kent Myers, who was hit late by Carson midway through the second quarter. Myers had to go to the sidelines after the roughing-the-passer penalty, and that brought Chuckie Keeton into the game for three plays—his first action since a loss at Washington in September. Keeton scrambled and ran on his first snap, and his knee didn’t exactly look ready for that. He completed his only pass attempt to Hunter Sharp for seven yards.

Elsewhere in the Mountain West, one-time Boise State offensive coordinator Al Borges will still roll the dice—and he did for San Jose State Friday night against BYU. The Spartans scored with 45 seconds left to pull within a point of the Cougars. Borges and SJSU went for the win instead of possible overtime, and a halfback pass by Tyler Ervin fell incomplete. Colorado State got well against Wyoming, as so many teams have this season. The Rams won the 107th Border Battle, 26-7 in Laramie. And UNLV did the expected to Hawaii and interim coach Chris Naoele, winning 41-21 in Las Vegas.

Jay Ajayi made his NFL debut yesterday, and there’s no telling what the former Boise State star could have done had Miami not trailed Buffalo by so much in the fourth quarter. Ajayi had five carries for 41 yards through three quarters, including a 23-yard scamper on his second-to-last attempt. The Dolphins didn’t run the ball in the final period. The Jay-Train got props for smart cuts at the line of scrimmage and breaking tackles at the second level. Ajayi’s one-time mentor at Boise State, Doug Martin, didn’t have as good a day. The fourth-year Buccaneer was seriously cooled off in Tampa Bay’s 32-18 loss to the New York Giants, rushing for just 31 yards on 11 carries.

No lead is safe right now for Idaho. After blowing a 23-point advantage last week at New Mexico State, the Vandals let a 24-point lead slip away Saturday at South Alabama and lost 52-45. This time it wasn’t so much the defense as it was a collapse on special teams. Idaho led 24-7 at the half, but the Jaguars returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, a rather stark switch in momentum. Then the Vandals fumbled a kickoff return deep in their own territory, leading to a South Alabama TD, and had a punt blocked to key another score. The Jaguars also returned an Elijhaa Penny fumble 57 yards for a touchdown during their second-half surge. Idaho has now suffered two straight heartbreaking losses on the heels of its two-game winning streak.

A new star performer in the backfield, but the same result for the College of Idaho. Colby Brown, a true freshman from Carson City, NV, rushed for 149 yards in his first start, but the Coyotes managed just one field goal in six trips inside the Eastern Oregon 30-yard line Saturday in a 21-10 loss to the Mountaineers. The Yotes had to rely on Brown, as the windswept day in LaGrande wreaked havoc with the C of I passing game. Teejay Gordon was 15-of-29 for just 117 yards and two interceptions. In Caldwell, meanwhile, the College of Idaho men’s basketball squad swept Montana Western and Northwest Indian College in the Taco Bell Shoot-Out. Former Melba Mustang Joey Nebeker put up 32 points in the Yotes’ 110-81 victory Saturday night.

Two of the enlightening things to come out of Boise State’s 79-55 exhibition hoops win over Northwest University Friday night in Taco Bell Arena were Paris Austin’s presence and Chandler Hutchison’s advancement. Austin, the true freshman from Oakland, looked ready to contribute this season after leading the Broncos with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting. And Hutchison, after his unusual status as a “role starter” of sorts in Mountain West play last season, is poised to make a major step as a sophomore. Hutchison scored 11 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. He also dished out six assists, showing the promise he brought to Boise State out of Mission Viejo, CA.

Zach Haney had the best night of Boise State’s newcomers inside. The 6-11 forward made the most of his 21 minutes, putting up nine points and grabbing 10 rebounds. It’s been a long wait for Haney, who redshirted last season coming out of Atascocita High in Humble, TX. German Robin Jorch, the recently-arrived 6-10 center from Berlin, is still adjusting to America and Bronco teammates and hoops terminology. Jorch had five points and two boards in 16 minutes of play. Boise State now gleans what it can from the tape of the Northwest game and applies it to the real deal, the Montana Grizzlies this Friday night in Missoula.

The Idaho Steelheads were unceremoniously swept in their three-game home series against the Atlanta Gladiators. Finishing was the Steelheads’ problem in 5-4 losses Wednesday and Friday. On Saturday, they never really got started. Atlanta led 2-0 before Idaho’s Cole Martin finally scored on a power play with 7:14 left in the contest. The Gladiators put it away on an empty-netter with 12 seconds remaining. Philippe Desrosiers took the loss in goal. He was the only mainline netminder available for the Steelheads Saturday as Eric Hartzell was loaned to Stockton of the AHL.

Ah, Mississippi in November. Sometimes the weather can be nice—other times, not so. Such is life at the soggy Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson. But Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge has just gone with the flow, to the point that he was tied for fourth when play was suspended midway through the third round yesterday. Aldridge carded a one-under 71 in the first round before shooting 67 in the second, including his first hole-in-one on the PGA Tour. He’s five-under in the third round as play resumes this morning and is 11-under for the tournament. Former Boise State star Graham DeLaet was tied for 22nd at eight-under when play was halted yesterday.

This Day In Sports…November 9, 2010, five years ago today:

Dan Hawkins, the coach whose relentless forward-thinking had turned Boise State into a top 25 team, is fired as the head man at Colorado. The move came with three games remaining in the season—three days after the Buffaloes had blown a 28-point fourth quarter lead and lost at Kansas, 52-45. What worked in building the Broncos’ program never took root in Boulder, where the culture and, surprisingly, the support were entirely different. After a 53-11 record in five years at Boise State, Hawk went 19-39 with the Buffs.

(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.)