Boise State football: Discouragement, encouragement

That Boise State team that lost to Virginia a year ago was not the one that lost at Oklahoma State Saturday. The margin of defeat may have been four points larger, but it wasn’t nearly as discouraging. The offensive line will not face that kind of challenge moving forward, so the running game is poised to rebound. Special teams? That is correctible. The tackling problem? That is correctible. The only goal that is totally out the window in an undefeated season. But while a New Year’s Six bowl dream isn’t dead, that should be the furthest thing from the Broncos’ minds. They need too much help, and what they have to do right now is help themselves by getting back to the top of their game a week from this Saturday at Wyoming, where there are some 2016 skeletons in the closet.

There are encouraging words. Boise State’s quarterback play at Oklahoma State was far superior to last year’s Virginia game, do ya think? Brett Rypien threw for 285 yards against the Cavaliers, but he was just 24-of-42 and had one interception versus no touchdowns. Rypien was on point at OSU, considering he was running for his life. And the tight ends, with 10 receptions, stepped up like nobody’s business. Chase Blakley not only snagged his first TD catch, he tripled his number of career receptions with the six grabs he had Saturday. And John Bates logged four catches for 49 yards. Bates showed he can stretch the field, too, with a 24-yard catch at Oklahoma State, same length as his touchdown versus UConn.

The seat has gone cold on Boise State’s Turnover Throne. The Broncos need that thing warmed up. It looked like a brilliant invention at Troy, when Boise State forced four turnovers—an interception and three fumbles (two taken back for touchdowns by Tyler Horton). But that dropped to one takeaway against UConn, and exactly zero at Oklahoma State. Would the Broncos have snagged a turnover in Stillwater if Horton hadn’t been out with a leg injury? It doesn’t matter. There was too much else going on, as the Boise State defense was playing on its heels from the second quarter on. Besides, Jalen Walker filled in admirably for Horton in a difficult situation.

On the injury front, David Moa played for the first time this season at Oklahoma State, making two tackles, one for loss. The participation report from the game shows that Octavius Evans made his 2018 debut, too, but I didn’t see him. Evans was suited up and went through warmups. He has been seen through spring football and fall camp as a possible go-to guy in place of Cedrick Wilson. Instead, an effective committee has been working for the Broncos, and in the role of “long” wide receiver, John Hightower has really started to shine. It has to be frustrating for Evans, who had 15 catches and two touchdowns last year as a true freshman. Maybe this bye week is the ticket for him as he tries to get on the field in Laramie.

It was all former Broncos all the time on Sunday Night Football. At least it seemed that way in the Dallas Cowboys’ 20-13 win over the New York Giants. Leighton Vander Esch was dominant in the fourth quarter, when he logged most of his seven tackles. And they were sure and secure tackles, just like the ones we saw from him last year. Vander Esch came on for Sean Lee and saw his snap count jump from 17 in Week 1 to 28 versus the Giants. All the while, DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford were doing their thing up front, each registering one of the Cowboys’ six sacks of Eli Manning. On the other side, Donte Deayon came on for an injured Eli Apple at cornerback and got in an end zone pass breakup on a Dak Prescott throw.

The most unexpected performance, from the outside looking in, was the one Kamalei Correa delivered Sunday for the Tennessee Titans Sunday in their 20-17 win over the Houston Texans. Correa saw fewer snaps than he did in Week 1, but he made high-impact plays. He came off the bench to record five tackles, a sack, two tackles-for-loss and two quarterback hits on the day. By the way, the sack Correa nabbed in Week 1 at Miami was the first of his NFL career (he’s in his third season).

It’s been a tough second half of the season for the Seattle Mariners, but their ever-so-faint Wild Card hopes got a boost last night from former Boise Hawk Daniel Vogelbach, who did for the M’s what he often did for the Hawks in 2012. Vogelbach hit a home run. But it wasn’t just any home run. It was a pinch-hit grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Seattle a 4-1 win in Houston. The bulky (6-0, 250 pounds) first baseman hit 10 homers in only 37 games for Boise six years ago. Vogelbach clubbed seven of them during a five-game stretch that summer. Last night’s grand slam was the first of his young big league career.

Catching up on the weekend—saddened to hear of the passing of Don Newman, the former Idaho Vandals basketball standout. He was a senior on Don Monson’s first Idaho squad in 1979-80 and was named Big Sky Player of the Year that season. His leadership set the table for what would become the best team in Idaho history, Monson’s 1981-82 crew that reached the Sweet 16. Newman played three seasons in the CBA under George Karl and even played in the Canadian Football League despite having never played college football. After head coaching stints at Sacramento State and Arizona State, his time with Karl morphed into several assistant coaching jobs in the NBA. Newman, who had battled cancer, was just 60 years old.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BACON…breakfast and brunch all day!

September 18, 2003, 15 years ago today: Michelle Wie makes history at the Albertson’s Boise Open, becoming the first female amateur to tee off in a PGA-sanctioned tournament. And Wie wasn’t just any amateur—she was a 13-year-old ninth-grader who drew huge galleries to Hillcrest Country Club and coast-to-coast attention to Boise. But she didn’t make it to the weekend, doomed by a first round 78 and finishing second-to-last in the Nationwide Tour event.

(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.)