As Oregon State has been in the spotlight this week, the warts have outweighed the “wow” factor. We’ve heard all about the Beavers’ now-ended 10-game losing streak, their defensive challenges, and their inconsistent offense. So here comes Boise State, a 13½-point favorite despite facing a Power 5 team at a place in which it has never won. What does this game mean to Oregon State? Just ask Beavers senior safety Devin Chappell. A story in the Oregonian called Boise State “a program that’s been a staple of success for the past decade and that OSU consistently faces head-to-head on the recruiting trail. Chappell frankly called it ‘a statement game’ to show OSU’s own growth in Year 2 of (Gary) Andersen’s immense rebuilding project.” Do you think there’s a “trap game” in the making? Just sayin’.
For Boise State, there are some known quantities on Oregon State’s coaching staff. How about this quantity? Eight, as in eight Bronco turnovers forced by defensive coordinator Kevin Clune’s unit last year. Clune’s defense happened to wear Utah State uniforms at the time, and it created Brett Rypien’s worst freshman nightmare—he threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles in the 52-26 USU win. And what did Clune’s Oregon State defenders do last Saturday? They had a hand in five Idaho State turnovers, all in Beavers territory. Do you think ball security has been a priority in Boise State practices this week?
Oregon State’s defense has a stigma of mediocrity to overcome, though, and the Beavers are hoping Clune and his 24 years of coaching are the ticket. Tomorrow’s game is kind of a moment of truth for OSU. The Beavs held Minnesota to 280 yards in a 30-23 season-opening road loss, but Idaho State managed 363 yards of total offense against Oregon State last week and recorded 17 first downs despite the five turnovers. ISU totaled just 96 yards the week before at Colorado. Last season the Beavs were 11th in Pac-12 scoring defense at 37 points yielded per game. They were last in the conference in pass efficiency defense with a rating of 156.8, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete a whopping 68.5 percent of their passes.
There’s a new sidebar at Oregon State with the Broncos-Beavers game a day away. OSU athletic director Todd Stansbury was introduced yesterday as the new AD at Georgia Tech. The Oregonian’s John Canzano feels that hiring a football-friendly replacement for Stansbury is critical. “The football coach never appeared to connect with Stansbury, who was a cold and formal fish cast against Andersen’s down-home, back-slapping, lunch-bucket persona,” writes Canzano, who likes Pittsburgh AD Scott Barnes as an Oregon State candidate. “Barnes worked with Andersen at Utah State. He’s also a Northwest guy, born in Spokane. He’s been chairman of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament Committee, played college basketball himself, and his athletics departments have won multiple championships,” notes Canzano.
Kimo von Oelhoffen, who has had the longest NFL career of any Boise State alum, has been named one of 18 finalists for induction into the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame. There will ultimately be six inductees in January (five players and one coach/contributor). Von Oelhoffen was also a finalist last year. He was a Bronco in 1992-93 and went on to play 14 years for four teams in the NFL, earning a Super Bowl ring with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006.
Tomorrow night it’s the first conference game of the season in the Mountain West, and it’s a pivotal one. Air Force and Utah State play in Logan a week ahead of USU’s visit to the blue turf, with the Falcons a slight favorite. The Aggies will be accustomed to that 8:15 p.m. Albertsons Stadium kickoff—they get one of their own this week. There are four more matchups between Mountain West and Power 5 schools, including Boise State-Oregon State. The Broncos are the only favorite, but the MW hopes the other three could produce a “W” or two if the cards fall right. Nevada could upset Purdue, Colorado State has an outside chance at Minnesota, and San Jose State will have a shot at Iowa State if the Cyclones fall into mistake mode.
Idaho’s going to need a take-charge guy on offense tomorrow night if it’s going to upset UNLV at Sam Boyd Stadium. It’s pretty obvious who that has to be. Quarterback Scott Linehan has not been able to get untracked this season, although he has improved a bit the past two weeks after a shaky season debut versus Montana State. Linehan was 19-of-33 for 172 yards and no interceptions—and no touchdowns—in last week’s rout at the hands of Washington State. Idaho’s offensive line has been a bright spot, though, allowing just five sacks in three games, two of them against Pac-12 schools. That’s been an area of big improvement for the Vandals, who yielded 26 sacks last season, 41 in 2014, and a nation’s-worst 53 in 2013.
After a landmark road victory at Eastern Oregon, College of Idaho returns to Simplot Stadium tomorrow to host Rocky Mountain College. The visitors are coached by Jason Petrino, cousin of Bobby and Paul, in his first year with the Bears. The centerpiece of the Coyotes offense remains Marcus Lenhardt, the junior tight end from Eagle. Lenhardt had 10 catches in LaGrande last Saturday, going over 100 for his career. He now has 102, just seven receptions away from the C of I record held by the legendary R.C. Owens. In the Yotes’ 38-17 win over Rocky Mountain last year, Lenhardt had eight grabs for 143 yards and three touchdowns.
“The Jay Ajayi rehabilitation project is well under way. Not his body. From the neck up.” Well-put by Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. With Arian Foster injured, Ajayi has a shot to start at running back for the Miami Dolphins Sunday as they host Cleveland. After an ill-timed pout spurred coach Adam Gase to leave Ajayi home for the Dolphins’ opener, the former Boise State star appears to be out of the doghouse. “He’s been very engaged,” Gase said, going on to praise Ajayi’s willingness to play special teams and his effort in pass protection. “I think if we keep rolling with him with where we’re at right now, we should improve throughout the year.” Now it’s up to the Jay-Train.
Two other pro notes: The hill became steeper yesterday for Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge in the Web.com our Finals. Aldridge opened the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in Columbus, the third leg of the Finals, with an (even-par 71) and is tied for 60th. He basically needs a top 10 finish this week or next to retain his PGA Tour card. And the Idaho Steelheads have added two rookies to their roster with training camp just over a week away. Defenseman Jarrett Fennell and forward Ryan Keller join the Steelies after wrapping up their college careers at Northeastern University and Michigan State, respectively.
This Day In Sports…September 23, 2006, 10 years ago today:
Boise State gets a verbal commitment from a generously-measured 6-1, 185-pound quarterback from Prosser, WA. Kellen Moore had set the Washington state high school record with 66 touchdown passes as a junior. That fall, Moore would go on to break his own mark by throwing for 67 TDs. He had flourished at the Broncos’ football camp that summer, but Chris Petersen’s staff was still hesitant. Except for defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who was so sold on Moore that he told Petersen he’d give up a scholarship on his side of the ball if Boise State would take Kellen. And the rest, as they say…
(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.)