Push ‘em back, push ‘em back…

The Boise State-BYU game began with 35,241 fans in the stands. It ended with, I don’t know, 24,000? Let’s assume the reason for that was the 8:25 p.m. start and the 11:52 p.m. finish. Because signs that this was going to be a harrowing experience began in the second quarter, before the legions head out to the parking lot at halftime and decide not to return. To be fair, the ones who were there made enough noise for 35,000-plus when, on the final play of the game from the Broncos’ two-yard line, Tyson Maeva and Scale Igiehon sacked Zack Wilson to preserve a 21-16 victory. Boise State jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Cougars, but that has happened before. The inability to create separation in the second quarter sent the Broncos into what would be a game for the ages.

There was drama in the red zone all night, so it’s fitting that the game ended on Boise State’s four-yard line. I can’t remember a Bronco defense that’s been dinged as much as this one by injuries. So there’s going to be stuff this group gives up. But its performance in the red zone was the difference in the game. BYU made five trips inside the Boise State 20-yard line and came away with just one touchdown and two field goals. The key was the push-back the Cougars got once they made their deepest infiltrations. In the first half, after reaching the Broncos’ seven five and 13-yard lines, they lost two, 21 and 28 yards. And the final visit was the capper. After BYU converted the fourth down to get to the two, there would be no more forward progress.

If you really think about it, there was one extra BYU entry into the Boise State red zone. It didn’t officially count as one, but it doesn’t get any more red zone than the end zone, where Tyler Horton recovered a fumble on what looked like was going to be a Cougars touchdown. It was the defensive play of the night. BYU nearly manufactured a three-play, 75-yard TD drive. The third play was a double-pass from the Boise State 40, with Neil Pau’u going deep to tight end Matt Bushman. After making the catch and barreling toward paydirt, Bushman was stripped by Horton, who scrambled after the bouncing the ball in the end zone. Man, if that didn’t give you a giant “what if”…

You could readily see what Boise State saw in Wilson when they thought they had him in the recruiting fold a year ago. Sure Wilson made some costly freshman mistakes, but he has a good, accurate arm and is multi-dimensional. The word “escapability” comes to mind. Wilson has a knack for keeping plays alive, never more evident than in the fourth quarter, when on a second-and-15 he was just about to be taken down for a 10-yard sack, wriggled free, and ran 23 yards for a first down, Wilson gained 90 yards on the ground but lost 54 on the Broncos’ seven sacks for a net of 36. His passing numbers were solid: 18-of-27 for 252 yards.

Let’s go to the heart of the matter this week. Boise State is going to be an underdog at home for the first time since 2005 in the MPC Computers Bowl against Boston College. First time in the regular season since Washington State visited in 2001. And the first time in a conference game on the blue turf since the Idaho game in 1998. But there’s nothing crazy about Fresno State being favored by three points this Friday night. The Bulldogs coasted past UNLV on the road 48-3 Saturday night to give coach Jeff Tedford his 100th career victory to improve to 8-1 (and 5-0 in the Mountain West). And they’ve jumped to No. 16 in the AP Poll and No. 17 in the Coaches Poll. Fresno State is the only California team in the Top 25.

College football around the state Saturday: Idaho picked up a dramatic victory of its own, rallying past North Dakota 31-27 on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Mason Petrino to Jeff Cotton with 27 seconds left. The Vandals produced a 17-point fourth quarter while moving to 4-0 in the Kibbie Dome this season. Idaho State held off Portland State 48-45 to clinch a rare winning season. ISU’s Tanner Gueller was just 15-of-30, but his throws covered 344 yards and four touchdowns. And Kyle Michell put the foot into football for College of Idaho, hitting a school-record 45-yard field goal to secure a windswept 17-14 win at Montana Western. It was the Coyotes’ fifth straight victory, their longest streak in 65 years. And it keeps the dream of an improbable winning season alive for the Yotes after their 0-5 start.

Not even surgery on both hips could stop Matt Paradis’ amazing streak in the NFL, but a fractured fibula is a different story. The Boise State product and former Council Lumberjack suffered the injury near the end of the first half yesterday in Denver’s 19-17 loss to Houston. Paradis will “be out for a while,” noted Broncos coach Vance Joseph. Paradis had entered the game with a string of 3,850 consecutive snaps and hadn’t missed one since the beginning of the 2015 season, when Denver went on to win Super Bowl 50. That ascension in itself was impressive—Paradis had spent the previous season on the Broncos’ practice squad after being selected in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Coach Leon Rice will get a look at a lot of combinations tonight as Boise State men’s basketball hosts Vanguard in an exhibition tonight at Taco Bell Arena. After all, with Chandler Hutchison—and Chris Sengfelder and Lexus Williams—gone, there’s nothing set in stone going into the 2018-19 season. We’ll see if Justinian Jessup and Alex Hobbs get on the floor tonight. Both reportedly sat out the closed scrimmage against Weber State last weekend with minor injuries. Elsewhere, the Boise State women routed Concordia 99-68 in their exhibition Friday night. The Mountain West preseason favorites notably got 13 points and a trio of three-pointers from conference Preseason Player of the Year Jaden Loville.

On the professional front, the Idaho Steelheads had a forgettable end to their marathon six-game, 12-day road trip. The Steelheads fell 4-0 and 3-2 at Toledo before taking a 3-1 defeat yesterday at Kalamazoo. The Steelies return to CenturyLink Arena Wednesday night against the Tulsa Oilers. And a six-under 65 on Friday kept Troy Merritt in the Shriner Hospitals for Childen Open. But a one-over 72 in the final round yesterday kept the former Boise State star from a bigger paycheck in the Las Vegas event. Merritt finished in a tie for 57th and made $15,260.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by POOL DOCTOR & SPA…so many ways to soak and save!

November 5, 1988, 30 years ago today: The Miami Heat play their first game in franchise history. The moribund L.A. Clippers were Miami’s Opening Night opponent, but it didn’t matter as the Heat were blown out, 111-91. The Heat would go on to lose their first 17 games before finally breaking through with their first victory on December 17—against the Clippers. Miami would go 15-67 in that first season.

(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.)