So Boise State is opening at home on Saturday against an FCS team, UT-Martin. You hear some grumbling about it, especially since this is the game that replaced Michigan State on the home schedule. But Broncos matchups against the FCS are rare. This is just the fourth one in the past 10 years. Only Notre Dame, Texas, USC, Michigan, Ohio State and UCLA have played fewer FCS opponents during that span. Boise State has routed all three of those previous foes. Go back a little further, though, and you can how dangerous such games can be. In 2009, the Broncos had one of the best teams in school history, the 14-0 Fiesta Bowl champions. In Game 5, UC Davis came to the blue turf. Coach Pete’s alma mater gave Boise State all it wanted—the Broncos pulled away late to win 34-16.
Sometimes these FCS games produce some significant Broncos moments. In a 52-0 win over Idaho State in 2015, Brett Rypien made his college debut in the second quarter after then-starter Ryan Finley was lost for the season to an injury. Rypien went on to become the Mountain West’s career passing leader. ISU was also on the blue turf in 2008, and that’s when Kellen Moore played his first collegiate game. Moore picked up the first of his 50 wins in the 49-7 rout, and he threw the first two of his 142 career touchdown passes. Bonus points if you know who caught them. (It was fellow redshirt freshman Tyler Shoemaker.)
A FAIRLY MISERABLE MW START
If the Mountain West fancies itself as the nation’s top Group of 5 conference, it needs some wins like the Sun Belt piles up. And it surely doesn’t need FCS losses. What a day last Saturday. Marshall upset No. 8 Notre Dame, then Appalachian State brought down No. 6 Texas A&M. Then Georgia Southern provided the icing at Nebraska, accelerating the firing of Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost. The Sun Belt became the first non-power conference to beat two top 10 opponents on the same weekend since the MAC pulled it off in 2003. All the while, Nevada was losing by 14 points to Incarnate Word, and Utah State was being embarrassed by in-state FCS foe Weber State. The only Mountain West team to beat any kind of Power 5 opponent so far has been Air Force with its rout of Colorado last week.
DEFENSE HAS ITS LEGS AGAIN
The Boise State defense set the tone from the get-go at New Mexico last Friday, do ya think? George Tarlas, the Greek Lion (as in Borah), burst through off the edge and sacked Lobos quarterback Miles Kendrick for an eight-yard loss on the first defensive snap of the night. The Broncos logged six sacks overall in the 31-14 win, helping them hold UNM to 25 rushing yards and less than a yard per carry. Overall, Boise State allowed just 123 yards of offense. That’s the fewest since…well…the New Mexico game last November (102 yards). So there you go—in the last two games against New Mexico, the Broncos have allowed 225 yards combined. In the pivotal third quarter, when the Boise State offense was finally finding its legs, the Lobos offense had minus-16 yards.
THE INVERTED STAT SHEET
What a strange start to the season for Boise State. You see it all over the box scores. One especially glaring place is receiving. The Broncos’ top receiver after two games is a running back, Ashton Jeanty with eight catches. No. 2 is also a running back, George Holani with seven. Stephan Cobbs has four—all at Oregon State in Game 1. Not only did Cobbs not have a catch in Friday night’s win in Albuquerque, he didn’t even have a target. Boise State’s leading rusher is neither Jeanty nor Holani—it’s quarterback Taylen Green with 102 yards—all of those coming in Game 1 against the Beavers. The Broncos’ passing game and running game are out-of-body experiences right now. Who knows where they’ll be by the time San Diego State comes to town at the end of the month?
SKINNER’S WHEREABOUTS ARE KNOWN – STATUS IS NOT
Boise State coach Andy Avalos said Monday that star safety JL Skinner did not miss the New Mexico game for disciplinary reasons. That leaves the old “undisclosed injury question.” The Broncos won comfortably without him last Friday night. Partly because the Broncos were facing New Mexico’s ever-struggling offense. And partly because Alexander Teubner filled in the same way he did last year at BYU—with a gritty performance launched by a first quarter tackle-for-loss. Boise State may be able to get by without Skinner again this Saturday if he’s unable to play against UT-Martin (he’s back at practice), but Skinner would surely miss the gridiron. The Broncos’ top NFL prospect had a solid start to his senior season at Oregon State, with 12 tackles and an interception. An unfortunate interruption in momentum.
