It’s going to be quite a night in Albertsons Stadium. It’s going to be quite a night in Albertsons Stadium. You have the periphery things like Boise State going for its 15th straight blue turf victory, and the Broncos having lost three straight season openers (the last two by hefty margins), and BSU going 7-3 versus the Pac-12 since 2006 (two of the three losses were at the hands of Washington). But the atmosphere is going to be incredible as Chris Petersen makes his return as head coach of the Huskies. If Boise State wedges people in, the attendance will top 37,000 for the first time. UW fans may scoff at that, coming from a place that holds almost 72,000. But, as Coach Pete is warning his current troops, Albertsons Stadium is an uncommonly loud place.
Something will probably happen tonight to create the loudest moment in stadium history. What currently holds that distinction? Some are saying it was three years ago when Mike “Canadian Bacon” Atkinson had his 36-yard pick-six, the “Fat Guy Touchdown,” in Boise State’s bizarre 7-6 win over BYU. Needless to say, that brought the house down. I say it was in the 2009 Oregon game when Billy Winn knifed through to tackle LeGarrette Blount for a safety. You could hear the roar all the way to Ontario.
The irony? Both were defensive plays. And the Broncos need some of that tonight. All but one defensive starter returns from a 12-2 team. But remember that the last time out, the Broncos allowed 492 yards to Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. And that 60-49 win at New Mexico in November? Aye yi yi. Yes, Boise State ranked ninth nationally last season in both three-and-outs per game and percentage of drives resulting in three-and-outs. The Broncos just have to avoid the one-and-75 (the Lobos had two of those).
Everybody wonders what it’s going to be like when Coach Pete runs on the field. If there’s booing, I figure it’ll be because the opponent is running on the field—just like always. I have a hard time believing those boos will be directed at Petersen. And if there are cheers when the Huskies run out, you know who they’ll be for. This is the first time a former Boise State coach has returned to Boise to play the Broncos since the much-revered Tony Knap came in with UNLV in 1977. Knap was treated with respect. If ever there should be appreciation shown for an opposing coach, it’s tonight. Would fans really boo Petersen? “Our fans are educated,” said coach Bryan Harsin this summer. “They know. I give our fans a lot more credit than that.”
There are 10 Boise State seniors who have already played two career games against Washington. I’ll run that down tonight on the Bronco Roundup Pregame Show. But wait—does Kelsey Young count? He’s a Bronco senior, and he’s one of the unknown factors tonight. Young will be facing the Huskies for the fourth time in his career—the first three were with Stanford. UW won’t have an extensive scouting report on Young, though. He played in the 2012 game versus the Huskies for the Cardinal but didn’t have a carry. Young logged one attempt for three yards in 2013 and had five totes for 23 yards last year. He’s the only current Bronco who has beaten Washington twice. Stanford beat UW the past two years and lost to the Huskies when Young was a freshman.
If you’re looking for oddities, this season marks the 30th anniversary of the final year of green turf in what is now Albertsons Stadium—and the 30th anniversary of Chris Petersen’s one visit to the stadium as a player. Petersen made his debut as the starting quarterback for UC Davis on that night in 1985, going 23-of-33 for 237 yards and rushing for 64 yards and the Aggies’ only touchdown in a 13-9 loss to the Broncos.
There are lots of “Davis guys” in town right now. Coach Pete, of course, not only played at UC Davis but began his coaching career there. College of Idaho coach Mike Moroski and offensive coordinator Tim Keane also come from the UC Davis tree. And tomorrow, Moroski and Keane will see yet another Davis guy on the opposite sideline at Simplot Stadium in the form of Pacific University coach Keith Buckley. The Coyotes and Boxers meet in a rematch of the thriller that relaunched the C of I program a year ago in Forest Grove, OR. The 35-34 C of I upset was decided with 22 seconds left when Charlie Shepherd, one of Yotes’ many freshmen, blocked a 25-yard field goal attempt. Moroski, Keane, and Buckley, by the way, were all on the UC Davis staff in 2007. And Moroski and Petersen coached the Davis JV team together in their formative years in the late 80’s.
