Coach Bryan Harsin made it clear yesterday in his press conference. How does Boise State’s 0-4 record against Washington State tie into this week’s game? “Are you talking about a game 15 years ago?” asked Harsin. In other words, it is not relevant. But it’s worth a paragraph here. The two schools have played two home-and-home series, in 1997 and 1998, and again in 2000 and 2001. That set of games represented both ends of the spectrum. The 58-0 loss to the Rose Bowl-bound Cougars in Pullman in 1997 was the worst in Bronco history—one of only two shutouts the team has ever absorbed. Just three years later, Boise State gave the Cougs all they could handle in a 42-35 nailbiter at Martin Stadium. The last meeting was in 2001, a 41-20 WSU win on the blue turf.
More pertinent is Boise State’s quest to break a two-game losing streak on the blue turf, the first since 1997. Harsin dismissed it yesterday as belonging to last year’s team, but he later addressed the importance of “protecting the blue.” Said Harsin, “That’s been here long before I got here. We’ve been one of the winningest teams in the country (at home). We want to continue that. We’re proud of that.” To be sure, Brett Rypien and Tanner Vallejo mentioned being driven by the losses to New Mexico and Air Force last November during their meetings with the media on Monday.
Thomas Sperbeck is nothing if not diverse, and he was rewarded for it with one of the four Paul Horning Awards for Week 1 of the 2016 season. The Hornung Award’s mission “is to recognize and reward versatile, high-level performers in major college football.” Sperbeck not only caught six passes for 130 yards and a touchdown at Louisiana-Lafayette, he also threw the demoralizing 48-yard TD pass to Jeremy McNichols in the second quarter and ran once out of the Wildcat for one yard. Another day at the office for Sperbeck.
Boise State made some progress in the rankings this week—in a roundabout kind of way. The Broncos are still fourth in line to get into the Coaches Poll Top 25, but they garnered 21 fewer points. In the AP Poll, Boise State drew one more point and jumped up two spots; the Broncos are the equivalent of No. 28 in the “others receiving votes” category. They’re still the second-highest Group of 5 school in the rankings behind Houston, which climbed to Nos. 6 and 7 in the polls after its win over Oklahoma.
Coach Bryan Harsin was mum on injuries yesterday, just as he said he would be. Joey Martarano’s status remains up in the air—and no word on Gabe Perez’s ailimg shoulder, nor the brace on Jake Roh’s leg. Roh’s role at tight end was filled capably last Saturday by Alec Dhaenens, the former Fruitland Grizzly. Dhaenens exceeded his career total in receptions in one game by hauling in five balls for 40 yards. He picked up where he left off in the Poinsettia Bowl last December, when he corralled an 18-yard touchdown pass from Brett Rypien.
The Mountain West did not do much over opening weekend to boost its status. The only team other than Boise State to defeat an FBS opponent was Wyoming, who edged Northern Illinois 40-34 in triple-overtime in a lightning-delayed and OT-extended game that ended at 2:34 a.m. Mountain time. The other four Mountain West teams that played FBS schools lost by an average margin of more than 40 points. The most discouraging was Colorado’s thorough domination of Colorado State, 44-7. San Jose State was stunningly shredded 45-10 at Tulsa, while Hawaii not-so-stunningly lost 63-3 at Michigan and Fresno State fell 43-10 at Nebraska. Conference teams went 6-0 versus FCS foes.
Idaho’s last game at Husky Stadium was in 2009, and it was nothing for the Vandals to hang their heads about. They lost to Washington 42-23 but outgained UW 412 yards to 374. There are asterisks galore, however. The Huskies had lost 15 in a row going into that game, and Idaho was bound for its only winning season of this century, plus a Humanitarian Bowl title. Things are different this week as they go against their old nemesis, former Boise State coach Chris Petersen. Coach Pete has Washington at No. 8 in the AP Poll this week. That may seem a bit premature for the upstart Huskies, but it does not bode well for the Vandals, who are 36½-point underdogs.
The Albertsons Boise Open field is taking shape next week as the Web.com Tour Finals begin tomorrow with the DAP Championship in Ohio. As expected, there are familiar PGA Tour names likely to be in the field at Hillcrest. Some who finished between Nos. 126 and 200 in the FedExCup standings are exempt because of various tour victories, and some have elected not to play in the Web.com series. But the projected entrants in Boise include Stuart Appleby, Sam Saunders (Arnold Palmer’s grandson), Camilo Villegas, Jason Gore, Brendon de Jonge, Martin Piller, D.A. Points, Rory Sabbatini, D.J. Trahan, Kevin Tway and Luke Guthrie. Oh, and Great Britain’s Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who has developed a cult following since finishing eighth at the British Open. Gore, Piller, Tway and Guthrie are past Boise Open champions.
The Idaho Steelheads have a good nucleus back from the 2015-16 season. It now includes their leading scorer, Rob Linsmayer, who returns for his fourth full season in Idaho. Last season Linsmayer set career highs with 21 goals, 36 assists, and 57 points. He also sported a plus/minus rating of plus-22. Linsmayer recorded four multi-goal games last season and netted his first professional hat-trick in March against the Colorado Eagles. In 135 career regular-season games with the Steelies, Linsmayer has scored 40 goals and 96 points.
A final recap of the Boise Hawks’ 30th season, not the 29th (can you tell that’s driven me crazy all summer?). The Hawks finished 33-43, their second straight losing season—and their sixth in the last eight years. Wesley Jones led the Hawks in hitting with a .302 average, but the position player with the most impressive summer was shortstop Garrett Hampson. The Colorado Rockies’ third-round draft pick out of Long Beach State batted .301 and tied a Hawks franchise record with 36 stolen bases. Hampson ended with a bang, hitting his only two home runs of the season in the Hawks’ home finale last Friday night. Among the pitching standouts was closer Julian Fernandez, who had 13 saves and posted a 1.17 ERA.
Bishop Kelly grad Josh Osich is back in the bullpen for San Francisco. Hopefully it’s not too late to help the free-falling Giants. Osich was on the disabled list for almost six weeks with a forearm strain before being activated last Thursday. He made three appearances in the Giants’ weekend series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, throwing two scoreless, hitless innings. That dropped Osich’s season ERA back below 4.00 (to 3.98).
This Day In Sports…September 7, 2011, five years ago today:
Four days after Boise State smothers Georgia 35-21 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, Bronco senior quarterback Kellen Moore appears on one of two regional covers of Sports Illustrated. Moore had helped exorcise the demons of BSU’s devastating loss at Georgia in 2005 by dissecting the Bulldogs on 28-of-34 passing for 261 yards and three touchdowns, surpassing 100 TD passes for his career. The Boise State defense did its part by recording six sacks on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. It was the Broncos’ first-ever win over an SEC school.
(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.)