On lighting the offensive fire again

Right up through halftime at Oregon State, the Boise State offense had a consistently potent look. Sure, Brett Rypien was a bit hot-and-cold, but the Broncos had a 31-7 lead over the Beavers and had scored 114 points in the first 10 quarters of the season. Somehow, the spigot has been turned down since then, as Boise State has scored only 21 points in its last six quarters. Let’s look closer at those two segments in production per quarter. At the break in Corvallis, the Broncos had amassed 143.9 yards per quarter—they’ve gained 76.8 per quarter since. Passing: 94.5 yards to 47.3. Rushing: 49.4 yards per quarter to 29.5. And yards per play: 7.8 to 4.6. It’s go-time for the Boise State offense tonight at New Mexico.

Rypien’s and Thomas Sperbeck’s freakazoid numbers in last year’s game were helped by the fact that New Mexico either punted quickly or scored quickly. Boise State ran off a staggering 114 plays, and Rypien threw on a school-record 75 of them. He passed for 506 yards, but that’s just a pedestrian 6.7 yards per attempt. And there were three interceptions. Sperbeck shattered Bronco standards with 20 catches for 281 yards, but zero touchdowns, symptomatic of Boise State’s 2-of-6 performance in the red zone. Finishing drives is of the essence.

It’s unlikely that the New Mexico passing ambush of last season will be repeated tonight. Not only because Boise State will be much more disciplined against it, but because most of last year’s damage was done by Lobos quarterback Austin Apodaca, who threw for 172 yards on just eight completions. Apodaca injured his collarbone three weeks ago in a loss at Rutgers and isn’t expected back until mid-to-late November. It’s all Lamar Jordan presently for New Mexico. He’s a better runner than Apodaca, but he can also sling it when he needs to. Jordan’s only throw at Albertsons Stadium last November covered 46 yards.

The issue with New Mexico running back Terriyon Gipson in Albuquerque right now is his January arrest in his hometown of Dallas on charges of marijuana possession and unlawful carrying of a weapon. Charges that Lobos coach Bob Davie didn’t know about until three weeks ago. The issue with Gipson as far as Boise State is concerned: he’ll be starting for New Mexico tonight nevertheless. The Broncos know all about him. He was tamed in the run game last year, but he had one of those four Lobo receptions that went for 30 or more yards in the 31-24 upset on the blue turf (his covered 42). In the track meet at Albuquerque two years ago, Gipson rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns on Boise State.

The BSU nemesis has three runs of 60 or more yards already this year. After rushing for 151 yards in the first half of New Mexico’s 48-41 victory over San Jose State last Saturday, Gipson had only five yards on three carries in the second half before leaving the game with a troublesome hamstring. Gipson leads the nation in yards-per-carry at a whopping 12.9 per attempt—that’s almost four yards better than the next-best guy. He has 399 yards rushing on just 31 carries in the three games he’s played.

All 10 of the other teams in the Mountain West are also in conference play, and all but one of the matchups should be competitive. San Diego State is favored by two touchdowns over UNLV, but this is not a good time to be facing the Aztecs, and SDSU should win this one going away. There’s a trap game awaiting Air Force in Laramie. The Falcons, 10½-point favorites, usually deal with this kind of thing pretty well, but Wyoming has some serious mojo going now. The Cowboys are a surprising 3-2 after thumping rival Colorado State last week in Fort Collins. Boise State, New Mexico, Air Force and Wyoming are all 1-0 in the Mountain Division.

Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan’s slow start this season has been highly scrutinized, but it might not be up to Linehan to beat Louisiana-Monroe on the road tomorrow. The Warhawks have really struggled against the run, and if the Vandals can take advantage of that with Aaron Duckworth, it would perhaps free Linehan to have a big day. ULM allowed 410 rushing yards at Auburn last week. Duckworth, the junior from Orange Park, FL, was held in check by Troy last Saturday. But two weeks ago at UNLV, he ran for 90 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. This game is critical to Idaho’s hopes for bowl eligibility this season.

The College of Idaho defense is developing roots, and as they take hold, the Coyotes’ fortunes should continue to rise. Especially impressive is the Yotes’ nose for interceptions, a trend they hope to continue when they host Carroll College tomorrow afternoon at Simplot Stadium. C of I made 14 interceptions last season—it already has 11 through five games this year to lead the Frontier Conference. Last week at Southern Oregon, true freshman linebacker Forrest Rivers turned in the Yotes’ first pick-six of the new era, and the program’s first since 1976, a clutch play midway through the fourth quarter that gave C of I a chance at the end.

The Dallas defense has played a large part in the Cowboys’ 3-1 start, holding opponents to 19.2 points per game. The pass rush has been, by consensus, the one weakness of the unit. That’s why Dallas is looking forward to the return of Demarcus Lawrence for Sunday’s game against Cincinnati at Jerry’s World. The Cowboys have six sacks through four games this season—Lawrence had eight by himself last year to lead the team. The defensive end out of Boise State had to sit for four weeks for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Dallas owner Jerry Jones didn’t say Lawrence would start, but he said this week, “As I see it right now, I think he’s going to be an active part of what we’re doing out there Sunday.”

Former Boise Hawk Josh Donaldson launched Toronto’s bid in the American League Divisional Series yesterday with an RBI double in the third inning. Donaldson scored shortly thereafter, and by the time the frame was over, the Blue Jays had a 5-0 lead over Texas. Donaldson would single in another run later as Toronto went on to rout the Rangers 10-1. He went 4-for-4 on the day and scored twice. Both National League matchups begin today, including the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants. About a quarter of the Cubs roster is made up of former Hawks.

This Day In Sports…October 7, 1916, 100 years ago today:

The previous spring, Cumberland University’s baseball team had shelled Georgia Tech, 22-0, using several professional players from nearby Nashville. Unamused, Tech coach John Heisman (yes, that Heisman) offered Cumberland a $500 guarantee to come to Atlanta for a football game. There he got his revenge, as Georgia Tech beat Cumberland 222-0—the greatest rout in college football history.

(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.)