Despite the point spread of 12 points, are there many Boise State fans who don’t have butterflies? Despite the point spread of 12 points in favor of their team, are there many Boise State fans who don’t have butterflies when they think of Chris Petersen’s game-planning? Consider what he drew up (with help, of course) for Oklahoma, Oregon (twice) and Virginia Tech, among others. You know deep down inside he’s approaching Washington’s task tomorrow night the same way. It’s going to be the battle of the game plans when the Broncos and Huskies clash. “We have a really good plan,” Petersen said. “We’re excited about it. We’ll just show up to the game and go with our plan.” Boise State offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz says the Broncos are schemed-up, too. “I know specifically that we’re going to control the tempo, we’re going to establish the line of scrimmage, and we’re going to execute. I feel very good about what we’re trying to accomplish Friday.”
I wouldn’t be surprised at all if part of Petersen’s plan is to play star safety Budda Baker on offense. Not many would be. We know the sophomore has taken snaps on offense in spring ball and fall camp. Baker has the stamina after playing about 1,100 snaps combined on defense and special teams last year. If you see No. 32 out there tomorrow night with No. (whoever the quarterback is), look out. There’s a precedent, Shaq Thompson, and he ended up being a first-round NFL Draft choice in April. Thompson, already a dominant linebacker, added 456 yards rushing and 56 yards receiving on offense last year for the Huskies.
Here are all these preseason accolades being ladeled upon Boise State. Like, a No. 5 ranking from USA Today’s Paul Myerberg (one man’s opinion), and ESPN saying the Broncos have the second-best chance in the country of going undefeated. This comes with the big question mark at quarterback, sophomore Ryan Finley. There’s decision-making and performing under pressure in front of not only a Pac-12 opponent, but 37,000 fans that are going to sound like 60,000 (friendly as they may be). You just don’t know what it’s going to be like until the bell rings tomorrow night. “He’s definitely taken ownership of it,” said Drinkwitz of Finley’s new assignment as starting QB. What’s going to put Finley over the top? “I think his accuracy,” Drinkwitz said. “He’s been very accurate throughout fall camp.”
Can Finley operate the way Grant Hedrick did down the stretch last year? It took awhile for Hedrick to get in a groove. Once he did, his operation in the red zone made a huge difference. Boise State scored in each of its last 47 red zone opportunities in 2014, 38 of which were touchdowns. Following the loss to Air Force last September, the Broncos ranked 112th nationally in red zone percentage. After the win over Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl, Boise State finished 17th in the country in that category. Finley needs to produce points the way Hedrick did—preferably in chunks of seven as opposed to three.
Odds are K.J. Carta-Samuels won’t be starting at quarterback for Washington tomorrow night (everybody’s betting on Jake Browning), but the redshirt freshman does have some family history associated with Boise State. His older brother, Austyn Carta-Samuels, was the starting QB for Wyoming when the Broncos visited Laramie in 2010. Austyn threw two interceptions, was sacked four times, and lost a fumble that Shea McClellin recovered for a touchdown in a 51-6 Boise State win at War Memorial Stadium. There’s family pride at stake tomorrow night.
Five games kick off the Mountain West season tonight—none of them earthshaking ones. Only one of the matchups is against an FBS school, as Hawaii hosts Colorado at Aloha Stadium. In the Rainbow Warriors’ realm these days, the Buffaloes are the perfect foes. It’s a winnable game—and a victory could kick-start a UH program that’s been mired in quicksand during the Norm Chow era. Will USC transfer quarterback Max Wittek make the difference this season for Hawaii? He’s the guy to watch tonight. Elsewhere, it’s FCS City. Fresno State hosts Abilene Christian, Nevada has UC Davis, San Jose State is home against New Hampshire, and Utah State welcomes Southern Utah to what is now Maverik Stadium.
Idaho’s season is already here, with the opener kicking off tonight in the Kibbie Dome. And this game against Ohio is a big one for the Vandals. If they’re going to change the mojo of the program, a victory over the Bobcats is important. And it would be a quality win. Idaho coach Paul Petrino says he wants to start a long Kibbie Dome win streak this year, beginning tonight. He said the same thing last year before the Vandals sputtered out of the gate, going 1-4 at home and 1-10 overall. Idaho has lost 13 of its last 16 games in the Dome.
What has Ohio been up to since its thrilling 24-23 win over Utah State in the 2011 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl? The Bobcats are still led by former Nebraska coach Frank Solich, who’s entering his 11th season with a record of 66-50 at OU. They made two more trips to bowls after their Boise triumph, routing Louisiana-Monroe in the Independence Bowl and falling to East Carolina in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. Ohio was 6-6 last season, including a 36-24 home win over Idaho. The Bobcats are seven-point favorites tonight in Moscow (down from 8½ the other day).
Kellen Moore faces a pivotal NFL moment tonight in Detroit’s final exhibition game of the summer. Justin Rogers of mlive.com suggests that the former Boise State star is “firmly on the bubble” as the Lions host Buffalo. Detroit had re-signed Moore in the offseason, expecting him to compete for the No. 2 spot behind Matthew Stafford and at least be the No. 3 quarterback. But Kellen has struggled in this year’s exhibitions, and fellow backup Dan Orlovsky has not. And the Lions say it’s not a given that they’ll keep three quarterbacks on the roster this season. Moore had a big game in last year’s preseason finale, going 17-of-28 for 172 yards and two touchdowns. He may have to be at least that good tonight.
David Hill, Drasen Johnson and Logan Cozart combined on a four-hit shutout last night, issuing only one base on balls as the Boise Hawks beat Hillsboro, 6-0. The Hawks have one more against the Hops tonight—then comes a three-game series versus Salem Keizer, and that’s it for 2015. Meanwhile, another former Hawk has made the majors. Tony Zych, who played briefly for Boise in 2011, was called up Tuesday by Seattle. The 25-year-old righthander hasn’t pitched for the Mariners yet, but he does have this: Zych is now the last player alphabetically among the more than 18,000 players in major league history.
Troy Merritt moves on today in the FedExCup Playoffs as the Deutche Bank Championship tees off at TPC Boston. The former Boise State star goes into the tournament ranked 48th in FedExCup standings. The top 70 after this week’s event will advance to the third tournament, the BMW Championship in Chicago. Merritt won $19,008 last week as he tied for 53rd at The Barclays.
The Idaho Steelheads will get their feet wet next month with their fourth annual “Season-Ticket Holder Only” exhibition game at CenturyLink Arena. The opponents will be the Utah Grizzlies on Friday, October 9, in the annual pre-season feature. Each Steelheads season ticket holder will get an allotment of general-admission passes to use and distribute for the game. The Steelies and Grizzlies will meet for another exhibition the following night in Salt Lake City. Also in Steelheads news, the team has traded the rights to defenseman Charlie Dodero to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits for a player to be named later.
This Day In Sports…September 3, 2005, 10 years ago today:
Boise State opens its season with a game that had been hyped for eight months, both locally and nationally. The Broncos, ranked 18th in the preseason AP Poll, were visiting the 13th-rated Georgia Bulldogs before almost 93,000 fans in Athens and a national TV audience on ESPN. It ended up a day of infamy for BSU and quarterback Jared Zabransky, who threw four interceptions and lost two fumbles in the first half of a 48-13 loss. Some national observers said it would take years for the Bronco program to recover, but it was less than 16 months later that Zabransky and Boise State were winning the Fiesta Bowl.
(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.)