D-line depth is deeper—and better

One thing that I said to myself during the Boise State-San Diego State game: “Look at all those defensive linemen the Broncos are playing.” D-line coach Steve Caldwell was shuffling them in and out early in the first quarter. Durrant Miles, Sonatane Lui, David Moa and Sam Whitney started, but soon there were appearances by Curtis Weaver, Chase Hatada, Emmanuel Fesili, Jabril Frazier and even Matt Locher. That’s nine linemen. Last year, Boise State was hesitant to go more than five deep. Coach Bryan Harsin says the difference is not necessarily more depth. “I think we have better depth,” he said. “Steve Caldwell—he’s developing guys.” The D-line unit combined for 21 tackles, four sacks and 7.5 tackles-for-loss against the Aztecs.

With all the well-documented “first time since this-or-that” coming out of Boise State’s 31-14 win at San Diego State, I had to come up with my own Scott Slant thing. So, combined with the 24-7 victory at BYU, this is the first time the Broncos have registered road wins of 17 points or more in back-to-back weeks since 2011. The last time it happened, Boise State won in back-to-back weeks at Fresno State and Colorado State during Kellen Moore’s senior year. Boise State won each game by, um, exactly 50 points (57-7 in Fresno and 63-13 in Fort Collins).

Boise State’s Swiss Army knife, Avery Williams, has been named the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time this season after his performance at San Diego State. Williams had two piunt returns for 57 yards (including the 53-yard touchdown) and one kickoff return for 43 yards. He now leads the Mountain West and ranks ninth in the FBS with an average of 15.9 yards per punt runback, and his two punt return TDs are just one behind national leader Dante Pettis of Washington. We talked about it the other night on Sunday Sports Extra—Boise State probably didn’t land the MW Defensive Player of the Week honor because it was tough to narrow that superb defensive performance at SDSU down to one guy. Ten different players had tackles-for-loss.

Which brings us to the guy who did win Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week. Defensive end Carl Granderson of Wyoming sealed the Cowboys’ 28-23 win at Utah State Saturday with a sack in the end zone for a safety with 37 seconds left in the game. When Boise State fans hear the words “Wyoming” and “safety” in the same sentence, they get the heebie jeebies. The Broncos face Wyo this week for the first time since their 7-0 start was blown up last October when a Brett Rypien fumble was batted out of the end zone for a safety, the deciding points in a 30-28 Pokes victory. Rypien and Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen meet again on the blue turf, with both QBs operating without some key cast members from 2016. The Boise State offense, in fact, seems to have been reinvented.

Remember all those teams that making Boise State look good at the end of September? It was a woeful week for most of those guys. It started with Troy’s 19-8 home loss to South Alabama last Wednesday. Then came Washington State’s jaw-dropping 37-3 defeat at Cal on Friday in Berkeley. “We were a bunch of pathetic front-runners,” Cougars coach Mike Leach said. Another stunner came Saturday, when New Mexico was blanked 38-0 at Fresno State. The Broncos had to look good all by themselves at San Diego State. The exception to the onslaught was Virginia, which improved to 5-1 with a 20-14 win at North Carolina.

College of Idaho has its first NAIA Offensive and Special Teams National Players of the Week. Sophomore quarterback Darius-James Peterson won the honor on offense after rolling up a school-record 454 yards of total offense, including 230 rushing, in Saturday’s 59-27 win over Montana-Western. Sophomore kicker Kyle Mitchell grabbed the national special teams award with a school-record 8-for-8 on extra points plus a 40-yard field goal in the win. Peterson and Mitchell were also Frontier Conference Players of the Week. Defensive end Trevor Henderson, a senior from Caldwell, completed a Coyote sweep of league honors, taking the honor on defense after logging a pair of sacks and forcing a fumble.

Let’s catch up on hoops. Tomorrow the Mountain West Men’s Basketball Media Summit will be held in Las Vegas, with the preseason poll to be unveiled. Where will Boise State be? Third? Fourth? Fifth? The Big Sky announced its preseason rankings last Friday, and Idaho has been picked to win the conference by both the coaches and the media. The Vandals made the Big Sky Tournament semifinals last March before falling to eventual champion North Dakota. Also, Idaho star guard Victor Sanders is a preseason All-Big Sky first-team pick. Sanders led the Vandals with 20.9 points per game a season ago, topped by his 40-point night against Portland State in February.

As of this moment, it’s the “Northwest Nazarene University Nighthawks.” NNU’s mascot has long been discussed, as “Crusaders” has been increasingly associated with “violence and destruction,” according to the school’s press release. The NNU Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to adopt the Nighthawks nickname, effective immediately. The release notes that “it will take time for uniforms and merchandise to reflect the new image.” The Crusaders nickname will remain on “trophies and banners that are part of our campus historical displays.”

You can put money on this: former Boise Hawk John Lackey will not come out of the bullpen when the Chicago Cubs and L.A. Dodgers meet tonight in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. There’s the issue of Lackey pitching on back-to-back days on Saturday and Sunday for the first time in his career. But, of course, the biggest thing is what happened to him Sunday night with two outs in the bottom of the ninth—the three-run walk-off homer by the Dodgers’ Justin Turner that put the Cubs in their two games-to-none hole. Believe it or not, it’s been 15 years since Lackey, then an L.A. Angel, became the first rookie pitcher in 93 years to win Game 7 of the World Series.

This Day In Sports…October 17, 1997, 20 years ago today:

The first game in the history of the Idaho Steelheads, who were making their debut in the West Coast Hockey League against the defending champion San Diego Gulls. Alain Savage, who would be the Steelheads’ leading scorer and fan favorite during that first season, instantly endeared himself to the locals by registering a hat trick in the 7-3 Steelies win. The Steelies would play in the WCHL until 2003, when the league was absorbed by the ECHL. Idaho is the only team from the old WCHL remaining in the ECHL.

(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.)