Something’s bugging Boise State coach Bryan Harsin, and that’s probably a good thing. Harsin must be the most uncomfortable undefeated coach in the country as October dawns. He talked Monday about the need for focus during the Broncos’ first traditional road trip of the season, Saturday night at UNLV. He came back to it when he talked about the linebackers who need to step up with Zeke Noa lost for the season. “Some of the guys went through the motions (last week), and we’re going to address that,” said Harsin. He indicates that the issue is a commitment to preparation the way Boise State likes it to be done. It came up on special teams, where not everybody is “all in,” Harsin feels. “Guys need to come in here and study, and older guys need to teach younger guys how to do that.”
Harsin elaborated: “For whatever reason, younger guys, they don’t think they have to watch and study film. They just think they can show up and go operate. And that’s not how it is. And then they stand on the sideline, and they want to play, and don’t understand why. Well, you don’t know what you’re doing. How are we going to put you out there if you don’t know what you’re doing?” If Harsin’s encountered this before, we haven’t heard much about it. Hopefully the light switch flips for the talent stuck on the bench.
THAT’S A DEFINITE MAYBE
Might be this week, might be next week. But safety DeAndre Pierce and right tackle John Ojukwu are close to returning to Boise State’s lineup. Pierce suffered some kind of leg injury and Ojukwu some kind of knee injury in the Broncos’ season-opening win at Florida State. It’s now been over a month since they played. Harsin said the bye week was helpful to both players, though, and they’re now practicing again “in controlled conditions.” Will they be ready for UNLV? Maybe. “I don’t think they’re pain-free, but I know they want to play,” Harsin said.
REBELS YEARN FOR ROGERS AND WILLIAMS
UNLV’s injury list will have an effect on its chances of upsetting Boise State, a 24-point favorite this Saturday night. Rebels quarterback Armani Rogers and running back Charles Williams both exited the 53-17 loss at Wyoming Saturday with sprained knees in the second quarter. But Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Rogers and Williams are expected to play against the Broncos in Sam Boyd Stadium. UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said the duo was cleared to practice “as much as they can tolerate” the pain, although he does have backup QB Kenyon Oblad sharing first-team reps this week. Rogers has been spotty this season, but Williams has been solid. He has rushed for 472 yards and six touchdowns and averages 8.6 yards per carry.
THE AAC LURKS
It’s too early to be booking Cotton Bowl travel packages. Boise State, staying at No. 16 in AP and No. 15 in the Coaches Poll this week, has to keep takin’ care of business, with two or three American conference teams breathing down its neck. UCF is instantly resurgent after toying with UConn in a 56-21 win on Saturday—the Knights are ranked Nos. 18 and 19. The polls disagree on the other AAC team, with AP opting for SMU at No. 24 and the coaches choosing Memphis at No. 23. Marshall did the Broncos no favors Saturday, getting whacked at home by Cincinnati 52-14. But Pitt didn’t help UCF’s cause as it struggled past Delaware, an FCS team, 17-14. The Knights play at Cincy this Friday night.
There are bumps in the road ahead for Boise State other than BYU. For one, the Broncos had better be ready for their next home foe, Hawaii, on October 12. Who says the Rainbow Warriors can’t function on the Mainland? UH’s 54-3 embarrassment of Nevada in Reno Saturday was its most lopsided road win in its eight years as a member of the Mountain West. In fact, it was the Warriors’ third-largest margin of victory on the road in school history. And it was the Wolf Pack’s worst loss in the 53-year history of Mackay Stadium. Opponents count on Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald making a bad decision or two. Because when he doesn’t, look out. And oh by the way, kickoff was set for the Hawaii game on Monday (drum roll). It’ll one of those 8:15 p.m. starts on ESPN2.
VANDALS REGRESS, COYOTES PROGRESS
Most folks figured that Idaho would go 1-1 over its two-week stretch against Eastern Washington and Northern Colorado. It did. But the Vandals beat the team they weren’t supposed to beat—and lost to the team they weren’t supposed to lose to. So those games offset, and Idaho is 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the Big Sky. One thing to build on is the running of former Rocky Mountain star Nick Romano, who broke out in Greeley with 132 yards on just 15 carries. College of Idaho has no such worries, having won its 10th game in a row now. The Coyotes’ 42-0 annihilation of Rocky Mountain College was their best performance—and first shutout—since football was revived on the Caldwell campus five years ago. The Yotes were rewarded Monday with a tick up in the NAIA Coaches Poll, as they’ve risen to No. 9.
ONLY ONE FORMER BRONCO COMPETED IN QATAR
Allie Ostrander missed qualifying for the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the IAAF Track & Field Championships by 84-hundredths of a second in Doha, Qatar, on Friday. Turns out fellow former Boise State standout Marisa Howard didn’t compete. Howard was a U.S. alternate at the world championships, but USATF didn’t sent her to Qatar. Reports said that U.S. runner Colleen Quigley’s last workout was August 30, and it was known she was injured. But she didn’t withdraw from Friday’s heats until last Thursday. Obviously Howard couldn’t make it to the other side of the world on such short notice. Howard lost her chance to compete at worlds and tweeted that she was “gutted by it all.”
FAMILIARITY CAN BREED SUCCESS
The Idaho Steelheads convened training camp on Monday, and—despite a new coach in Everett Sheen—there’s never been a bigger collection of familiar faces. There’s been trememdous buy-in to the Sheen era from returning Steelies and some more from previous years, to the point that 15 players on the camp roster have donned Idaho sweaters before. Certainly Scott Burt’s return to the club as Sheen’s assistant two months ago today was a factor. But the bottom line is the culture and strength and stability of the organization and the attraction of the city. Other roster notes: five players have signed either a NHL contract with the Dallas Stars or an AHL contract with the Texas Stars. And 19 players have previous ECHL experience coming into this season.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by LOUIE’S PIZZA & ITALIAN RESTAURANT…an Idaho tradition for more than 50 years!
October 1, 2011: Boise State avenges perhaps the most painful loss in its history by dominating Nevada, 30-10, before a sellout crowd on a 90-degree day on the blue turf. It was the earliest in the season a day game had ever been played at Bronco Stadium. Boise State had fallen in overtime in Reno the previous November, dashing its Rose Bowl hopes. But the Bronco defense would stifle the Wolf Pack’s pistol offense this time, holding it to 182 yards. Doug Martin led the Boise State offense, rushing for 126 yards and a touchdown.
(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.)