Running game hope springs eternal for Broncos

Another Saturday, another opportunity for the Boise State rushing game to flourish against an opponent vulnerable to the run. Problem is, the Broncos haven’t been able to take advantage of similar situations the past three games. UNLV, Hawaii and BYU are all ranked 110th or lower nationally in rush defense, allowing an average of 210 yards per game between them. While going 2-1 versus that trio this month, Boise State averaged 186 per game on the ground (keeping in mind that wide receivers accounted for a significant chunk in Las Vegas). This Saturday, the Broncos face a San Jose State team that is yielding 236 yards per game, 125th in the country. Part of that is the interception-happy Spartans secondary. Opponents avoid that and have rushed 413 times against SJSU, the most against any team in the country.

It remains to be seen whether Boise State will be equipped to pound away that way at San Jose State. Coach Bryan Harsin wouldn’t provide any injury updates at his Monday press conference (such as, quarterback Hank Bachmeier’s status), although he did say the injury starting running back Robert Mahone suffered at BYU was not season-ending. Will Mahone be ready for the Spartans? If not, true freshman George Holani will be the workhorse, although probably not to the tune of 30 carries. Harsin’s a big fan of Holani, though, saying, “He has one speed: full.” It ain’t over yet for the surprisingly seldom-used Andrew Van Buren. “It’s a matter of time before he gets going,” said Harsin.

SJSU: REJUVENATION IN ALL FACETS

Why has San Jose State turned it around so starkly this season? You can boil it down to Josh Love, turnovers and special teams. More on those first two things as the week goes on. As far as special teams go, Spartans freshman kicker Matt Mercurio is Mountain West Player of the Week in that category. Mercurio tied a school record by booting four field goals Saturday, and that was no small factor in SJSU’s 34-29 victory at Army. His longest was a 38-yarder that gave the Spartans a 13-point lead with two seconds left before the half. Mercurio has now made 10 consecutive field goals.

START TIME SEMANTICS

From the “it is what it is” department, kickoff for the Boise State-Wyoming game a week from Saturday was announced Monday as 8:15 p.m. on ESPN. It’s small consolation to fans, but the tradeoff of ESPN for late starts has value. That is not the case on ESPNU or CBS Sports Network. Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson was on Idaho SportsTalk a couple weeks ago and talked about proposing that late-nighters start no later than 7:59 p.m. in the future. It’s a psychological thing. “7:59 looks different than 8:15,” said Thompson. “It’s not really, but it looks different cosmetically.” It’s also a Mountain Time Zone thing. Conference teams on Pacific time start the late window at 7:15 instead of 8:15. Not a big deal for them.

RYPIEN ON THE CUSP

Mike Klis of KUSA-TV in Denver reports that Brett Rypien will be activated this Sunday for his first NFL game when Denver hosts Cleveland. Broncos starter Joe Flacco aggravated a neck injury in a 15-13 loss at Indianapolis Sunday and will not play. That sets a domino effect into motion, as Flacco’s backup, Brandon Allen, will get the start against the Browns. The new No. 2 this week will apparently be Rypien, currently on Denver’s practice squad, as opposed to Drew Lock, who’s not yet ready to be activated off injured reserve after suffering a severely sprained thumb in the preseason.

POTATOES & YOTES

While the New Mexico Bowl had to drop its new sponsor late last week because it wasn’t a real company, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl sits at the other end of the stability spectrum. Boise’s bowl game has been sponsored by the Idaho Potato Commission since 2011, and on Monday the two parties agreed to an extension through 2023. This season’s game, the bowl’s 23rd, will be played Friday afternoon, January 3. It’s the ony bowl game scheduled that day. Also, College of Idaho is up yet another notch in the NAIA Coaches Poll. The undefeated Coyotes are now No. 6. And Yotes quarterback Darius-James Peterson was named NAIA Offensive Player of the Week after torching Southern Oregon. In one fell swoop, Peterson went over the 6,000-yard mark in career passing and the 3,000-yard plateau in career rushing.

BETTER THAN LAST SEASON (AND THE ONE BEFORE)?

ESPN.com’s women’s basketball preseason mid-major Top 10 is out, and Boise State is No. 6. “Boise State played like a team ready for more than appearance prizes in an overtime loss at Oregon State in the first round of last season’s NCAA tournament,” writes Graham Hays. “As the Broncos eye another berth, all the pieces are in place for a longer run. Riley Lupfer battled through a physically challenging junior season, but those struggles allowed classmate Braydey Hodgins room to shine. If both are healthy, Boise State has one of the best scoring combos in the mid-major ranks. Transfer Mallory McGwire, a 6-foot-5 center who played her first two seasons at Oregon, could be the X factor. The schedule is slightly improved, highlighted by trips to Louisville and TCU and a visit from BYU.”

SNEED LOOKS TOWARD SPRING

Game 6 of the World Series is tonight—and how ‘bout those Houston Astros? One particular Idahoan hopes get back on the train with them next spring. Cy Sneed, the former Twin Falls Bruin, spent some quality time with the National League champs this summer. After five years in the minors, Sneed finally got the call one June night at 11 p.m. He flew to Houston, snagged a quick 30 minute nap, and then threw six innings of relief the following evening in his major league debut versus Pittsburgh. Sneed was up and down between the Astros and the minors this season. He went 0-1 with a 5.48 ERA in eight appearances—his last game was September 10. Sneed turned 27 years old on October 1.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by LOUIE’S PIZZA & ITALIAN RESTAURANT…an Idaho tradition for more than 50 years!

October 29, 2014, five years ago today: The San Francisco Giants edge the Kansas City Royals, 3-2, to win their third World Series in five years behind one of the best pitching performances in baseball history. Madison Bumgarner, who had thrown a four-hit shutout three nights earlier in Game 5, came in to throw the final five innings of the finale in relief, lowering his record World Series career ERA to 0.25. Bumgarner threw 52 2/3 innings in October, the most in baseball postseason history. And the Giants became the first road team to win a Game 7 of the World Series in 35 years.

(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.)

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