He who runs the rock the best may win

The running backs showcase that Boise State fans didn’t get last week is one that Wyoming fans will this week. Jamaal Williams’ ankle injury spoiled that duel in last Thursday’s Bronco win over BYU. Now you have Brian Hill, coming off the most prolific rushing performance in Wyoming history, a 289-yard night in Saturday’s 42-34 win at Nevada. Hill gained 41 yards on his first carry of the game and ran 56 yards for a touchdown on his third, all while battling the flu. His Boise State counterpart, Jeremy McNichols, continues to be a touchdown machine, scoring twice more last Thursday against BYU to bring his season total to 16 TDs. That ties him for the national lead with Louisville star Lamar Jackson. The BYU win marked McNichols’ 19th straight game with a touchdown. McNichols and Hill are aware of each other.

Along those lines, this realization came to Chris Lewis, Ian Johnson and me yesterday on KTIK’s Morning Grind: one great running back is going to end up second-team All-Mountain West come the end of the season. It would seem that San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey is a shoe-in for one of the first-team spots—after all, he leads the nation in rushing with 1,246 yards. So the guys vying for the other first-team slot would be Hill and McNichols, who meet this Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. Hill is second in the country with 1,010 rushing yards, and McNichols is sixth with 915. That either would be second-team All-MW is unfathomable at this point.

There’s plenty out there about how rare it is to win a game with a minus-five turnover margin like Boise State did versus BYU. Let’s look at it from this perspective: there are nine remaining undefeated teams in the country, and their turnover margins are about what you would expect. Coach Pete and Washington are No. 1 and Western Michigan is No.2 with plus-14 and plus-12, respectively. More plusses in TO margin among the unbeatens: Michigan seven, Baylor six, Nebraska five, Alabama four and West Virginia three. Clemson is even in turnovers. Nobody is in the minus category, except for the Broncos and their minus-eight. That’s tied for 120th in the country. (BYU, by the way, is third in turnover margin—and leads the nation in takeways with 21 after adding those five last Thursday.)

The biggest concern is not Boise State’s offensive implosion in the BYU game. We may never see another fumble from Thomas Sperbeck and Jeremy McNichols, and we may never again see a ball deflect off Cedrick Wilson’s outstretched hands and turn into a pick-six. The Broncos had not turned the ball over on offense the previous 3½ games. No, the concern is not gaining any turnovers on defense. Boise State has just three all season, dead last among the 128 teams in the FBS—by two. Symptomatic of the Broncos’ turnover challenges last time out was safety Cameron Hartsfield, who dropped an interception on BYU’s second possession of the night. It’s a stupefying thing during an otherwise outstanding season for the defense.

One of those standout Boise State defenders has received his first Mountain West Player of the Week award, although he got it on special teams. Sophomore David Moa turned in the biggest special teams play of the week in the conference, the blocked field goal on a 44-yard attempt by BYU’s Rhett Almond with 15 seconds left in the game last Thursday. In his regular job as a defensive tackle, Moa now has 6.5 sacks this season after corralling Taysom Hill once. That’s the most by a Bronco interior defensive lineman since Andrew Browning had 8.5 sacks in 2006.

College of Idaho swept Frontier Conference Player of the Week accolades after its dramatic 44-41 overtime defeat of Southern Oregon Saturday at Simplot Stadium. Nate Moore, the Mountain View High grad, won defensive honors after making 12 tackles—nine of them solo—and snaring the late interception that sent the game into OT. Darius-James Peterson earned the offensive award with a school-record 443 yards of total offense. Peterson rushed for 228 yards, posting the Coyotes’ first 200-yard game since 1955. It was the top mark by an NAIA quarterback this season. What had become a somewhat downtrodden Yotes season has been revived. C of I closes out the home schedule this week against Eastern Oregon.

As expected, James Webb III was waived by the Philadelphia 76ers yesterday, but as I mentioned, he’s been gearing up for the probability of a stint with the D-League’s Delaware 87ers. That’s where Webb is likely headed. The former Boise State star averaged 4.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 14.8 minutes off the bench in the Sixers’ first six preseason games (he didn’t play in the final one). Webb also connected on 40 percent of his three-pointers. His best game was a six-point, seven-rebound, one-block performance at Washington two weeks ago, one of two games in which Webb pulled down seven boards.

There are six—maybe seven—former Boise Hawks on the Chicago Cubs roster as Game 1 of the World Series unfolds in Cleveland tonight (assuming they keep reliever Rob Zastryzny active), and most of them are not window dressing. Beyond National League MVP candidate Kris Bryant, there’s NLCS co-MVP Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, who hit a dagger home run off the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw in the historic clincher Saturday night, starter John Lackey, and reserve outfielder Albert Almora Jr. And another former Hawk, Kyle Schwarber, could be back tonight as the Cubs’ designated hitter. That’s quite a development, considering Schwarber tore two ligaments in his knee in the second game of the season in April. Onward with the Series. You gotta love history.

The net effect of Boise’s Brian Scott finishing a career-best second in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Talledega: a boost for Richard Petty Motorsports. Some were skeptical when Petty signed Scott in Boise last December. But Scott provided some vindication with his first top 10 finish at NASCAR’s top level. “We had a team meeting before the race,” he said in Sporting News. “We knew we were going to have to be perfect. We were going to have to have no mistakes on pit road, going to have to have a fast Ford, keep good track position all day and try to make friends throughout the day so they’d work with us at the end.” His friend happened to be golfing buddy Denny Hamlin, who pushed Scott to the line and finished third.

There’s a lot happening with Olympic sports at Boise State. The Broncos swept Mountain West Volleyball Player of the Week awards, with honors going to junior Sierra Nobley on offense and fellow junior Maddi Osburn on defense. Boise State has now cracked the NCAA RPI top 40, coming in at No. 37 after sweeping UNLV, who is now No. 25. That helps the Broncos’ NCAA Tournament at-large chances should they not win the Mountain West. And, Boise State goalie Janelle Flores has won her second MW Defensive Player of the Week award in the last three weeks after a 1-1 double-overtime draw at league-leader UNLV and a 2-0 shutout of Nevada in Reno. Following a 1-7-1 start, the Bronco women’s soccer team has rallied massively in conference play and has now qualified for the Mountain West Tournament.

This Day In Sports…October 25, 2012:

Former Boise State star Doug Martin logs the first 100-yard rushing game of his NFL career, going for 135 to lead Tampa Bay to a 36-17 win at Minnesota. Martin had it wrapped up by halftime, gaining 106 yards on 14 carries before the intermission, including a 41-yard scamper. But his biggest play of the night came through the air when he bolted 64 yards on a screen to score early in the third quarter. The only other former Bronco ever to rush for 100 yards in an NFL game had been Brock Forsey, who ran for 134 for the Chicago Bears in a 2003 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

(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.)