BACHMEIER’S BACK: COVERED
The biggest buzz coming out of Boise State offensive coordinator Tim Plough’s press conference Monday was that quarterback Hank Bachmeier called audibles on 26 of his 66 snaps in the win at New Mexico. And Plough said every one of them was the right decision. That doesn’t mean the result of each one was positive, but it was a major step forward for Bachmeier. He threw for 170 yards on the Lobos, with 88 of them coming on two plays. His completion percentage was 59 percent—below his career average, but acceptable after the Oregon State debacle. Bachmeier threw for three touchdowns. After the first one to Latrell Caples, he received perhaps the biggest boost of all: extended embraces from about 20 teammates, according to KTVB’s Jay Tust.
GOOD THINGS AHEAD FOR THE VANDALS
Idaho has as much momentum as any 0-2 team in the country going into its home opener Saturday against Drake in the Kibbie Dome. The Vandals had 10-0 leads at both Washington State and Indiana the past two weeks. Idaho’s offense is balanced and capable behind redshirt freshman quarterback Gevani McCoy. There are no moral victories, but if there were, those two games would qualify. The 24-17 loss to the Cougars and 35-22 loss to the Hoosiers were more than respectable. Those were games that in the past would have seen scores in the 40s and 50s (or worse). Defense can be a difference-maker from here on out.
AFTER A WEEK OFF, GAME ON FOR THE YOTES
College of Idaho will be rested and ready Saturday when it travels to Southern Oregon for Game 3. The Coyotes are coming off a bye. Thing is, the Raiders are, too. Interestingly enough, these teams played the same two opponents over the first two weeks of the season. The Yotes beat MSU-Northern 31-3 at home and topped Rocky Mountain 21-18 on the road. SOU lost its home opener to Rocky 27-10 but roughed up the Northern Lights on the road in Havre, MT, 56-6. The C of I run game is back this season—Gilbert Hunter, Allamar Alexander and Ed Osterberger have combined for 340 yards and 5.2 yards per carry.
BRONCOS IN THE HEART OF TEXAS
B.J. Rains of Bronco Nation News reported at the end of June that Boise State men’s basketball was arranging a neutral site game against Texas A&M. Now it’s finally official. The Broncos will participate in The Battleground 2k22 on December 3 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth. It’s one of those neutral sites that’s not so neutral, but the Broncos have to grab games like this wherever they can get them. The Battleground 2k22 features a doubleheader, with Boise State and the Aggies in the opener and Saint Mary’s against Houston in the nightcap. That’s a pretty good field. There’s a chance the Broncos and A&M could play a couple weeks before that, too. Both teams are in the field at the Myrtle Beach Classic, but the only possibility of a matchup there would be in the championship game.
MERRITT JUMPS INTO THE NEW SEASON
It’s already time for the 2022-23 PGA Tour season, with the opener teeing off Thursday morning at Silverado Resort in Napa, CA. This tournament has had a lot of names over the years. Currently it’s the Fortinet Championship, and Troy Merritt is in it. The former Boise State star is coming off one of the best seasons of his career—62nd place in FedExCup standings and more than $1.9 million in earnings. Merritt tied for 16th in this event last year.
SO CLOSE TO HISTORY AT THE VERY END
The Boise Hawks just finished the worst season in franchise history, going 30-66. Fans had fun, though, as the Hawks finished second in Pioneer League attendance this season. Those who stayed to the end of the season finale last Saturday night saw something that is not only rare in big league baseball, but almost non-existent in the minors. Matt Gabbert, who was part of manager Gary Van Tol’s short-lived program at Boise State, took a no-hitter into the bottom of the ninth against the Missoula Paddleheads, and it wasn’t broken up until two men were out. It was that close. Gabbert then yielded a run and a couple of hits in the 6-2 Hawks win, and Van Tol brought in Matt Dallas to get the final out. A good taste to take into the offseason.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by VETERANS PLUMBING…eliminate your drips and drops!
September 14, 2010: Former USC star Reggie Bush becomes the first winner in the 75-year history of the Heisman Trophy to forfeit the award. Bush had been declared ineligible for the season during which he won the Heisman, 2005, after an NCAA investigation revealed he and his family improperly accepted cash and gifts from sports agents while he played for the Trojans. Southern Cal had been hit with severe penalties by the NCAA, including a two-year bowl ban and loss of scholarships, and had removed virtually all traces of Bush from its campus. The NCAA imposed a ban on Bush associating with USC. That was lifted in June of 2020, but the Heisman is still a no-go.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)