Most satisfying Harsin-era win? It’s a tie

In a game that San Diego State wanted so badly, before a crowd of 49,053–the largest for a non-fireworks Aztecs home game since the Boise State first visited there in 2011–the Broncos’ 31-14 victory Saturday night had to feel really, really good. It came against a coach, Rocky Long, who’s gotten under the Broncos’ skin over the years. I liked the sideline shot of Donnel Pumphrey, the NCAA’s career rushing leader. Pumphrey had so wished he could play in this game, which he had long presumed (via Twitter) to be a big San Diego State “W.” Is it the most satisfying win of the Bryan Harsin era? The 2014 Fiesta Bowl comes to mind. That was the biggest. But the most satisfying? Let’s put it in a dead heat with the 16-13 triumph over Washington and Coach Pete in the 2015 season opener.

It’s hard to top this opening line from San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Bryce Miller: “Pluto aligned with Mars in some unholy orbit, the bad Tarot cards cornered all the good Tarot cards in a dark alley and the Aztecs watched all of their football worlds careen and crash like some galactic rush-hour pileup.” Boise State embraced the role reversal Saturday night, playing the nation’s No. 19 team with a determination and want-to on defense and special teams—and at crunch time on offense—that characterized its rise to power at the turn of the century. To hold Pumphrey’s successor, Rashaad Penny, to just 53 yards and 2.5 yards per carry was an accomplishment beyond anyone’s expectations. Seven tackles-for-loss in the Aztecs’ first 20 snaps. That is some serious moxie.

Offensively, it was Montell Cozart to the rescue again. To Brett Rypien’s credit, he did direct an 11-play, 77-yard drive capped by a touchdown pass to Jake Roh when the offense finally participated in this Herculean effort. But after delivering just one first down late into the third quarter, Harsin went with his hunch and handed the reins to Cozart following the one-play, 89-yard TD pass drive by San Diego State. Cozart’s answer was a 75-yard march capped by a Haden Hoggarth field goal. Then came Penny’s lone touchdown of the night, and the response was a clock-consuming 70-yard drive that Mattison finished with a four-yard push into the end zone. Mattison’s confident, physical running the past two weeks has been something to behold.

We knew something was up when this guy was named a captain for the spring game in April—as a redshirt freshman walkon. Then at the beginning of fall camp he finally got a scholarship. But at the end of camp they didn’t know where to put Avery Williams on the depth chart. Third-team stud linebacker, anyone? Already a special teams standout out of the gate this season, Williams has now settled in as a starting cornerback, and he was magnificent Saturday night against San Diego State. On the Aztecs’ first two possessions, he blanketed star receiver Micah Holder twice, including a pass breakup. Then he stopped Penny twice on the next SDSU possession. All that before his 53-yard punt return for a touchdown. Williams’ 43-yard kickoff return to open the second half was just gravy.

The Mountain Division race in the Mountain West has become muddier—and a lot more fun. Wyoming, the next guest on the blue turf this Saturday night, rallied past Utah State Saturday 28-23,while Colorado State struggled to hold off Nevada 44-42. There’s a three-way race in the division now—the Rams are 3-0 in conference, and the Broncos and Cowboys are 2-0. If you want to muse about what might be at stake on Thanksgiving weekend in the San Joaquin Valley, well, there’s Fresno State in first place in the West Division at 3-0 after a stunning 38-0 rout of New Mexico. The Bulldogs face San Diego State this Saturday at the stadium formerly known as Qualcomm.

Idaho’s bowl hopes had received a rousing boost early in the third quarter Saturday when the underdog Vandals were up 20-0 on Appalachian State in the Kibbie Dome. The success was not sustained, however, as the Mountaineers dominated the final 23 minutes of the game, scoring on four consecutive drives to win it 23-20. Idaho reached the red zone in the final four minutes with a chance to at least tie, but a lost fumble ended the bid. Matt Linehan was just 3-of-9 for 41 yards in the second half. The loss spoiled another solid performance by the Idaho defense, which held App State to a season-low 276 yards of total offense, 145 yards below its season average.

The College of Idaho just couldn’t stop scoring Saturday. In a Simplot Stadium show for the ages, the Coyotes routed Montana Western 59-27, rolling up 636 yards of total offense. It was also one for the record book, and when there’s a 37-year gap in said book, you can really roll back the clock. It was the Yotes’ most points since a 67-0 win over Whitman in 1961. The 636 yards were the second-most in program history next to a 714-yard day against Lewis & Clark in 1953, and the 411 yards rushing were the most since 1956. C of I quarterback Darius-James Peterson was a show in himself, rolling up 457 yards of offense, 233 of it on the ground.

It was cool to see Darian Thompson and Donte Deayon sharing time in the New York Giants secondary last night. Deayon made his NFL debut on Sunday Night Football as the Giants earned their first win of the season by stunning Denver 23-10, starting his career with a tackle on the opening kickoff. He recorded two more stops during the game, while Thompson had four tackles. The duo combined for 36 career interceptions while playing together at Boise State. Elsewhere in the NFL, former Bronco Jay Ajayi rushed for 130 yards yesterday, helping Miami secure a big 2017 road win at Atlanta. And Doug Martin ran for 53 yards and a TD in Tampa Bay’s 38-33 loss to Arizona (while Adrian Peterson was racking up 134 yards for the Cardinals).

From the local pro front over the weekend, the Idaho Steeheads and Norfolk Admirals opened the season by alternately dominating each other in CenturyLink Arena. The Steelheads won 4-2 Friday behind goalie Philippe Desrosiers, who ironically played his final 20 games of last season with Norfolk. On Saturday, the Admirals built a 3-0 lead through the first two periods and won 5-3. And Graham DeLaet bookended a couple solid Friday-Saturday rounds with a 74 and 77 to finish in a tie for 54th yesterday at CIMB Classic. The former Boise State star earned $16,030 (maybe that at least paid for his trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

This Day In Sports…October 16, 1969:

They went into the season as 100-to-1 shots to win the World Series, but the New York Mets shock the world by beating Baltimore 5-3 to take the championship four games-to-one. Symbolizing the “Miracle Mets” moniker, the team earned that season, the Mets rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win the decisive Game 5. The surge began when the Mets’ Cleon Jones was awarded first base after shoe polish on the ball proved he was hit by a pitch. Jones then scored on a two-run homer by Donn Clendenon.

(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.)