Before we get into Labor Day weekend, let’s check out one of Mark Schlabach’s predictions for the season at ESPN.com: “Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton plays in a New Year’s Six Bowl.” Writes Schlabach, “If you’re a fan of underdogs and happy endings, Utah State might be the team to cheer for in 2015. Keeton, who missed 19 games the past two seasons because of knee injuries, is back for one more season after receiving a medical hardship from the NCAA. When Keeton is healthy, he’s one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the country. Utah State brings back a stingy defense, and it might be the team to beat in the Mountain West if Keeton can stay on the field. The Aggies probably can’t afford more than two losses if they’re going to be the highest-rated team from a Group of 5 conference at season’s end, but I like their chances.”
With that said, Utah State was less than stellar last night, needing an 88-yard punt return from Andrew Rodriguez with less than five minutes left in the game to get past Southern Utah, 12-9. Keeton was just 16-of-33, covering only 110 yards. The other three Mountain West teams facing FCS schools in Thursday openers all cruised. Fresno State downed Abilene Christian 34-13 and Nevada topped UC Davis 31-17. San Jose State’s win was actually impressive—New Hampshire is always one of the top teams in the FCS, and the Spartans won 43-13 while racking up more than 700 yards. In the only Mountain West matchup with an FBS (and Power 5) opponent, Hawaii beat Colorado 28-20, a win that could change the dynamic of the UH program.
The start was ominous for Idaho last night. Ohio rolled to a 21-0 lead over the Vandals in the Kibbie Dome, punctuated by a 29-yard pick-six thrown by quarterback Matt Linehan. From there, Idaho was game, but every time the Vandals got within shouting distance, the Bobcats had an answer, and OU went on to a 45-28 win. Linehan settled down to go 35-of-47 for 285 yards and tossed a five-yard touchdown to Deon Watson. Wide receiver Dezmon Epps was hot in his return after a year off, making 14 catches for 148 yards. But Ohio quarterbacks Derrius Vick and J.D. Sprague combined for an extremely efficient night against the Idaho defense, going 20-of-25 for 284 yards and three TDs with no picks.
Kellen Moore made his bid last night as he tries to stick with Detroit for a fourth season. The former Boise State great was 16-of-22 for 150 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in the Lions’ 17-10 win over Buffalo. The TD was a 64-yarder to T.J. Jones. Now we’ll see what comes down tomorrow when NFL squads make their final cuts. And it would have been Doug Martin versus Jay Ajayi last night in Miami, had Martin played in Tampa Bay’s 22-17 victory. Hopefully that means the Buccaneers have seen enough of Martin to anoint him the starter at running back. His counterpart and fellow former Bronco, Ajayi, was solid in his second appearance for the Dolphins. Ajayi gained 66 yards on nine carries, including a 22-yard scamper, and had two catches for 37 yards, one of them a 26-yard grab.
Also of local note today: The Boise Hawks had it handed right back to them last night—times two—by Hillsboro. After shutting out the Hops 6-0 Wednesday, the Hawks were blanked by the visitors 12-0 last night. Boise managed only three hits and committed four errors. Salem-Keizer comes to town now for the final series of the season, starting tonight. And remember all the stats I had on Troy Merritt yesterday going into the Deutsche Bank Championship? They’re still applicable, because the tournament doesn’t start until this morning. Because of the holiday weekend, the second leg of the FedExCup Playoffs is a Friday-through-Monday event.
This Day In Sports…September 4, 1999:
Boise State plays its first-ever game against UCLA, opening the season in the Rose Bowl. A pre-game ceremony honored the late Paul Reyna, a Bronco freshman who had died tragically two weeks earlier. BSU fell to the Bruins, 38-7—providing no clue as to the fate of each team’s season. UCLA would go 4-7, while the Broncos would win the Big West and Humanitarian Bowl titles with a 10-3 record. Incidentally, Boise State’s only score of the game came on a touchdown pass from a backup quarterback named Bryan Harsin.
(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.)