“Nevada’s always been a big game,” said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin Monday. “It still is.” He just has to impress that upon the legions of Broncos who aren’t aware. “They don’t know it like we know it,” he added. Only six current Broncos have ever played against Nevada, all of them in 2014. Archie Lewis is the only one who started. Gabe Perez, Cameron Hartsfield, Mason Hampton, Alec Dhaenens and Jake Roh also appeared. Roh, as I mentioned the other day, scored his first career touchdown at Mackay Stadium. Only five current Wolf Pack players have played against Boise State. In Reno this week, Nevada coach Jay Norvell put tomorrow night’s game on a pedestal equal to that of bitter rival UNLV. Norvell showed his team a clip of the Pack’s 2010 upset of the Broncos in fall camp—and again at the beginning of this week.
Nevada may be 1-7 this season, but it is surging offensively. Once the Wolf Pack returned to Ty Gangi at quarterback, things took off, and the Pack averaged 518 yards and just under 40 points per game in October. In that span, Gangi averaged 315 yards passing and threw 10 touchdown passes against just one interception. The Broncos haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, and Nevada running back Kelton Moore added a 216-game against Hawaii in October for good measure. If the Boise State defense loves challenges, it’s got one. Sounds like a Leighton Vander Esch kind of night. The star linebacker from Riggins, by the way, has been nominated for the 2017 Burlsworth Trophy, given annually to the top FBS player who began his career as a walk-on. Vander Esch is seventh in the nation in tackles per game.
Boise State does have a 100-yard rusher of its own this season—Alexander Mattison did it three times in October. Mattison has waited for his moment, and there have been plenty of them since he took control of the running back spot in the BYU game. What else do the Broncos have back there? Robert Mahone had not carried the ball since early in the first quarter in Provo until he got one tote in mopup last week at Utah State. The guy who might be gaining steam is Ryan Wolpin, who gets 5-10 carries per game. He had 10 attempts at Utah State and rushed for 51 yards, primarily during clock-chewing time. Wolpin’s five yards per carry allowed the Broncos to play keep-away. That would be a worthy plan tomorrow night.
Bill Dutton, who was the defensive line coach at Boise State during three different stints from 1976-86, passed away this week at the age of 87. Dutton coached Bronco Division I-AA All-Americans John Rade, Randy Trautman, Michel Bourgeau, Markus Koch, Pete Kwiatkowski, Doug Scott and Chris Malmgren. All told, he was an assistant football coach for almost 50 years. My favorite Bill Dutton line: when talking about opposing quarterbacks, he’d say, “We’ve gotta put a program of discouragement on that young man.” And his guys often did. Condolences to Dutton’s family.
If you had to hazard a guess before the season on the spread for tomorrow’s BYU-Fresno State game, it would have tilted heavily in the Cougars’ favor, right? BYU was 9-4 last season and won the final Poinsettia Bowl, while the Bulldogs were 1-11. Well, you know what’s happened since. And the oddsmakers say Fresno State by two touchdowns in Bulldog Stadium. Eagle High grad Tanner Mangum will try to build on what he did last week in throwing for 283 yards and three touchdowns on San Jose State as BYU snapped its epic seven-game losing streak. This will be a tougher task in Fresno. The key Mountain West game is Colorado State at Wyoming for the Bronze Boot. The Rams still control their own destiny in the Mountain Division race if they win.
Idaho has eight days until its next game after a 24-21 loss at Troy last night. Quarterback Matt Linehan might need all that time, as he left the field in the final minute with what appeared to be an injury to his right forearm. UI was good in the first and fourth quarters but bogged down in the middle. Aikeem Coleman single-handedly gave the Vandals a leg up in the first quarter when he sacked Trojans quarterback Brandon Silvers, forced a fumble, and recovered it to give the UI offense the ball at the 50-yard line. Five plays later, Linehan had the Vandals in the end zone with a seven-yard pass to Alfonso Onunwor for a 7-0 lead. The momentum was short-lived, though. The Vandals have no margin for error left in their quest for bowl eligibility. At 3-6, they need to win out.
What does College of Idaho have to do to get past Montana Tech tomorrow? Score lots and lots of points. The Orediggers, visiting Simplot Stadium for the first time since the Coyotes’ “return year” in 2014, bring the Frontier Conference’s No. 1 offense (No. 2 in the NAIA) to Caldwell. Tech is averaging 575 yards and nearly 49 points per game. The Orediggers have topped 60 points three times this season, including an NAIA record 93-point outburst two weeks ago at MSU-Northern. How do you like them apples? One thing the Yotes did last Saturday at Eastern Oregon bears repeating: it was the first time in 15 games the C of I offense did not turn the ball over.
The College of Idaho men’s hoops team led much of the way over Boise State last night in Taco Bell Arena before falling 74-69. And yes, the game was as close as the score indicates. The Coyotes forced 19 turnovers, but Boise State’s hot shooting was finally able to overcome that. C of I led 45-40 with 15 minutes left in the game before the Broncos went on a 25-10 run over the next 9½ minutes to take a double-digit lead, but C of I stayed on the hosts’ heels until the buzzer. Chandler Hutchison led Boise State with 25 points, while Keun Palu-Thompson poured in 25 points for the Yotes. C of I now heads for a heckuva test at Gonzaga tomorrow night. The Broncos are off until their official opener a week from tonight against Eastern Oregon.
Around the rest of the horn for Friday: the Idaho Steelheads try to stay on the left side of the win-loss column as they host Colorado tonight and tomorrow night. The Steelheads snapped a four-game losing streak Wednesday night with a 6-4 victory over the Eagles. Idaho leads the league in shots-on-goal per game, averaging just more than 42 per night. The difference Wednesday was that the Steelies were finally lighting the lamp with them. On the PGA Tour, Troy Merritt is in the upper third at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas after a one-under 70 in the first round yesterday. And in women’s soccer, Boise State’s season ended last night with a tough 1-0 loss to San Diego State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas. The Broncos finish the campaign 13-6-3.
This Day In Sports…November 3, 2012, five years ago today:
The most anticipated Brooklyn sports event more than a half-century brings the borough a victory, as the Nets debut in their new home with a 107-100 win over the Toronto Raptors. The home opener was supposed to be two nights earlier, but it was postponed due to the ravaging effects of one of the East’s worst storms in history, Hurricane Sandy. It was Brooklyn’s first home game in a major sport since 1957, when the Dodgers made their final appearance at Ebbets Field. The Nets had played in New Jersey for 35 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.)