The entertainment value of this game was high. Boise State’s 56-28 win over Colorado State Friday night on the blue turf had a little bit of everything, including some special teams weirdness few of us had ever seen before. When the Broncos’ Kekaula Kaniho picked up Avery Williams’ fumble and ran for a touchdown, it went into the box score for Kaniho as zero punt returns for 74 yards and a touchdown. Williams was credited with the return (there can only be one). How do you figure Kaniho’s average, I wonder? Williams redeemed himself with not only a second-quarter interception, but a TD of his own in the fourth quarter when a perfect bounce off a CSU onside kick resulted in a 44-yard score. It has to be the shortest kickoff return for a touchdown in Boise State history.
Judging by his 308-yard, 85 percent completion rate, four-touchdown performance against Colorado State, the Brett Rypien we saw in the first four games of the season appears to be back. In fact, Rypien himself indicated that some kind of transformation happened right around halftime of the Broncos’ win at Nevada the week before. In the six quarters leading into halftime in Reno, including the loss to San Diego State, Rypien completed 56 percent of his throws, gaining 4.7 yards per attempt, with four interceptions and zero touchdowns. In the six quarters since, he has hit on 86 percent of his passes with 11.5 yards per attempt, one pick and six TDs. Seven games into his senior season, Rypien has already eclipsed his touchdown pass total from the 14-game campaign last year, 18 to 16.
A.J. Richardson has become the circus catch guy for Boise State, even more than John Hightower. There was the one-handed touchdown grab at Oklahoma State, the “sandwich catch” in the end zone at Wyoming, another one-handed TD at Nevada, and a touchdown versus Colorado State Friday night that he somehow looked into his hands between two Rams defenders. Richardson has been making plenty of normal catches, too. He was over the 100-yard mark in the first quarter against CSU and finished with six receptions for a career-high 137 yards and two TDs. Richardson has taken over the team lead in receiving yards with 567 and tops the Broncos in touchdown catches with six.
Could injuries be starting to nibble away at the effectiveness of Boise State’s defense? It was missing three starters Friday night: Sonatane Lui, David Moa and DeAndre Pierce. Lui’s ongoing status remains undetermined. As it was, chunk yards by Colorado State were the bane of the Broncos. The Rams had five plays of 20-plus yards, including a 47-yard pass and a 56-yard rush. Early in the second quarter, CSU went 61 yards on the first two plays of a drive that would end on a Kaniho interception. And at the end of the half, the Rams covered 75 yards on two plays in 22 seconds to score their first points of the night. The fact that the Broncos forced three turnovers ensured the outcome was never in doubt, though.
The first three Mountain West teams to be bowl-eligible this season punched their tickets Saturday. Utah State reached the six-win threshold with a 24-16 win at Wyoming (it was the first time the Aggies haven’t covered the spread this season). Fresno State got there by drubbing New Mexico 38-7 in Albuquerque. The Bulldogs have allowed a grand total of 13 points in their last three victories. And San Diego State moved to 6-1 by squeaking by a valiant San Jose State squad 16-13 at the stadium formerly known as Qualcomm. The Aztecs managed only 293 yards. Hawaii had already won six games but needs seven for bowl-eligibility because of its 13-game schedule. The Rainbow Warriors stayed at six Saturday night with a 40-22 loss to Nevada at Aloha Stadium.
With new Pro Football Hall of Famer and Vandal legend Jerry Kramer performing the pregame coin flip, Idaho won the toss and elected to win big over Southern Utah, 31-12. Mason Petrino and Cutrell Haywood were a deadly combination, hooking up on three touchdown passes in helping stake the Vandals to a 31-0 lead after three quarters. The Idaho defense did its part, with a Lloyd Hightower interception on SUU’s first play from scrimmage providing an omen. The Vandals, coming into the game with just one turnover forced the entire season, had four takeaways against the Thunderbirds. The homecoming victory ended a deflating two-game Big Sky losing streak with an exclamation point.
College of Idaho’s October resurgence continued in a big way Saturday at Simplot Stadium. The Coyotes won their third game in a row after an 0-5 start, rallying past No. 14 Southern Oregon in the second half for a 45-34 victory. Not to be a broken record, but Darius-James Peterson was the center of attention again for the Coyotes. The junior from Novato, CA, rushed for three touchdowns and threw for three more while rallying the Yotes from a 27-17 halftime hole. Peterson went over the 6,000-yard mark in career total offense and reached 40 career rushing touchdowns, breaking a 69-year old school record.
Sean Lee was back in the starting lineup for Dallas yesterday, which means former Boise State star Leighton Vander Esch came off the bench for the first time in the past three games. That contributed to Vander Esch logging only four tackles in the Cowboys’ 20-17 loss at Washington. But another factor was an injury he suffered with just over a minute left in the third quarter while making a tackle on Washington’s Kapri Bibbs. One report called it a “quad contusion” but said that LVE was good to return. So who was the Cowboys’ leading tackler yesterday? It was DeMarcus Lawrence with seven. That’s a lot for a defensive end. Lawrence didn’t register a sack, but he did have three tackles-for-loss.
Another one of these, another one of those for the Idaho Steelheads during their home-opening weekend. A 2-1 loss to Utah Saturday night couldn’t offset the electricity of Friday night’s 6-5 overtime victory. In that one, the Steelheads had to rally from deficits four different times. Finally, the Steelies tied the Grizzlies on a goal by Brad McClure with 53 seconds in regulation. Then Idaho won it 43 seconds into the OT on a tally by Joe Pendenza. Six different players found the net for the Steelheads, who are now 2-2-1 on the young season.
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October 22, 2016: The Curse of the Billy Goat is lifted, as the Chicago Cubs make the World Series for the first time in 71 years when they beat the L.A. Dodgers 5-0 in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. The Curse was legend, placed on the Cubs by a Chicago tavern owner who was ejected from the 1945 World Series because of the odor of the goat he had brought with him to Wrigley Field. The modern Cubs had been favorites for the pennant all season and responded by winning 103 games. And you know what happened a couple weeks later. The NLCS co-MVP’s were pitcher Jon Lester and second baseman Javier Baez, a one-time Boise Hawk.
(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.)