Defense answers many calls versus USU

The Boise State defense found itself in a number of pickles Saturday night, but the Bronco unit played its way out of them virtually every time. That was central to a 21-10 victory over Utah State to open Mountain West play on the blue turf. “We’d get down to the 35, the 40, that high-fringe and we’d go backwards on offense,” said USU coach Matt Wells. That was the area of the field where the Aggies were often tasked with converting third downs. And until their final desperation drive, they were just 1-for-15. Boise State was really good in denying first and second-down yardage. Ten of Utah State’s 19 third down plays saw them faced with eight or more yards to go.

It started up front, as it has all season so far for Boise State. Nose tackle David Moa logged multiple sacks for the third consecutive game, registering 1.5 (he has 5.5 the last three games). Defensive end Sam McCaskill also recorded 1.5 sacks and finished with 2.5 tackles-for-loss. The inability to run the ball forced Utah State to throw it 50 times Saturday night. Although the Broncos failed to make an interception, they did break up nine Kent Myers passes.

Did anyone doubt Saturday night that in the fourth quarter it would be McWeapon time? With 7:41 left in the game and the Boise State lead down to 11 points after a Utah State touchdown, it was game on. McNichols had 10 of his 30 carries on the night during the ensuing drive. That he gained 42 yards on that possession is not as important as the fact the Broncos chewed up more than six minutes of clock time, ending any thoughts the Aggies had of a miracle comeback. McNichols rushed for 132 yards total and added a team-high 73 receiving yards, 61 of them on the trick-play touchdown pass from Cedrick Wilson. McNichols did not score a rushing TD, ending his Mountain West-record streak at 15 games.

It was assumed before the season that Washington State would draw the largest crowd of the year at Albertsons Stadium. If not that game, it would be BYU. But lo and behold, the stands were filled Saturday night with the fourth-largest crowd in school history, 36,602, bettering the Wazzu crowd by almost 500. The atmosphere impressed recruits in town for their official Boise State visits, and two of them committed before the weekend was over. Tyreque Jones of San Bernardino, CA, and Quentin Brown of Conroe, TX, are both defensive backs. What jumps out is their size—Jones is 6-3, and Brown is 6-2.

The Mountain West got a very satisfying win Saturday, especially in the eyes of the Air Force Academy. The Falcons dominated Navy 28-14 in taking the first of two steps toward the coveted Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy. But the conference also absorbed a bad loss, as San Diego State—which had been ranked 19th in AP—dropped a 42-24 decision at South Alabama. That ended the Aztecs’ 13-game winning streak and bopped them out of the rankings. A pair of 38-17 wins in conference play were the most eye-opening Saturday night. Hawaii drilled Nevada for its first MW victory since 2014, and Wyoming stifled Colorado State, which led 14-3 at one point before a 35-3 Cowboys run to end the game. Boise State has to travel to both Laramie and Honolulu in coming weeks.

Boise State benefitted in the polls yesterday by a lot of negative movement ahead of it. That allowed the Broncos to move up to No. 19 in both polls—from No. 24 in AP and from nowhere in the Coaches Poll. The only Group of 5 team ahead of them is Houston, which flip-flops with Coach Pete and Washington at Nos. 5 and 6 on the two lists. But Boise State has to forget about chasing Houston and just worry about chasing New Mexico this week. The Broncos did plenty of chasing after the Lobos last November. By the way, there are two Bronco teams in the Top 25, as 5-0 Western Michigan debuted at No. 25 in the Coaches Poll yesterday.

The reality is that Troy is one of the elite football programs in the Sun Belt, and no amount of energy from Idaho’s homecoming crowd or newfound mojo from the previous week’s upset of UNLV was going to change that Saturday. Idaho carved out a 6-0 lead in the first quarter on a pair of Austin Rehkow field goals. But the Trojans’ Brandon Silvers passed for 337 yards and three touchdowns, and Troy mixed in the run to the tune of 157 yards for a total of 530 in a 34-13 win over the Vandals in the Kibbie Dome. Idaho was limited to just 255 yards and didn’t score a TD until Buck Cowan pulled in a 22-yard scoring pass from Matt Linehan a minute into the fourth quarter. The Vandals are now 2-3.

The College of Idaho football program seems so close to turning the corner. The Coyotes took a major step forward two weeks ago at Eastern Oregon—then a step back nine days ago versus Rocky Mountain College. Saturday’s game at Southern Oregon, even though it was a 31-27 loss, has to be seen as a step forward again. The Yotes were on the home field of the No. 9 team in the NAIA, a group that had drilled them the past two years. C of I outgained the high-powered Raiders offense 501 yards to 441 and took it down to the final tick of the clock before a Coyotes Hail Mary pass was batted down to end it. The Yotes had pulled to within four on a 56-yard interception return for a touchdown by Forrest Rivers, one of three turnovers they forced on the day.

Former Boise State star Tyrone Crawford may be regaining his footing as a cornerstone of the Dallas defensive line. Crawford had the Cowboys’ only sack yesterday in a 24-17 win over San Francisco, and that’s a good thing considering the criticism he been been absorbing after logging just one sack in the Cowboy’s first three games. That was seen as a questionable return on investment on Crawford’s new five-year, $42 million contract extension. Ironically, he’s been tasked with compensating for the production of fellow former Bronco Demarcus Lawrence, who was suspended for the first four games and is slated to return this week.

It’s already here—the beginning of Boise State men’s basketball preseason practice. The Broncos will gather this afternoon for their first drills of 2016-17. The team will have a very different look—and, most likely, style—with James Webb III, Anthony Drmic and Mikey Thompson having moved on. Australian Nick Duncan, now a senior, is the leader of the pack. Coach Leon Rice will be anxious to see if Zach Haney, James Reid and Justinian Jessup will be able to parlay the success they had on Boise State’s tour of Costa Rica in August into major roles on his team.

Boise State split a couple of women’s soccer matches over the weekend, and yesterday’s wasn’t pretty: a 3-0 shutout at the hands (er, feet) of Air Force. But what happened Friday was remarkable for the Broncos as they won 3-0 over Colorado College, an affiliate member of the Mountain West in soccer. Raimee Sherlee, the true freshman from Rocky Mountain High, recorded a hat trick, the first by a Bronco in six years and the first by a freshman at the school in nine years. The Broncos, 3-1 in conference play, have seen Sherle deposit the game-winning goal in all three victories.

This Day In Sports…October 3, 1951, 65 years ago today:

Bobby Thomson hits the “Shot Heard ‘Round The World” in the deciding game of the National League playoff series between the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. With two out in the bottom of the ninth—and the Dodgers leading 4-2—Thomson belts a three-run homer off Ralph Branca to give the Giants a 5-4 victory and the National League pennant. This is also the 65th birthday of former big league star Dave Winfield.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)