There’ll be shades of June Jones Saturday night when Hawaii hits the blue turf to face Boise State. Jones was the curator of the run-and-shoot offense with the Rainbow Warriors from 1999-2007, and current UH coach Nick Rolovich was one of his quarterbacks. Rolovich has brought that attack back, and it’s primarily responsible for the Warriors’ 4-1 start this season. One of the key facets of that offense is receivers flooding an area and then improvising—and Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald knows what to look for, and where. Rolovich would like to put the “run” in run-and-shoot, but the Rainbow Warriors are 11th in the Mountain West in rushing at 124 yards per game and have the fewest rushing attempts. So most of the Broncos’ focus will be on McDonald—and ways to get to him.
SHUFFLING THE BACKFIELD DECK, OR NOT
George Holani is Boise State’s new leading rusher. Whether that’s significant remains to be seen. The true freshman has a lead of just one yard over junior Robert Mahone. Has Mahone retained his starting spot in practice this week after his second quarter fumble at UNLV last Saturday? Holani was the No. 1 guy in the second half in Las Vegas. “George hung onto the ball,” said Broncos coach Bryan Harsin. “Ball security’s very important around here. I don’t think that’s a secret.” Prediction: the committee approach continues, with Andrew Van Buren poised to see more touches. “They know what’s at stake,” Harsin said. “I love all our tailbacks.”
KANIHO’S HOME AWAY FROM THE ISLANDS
Junior nickel Kekaula Kaniho is perhaps the most fired-up Boise State Bronco as Hawaii comes to town. Kaniho hails from Kahuku, HI, and knows a good chunk of the Rainbow Warriors. But let’s look at Kaniho from a football perspective. No matter who the Broncos are playing, he’s one of their most valuable assets. Kaniho has been a playmaker from the beginning two years ago. This year he has seven tackles for loss, second in the Mountain West behind teammate and sackmaster Curtis Weaver. Boise State has only three interceptions this season, and Kaniho has one of them. He’s also the team leader in pass breakups with three. Fittingly, Kaniho has been named the Broncos’ fourth gameday captain for the Hawaii game.
BACHMEIER IN THE POCKET
With KTIK’s John Patrick putting “60 Ways They Hit Our QB” to music this week, let’s get an update on the purest form of that: sacks. The alarms were sounding after Boise State allowed six sacks in the Florida State game and 11 over the first three games. But the Broncos have yielded just one sack apiece in the past two wins over Air Force and UNLV. Hey, it’s down to about 2½ per game for the season now. Hank Bachmeier’s not taking as many shots. Not only is the pass protection better, but so is Bachmeier’s peripheral vision.
CROSSROADS WEEKEND IN THE MW
Not only do the top two teams in Mountain West power rankings meet Saturday night on the blue turf, virtually every other team playing this week faces a similar moment of truth. Tonight we’ll see which team is headed south the fastest, Colorado State or New Mexico. On Saturday, San Jose State can establish itself as legit and send Nevada into a tailspin with a win in Reno, the mysterious Fresno State will find out a lot about itself at Air Force, Wyoming and San Diego State will try to break out of the middle of the pack, and UNLV seeks an upset at Vanderbilt in the MW’s last regular-season game against the Power 5. By the way, Kenyon Oblad will start at quarterback for the Rebels for the second straight week in place of injured Armani Rogers.
VANDALS, YOTES HIT THE ROAD
Idaho’s most impressive defensive effort of the 2018 season came in a 20-7 win over Portland State in the Kibbie Dome. On Saturday the Vandals get the Vikings in PSU’s makeshift home at Hillsboro Stadium. Portland State quarterback Davis Alexander is a lot better this year (Boise State saw last month how slippery he can be). The Vikings can be a bit inconsistent—they absorbed a 51-24 loss at Idaho State two weeks ago before routing Southern Utah 52-31 last Saturday. In the Frontier Conference, the leader will try to stay there as undefeated College of Idaho visits Carroll College Saturday in Helena. It’s going to be a crisp, sunny day, tailor-made for the Coyotes running game led by Nick Calzaretta. The junior already has 598 yards rushing this season and is on pace to smash the 1,000-yard barrier.
DEMARCUS MISSING THE DEFENSIVE MOJO
With all the talk surrounding Kellen Moore and the Dallas offense, there’s been less out there about the Cowboys defense (unless you live in the Metroplex). The consensus: it’s underperforming so far this season, and DeMarcus Lawrence doesn’t offer any excuses. In a story by Clarence E. Hill Jr. in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Lawrence was asked if his nagging injuries were a factor in the Cowboys’ struggles defending the run. “Who cares?” Lawrence said. “You care? Be honest. Do you really care?” Lawrence said the defense needs to get its swagger back Sunday against the New York Jets. What’s been missing? “Basic fundamentals,” he said. Lawrence has just eight tackles and 2.5 sacks so far this season.
GAME 1 FOR THE STEELIES, TOURNAMENT 2 FOR DELAET
Among the 14 Idaho Steelheads returning from last season are the team’s second and fourth-leading scorers as the 2019-20 season opens tonight at Utah. A.J. White, the Steeheads captain, scored 16 goals with 35 assists last season, while Kyle Schempp also tallied 16 goals and added 25 helpers. White scored once in the 5-1 exhibition win over the Grizzlies last Saturday night. Like last season, Idaho and Utah meet 15 times during the upcoming campaign. On the PGA Tour, it’s obviously going to take some time for Graham DeLaet to get his groove back. The former Boise State standout shot a one-over 73 Thursday in the first round of the Houston Open. He’ll need a stellar day today to make the cut.
Boise State women’s soccer hosts San Diego State today and New Mexico on Sunday. This is a pivotal weekend for all three teams—the Broncos and Aztecs are tied for second place in the Mountain West behind the Lobos. Boise State men’s basketball hosts its annual preseason open scrimmage tomorrow evening after the Homecoming parade, beginning with a dunk contest. That’ll get folks into old Bronco Gym. Speaking of the parade, the Bronco women’s hoopsters, the two-time defending Mountain West champions, are in it. Their coach, Gordy Presnell, is the Grand Marshall.
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October 11, 2014, five years ago today: Mississippi State beats Auburn, 38-23, the Bulldogs’ third straight win over a Top 10 team, to improve to 6-0. The following day, MSU would vault to No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches Polls, marking the fastest rise to the top ever in college football. The Bulldogs were the first team in the AP Poll’s 78-year history to go from unranked to No. 1 in five weeks. The previous mark was six weeks by Ohio State in 1954. Mississippi State’s rival, Ole Miss, was also 6-0 and was No. 3 on both lists. The Rebels had opened the season with a 35-13 win over Boise State at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta.
(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.)