October dawns on Saturday, and it’s going to be one interesting month for Boise State. Three of the Broncos’ next four games are against teams that beat them last year—Utah State, New Mexico and BYU. Nobody has to tell you of the significance of Saturday night’s game against the Aggies on the blue turf. Last year, Boise State’s No. 21 ranking in AP (No. 20 in the Coaches Poll) was blown up in a 52-26 humbling in Logan. Coach Bryan Harsin reminded everyone yesterday, “That was last year’s team.” At the same time, Harsin said, “Any time you lose a game, you look at what you did wrong. You also look at what the other team did right.” There was plenty to look at on both counts.
The number everyone remembers is eight, the number of turnovers suffered by Boise State that night. Three interceptions and five fumbles lost, with seven of the miscues coming in the first half, leading to a stunning 45-10 USU advantage at the break. It was truly unbelievable to everyone who saw it. “I will say, it was a lovely moment to watch all those turnovers,” said USU defensive end Ricky Ali’ifua this summer. “But I was just waiting for their offense to break out, like, here come the Broncos.” It didn’t happen. Here’s the scary stat of the week: despite a 3-0 start, Boise State is minus-3 in turnover margin. The only other unbeaten teams in that boat are Louisville and Toledo.
About October, that’s been a pretty good month for Boise State the past 15 years. Going into the Utah State game last year, the Broncos had won five straight in October and 55 of their last 56 in the month. It was a 37-20 loss at BYU in 2013 that snapped Boise State’s epic 50-game October winning streak that had dated back to 2001. Consider this, though: the Broncos have still won 30 consecutive games on the blue turf in the month of October.
The only Boise State injury Harsin specifically mentioned yesterday was that of safety Evan Tyler, who left the Oregon State game in the first quarter with a knee injury. Tyler tore his ACL and is out for the season. That leaves Chanceller James and Cam Hartsfield to hold down the fort at safety against Utah State, with Kam Miles as the backup. Kekoa Nawahine, the true freshman out of Rocky Mountain High, is expected to move up on the depth chart. Dylan Sumner-Gardner is due back from suspension next week for the New Mexico game. “Day-to-day” will have to suffice as a status report on other nicked-up Broncos, including Tanner Vallejo.
In Paul Karam’s “Mailbag” at DallasCowboys.com, a reader asked about moves the team might make when ex-Boise State star Demarcus Lawrence returns from suspension next week. Former Bronco Tyrone Crawford has been playing at weakside defensive end instead of tackle in Lawrence’s absence, and Karam thinks Dallas may leave Crawford on the outside. “Crawford might fit better on the strong (left) side because he’s 295 pounds and has the strength to set the edge there,” writes Karam. “The Cowboys drafted Lawrence with the belief he could be a right-end rusher. When he returns, it’ll be interesting to see if that’s one of Rod Marinelli’s line combinations.” Crawford has five tackles and one sack over the first three games.
Maybe he was inspired by fellow former Vandal Shiloh Keo, who got a job in Denver last fall by tweeting Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. But one-time Idaho wide receiver Najee Lovett joined former Washington State defensive back Tracy Clark Monday, standing outside San Francisco 49ers headquarters holding signs looking for work. Lovett’s sign said, “Hungry for an opportunity.” The players said they just want to help the 49ers start winning. Colin Kaepernick took notice. “We talked to Kap and he said he’d put in a word for us,” said Lovett, who attended the Niners’ local pro-day workout last year prior to the draft. Lovett was a Vandal in 2012-13, making 86 catches for 972 yards and seven touchdowns over the two seasons.
Idaho would like to scare the dickens out of Troy Saturday, the way the Trojans scared the dickens out of Clemson 2½ weeks ago in a 30-24 loss in Death Valley. The Vandals, coming off one of their most satisfying wins since the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl, open Sun Belt play in the Kibbie Dome against one of the conference’s best teams. Idaho feels like it has turned the corner after stunning UNLV in overtime on the road. Troy is 3-1, though, coming off a 52-6 annihilation of New Mexico State on the heels of a solid 37-31 road win at Southern Miss. It’ll be a supreme challenge for the Vandal offense—the Trojans are tied for sixth in the nation with 6.3 three-and-outs forced per game.
College of Idaho is 0-2 at home and 2-0 on the road, so maybe a trip to No. 9 Southern Oregon will be the tonic for the Coyotes. A win in Ashland would be the Yotes’ first at SOU since 1948, and it would give C of I a three-game road winning streak for the first time in 57 years (a 37-year hiatus in a football program will give you nuggets like that). The Yotes will have to put the 2015 matchup at Southern Oregon out of their minds. The Raiders were victorious in that one 63-21. Turnovers were a problem there just as they were last week against Rocky Mountain College, as SOU returned two C of I fumbles for touchdowns.
When I noted the 10-year anniversary of Kellen Moore’s commitment to Boise State last Friday and Justin Wilcox’s role in it, I wondered how the former Bronco defensive coordinator has been doing since being fired at USC. He certainly let us know last Saturday. Wilcox is now the D-coordinator at Wisconsin, and the Badgers embarrassed Michigan State 30-6 in East Lansing. They forced four turnovers and held the Spartans to 75 yards rushing. Wisconsin is undefeated at 4-0 and has not allowed more than 17 points in a game this season. The Badgers have yielded only three offensive touchdowns. A happy landing for Wilcox, who coordinated Boise State’s defense from 2006-10.
Former Boise Hawk and current Toronto star Josh Donaldson, seeking a second straight American League Most valuable Player award, is heading for the wire in a race with the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Astros’ Jose Altuve. Donaldson made his case again last night, smacking a two-run homer in a crucial 5-1 victory over Baltimore. The Blue Jays now lead the AL wild-card race by two games over the Orioles and three over Detroit with five to play. Donaldson’s dinger was his 37th of the season, raising his RBI total to 98. He’s batting .286.
This Day In Sports…September 28, 2011, five years ago today:
The Boston Red Sox complete the biggest September collapse in major league history—in stunning fashion. After leading the wild card race by nine games on Labor Day weekend, the Red Sox lost 19 games during the month to fall into a tie with Tampa Bay going into the final day of the season. They were one strike away from at least going to a one-game playoff, but Baltimore rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth to stun the BoSox, 4-3. Just three minutes later, the Rays finished their rally from a 7-0 deficit against the Yankees to win 8-7 in 12 innings. Boston was in disbelief, and manager Terry Francona and the Red Sox parted ways 36 hours later.
(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.)