Broncos ratchet up a level

Inquiring minds want to know. How did Boise State look to Hawaii next to those two Big Ten opponents? Inquiring minds want to know. How did Boise State look to Hawaii next to those two Big Ten opponents the Rainbow Warriors faced on the road in recent weeks, also known as Ohio State and Wisconsin? “They’re an amazing team,” UH defensive end Luke Shawley said of the Broncos after the 55-0 rout Saturday night. “I personally think this is the best team we’ve played so far. They’re animals out there. They play hard and they’re well-coached.” All the big names performed for Boise State, but it was a team deal. The offense was balanced, with 279 yards rushing and 275 passing. In those terms, the defense was balanced as well, allowing just 82 yards on the ground and 88 through the air.

Any shutout is cherished by a defense. Now Boise State has two in the past three games, and the first back-to-back home shutouts since 1986, the first year of the blue turf. Here’s some perspective for you. The Broncos went 12 seasons without a single shutout, from 1988 through 1999. It’s picked up considerably in the new century. There have now been 13 shutouts since 2000, an average of almost one per season. By the same token, the offense cherishes those 50-point games. And here’s more prespective. Boise State once had a 24-season drought in 50-point games, with only nine of them between 1975 and 1998. Then Dirk Koetter, Dan Hawkins, Chris Petersen and now, Bryan Harsin, started crankin’ out the 50-pointers. How about 53 of them in the new century?

Longtime Boise State fans immediately (and joyfully) recognized the fumblerooski of sorts in the second quarter, when Brett Rypien pretended to fumble the snap on a fourth-and-one and wiggled the ball close to the ground before standing up and tossing a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide-open tight end Holden Huff. Kellen Moore had run the same play on a fourth-and-one at Oregon in 2008, connecting with Kyle Efaw for 34 yards to the Ducks’ three-yard line to help BSU to a 37-32 win. But the Honolulu Star-Advertiser has a longer memory, noting that the Broncos also called the play versus Hawaii in 2004. Jared Zabransky faked a fumble, picked up the ball and nearly connected with wide-open Sherm Blaser. That time the play didn’t work, but just about everything else did in Boise State’s 69-3 victory.

Heavens to Mercatroid, Boise State allowed all of 82 yards on the ground to Hawaii and has plummeted to No. 2 in the nation in rush defense at 51.8 yards per game. The Warriors averaged 2.7 yards per carry. Shocking. But the most striking thing about the Broncos’ defensive performance Saturday night was what they did to Hawaii’s passing game. Max Wittek and Ikaika Woolsey combined to complete only 11 of 38 attempts for 88 yards with three interceptions. Boise State now leads the nation in picks with 11, and its opponents’ pass efficiency rating is a skimpy 89.0—the Broncos are fifth in the country in that category. Just a sidebar to the race between Darian Thompson and Donte Deayon to break the Mountain West career interceptions record (they both have 17, one behind Utah’s Eric Weddle).

I thought it would take awhile longer for Boise State to get back in the polls, didn’t you? But there the Broncos are, No. 25 in the AP rankings and No. 24 in the Coaches Poll after obliterating Hawaii. BSU does not control its own destiny in the race for a New Year’s Six Bowl berth, though. Undefeated Toledo also made it into the AP Poll—the Rockets are one spot ahead of the Broncos at No. 24, although they’re still bubbling under in the Coaches Poll. And Memphis debuted at No. 25 on the Coaches’ list. In addition to the Tigers, three other AAC teams are factors: Houston, Temple and Navy.

There were some interesting results in the Mountain West Saturday. Boise State’s opponent this week, Colorado State, was befuddled by Utah State’s defense and USU quarterback Kent Myers and lost to the Aggies, 33-18. UNLV is taking the Fremont Cannon back to Las Vegas after stunning Nevada, 23-17. The Rebels hung on in the second half after going up 13-0 at the intermission. Fresno State is a mess after amassing all of 89 yards in total offense and producing 10 possessions that last three plays or less in a 21-7 loss at San Diego State. And the aforementioned Navy Midshipmen ran roughshod over Air Force in the first of the three Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy games, 33-11.

Idaho had to make a go of it without Matt Linehan Saturday, as Jake Luton stepped in for the injured starting quarterback Saturday night at Arkansas State. The result was a 49-35 loss to the Red Wolves, dropping the Vandals to 1-4. Luton rushed for three touchdowns, the first Idaho QB to do that since Doug Nussmeier 20 years ago. But Luton was 24-of-42 for just 166 yards while tossing three interceptions. There was more to it than that, though, of course. The Vandal defense had to absorb another 500-yard game by an opposing offense—333 of Arkansas State’s 521 yards came on the ground.

Kellen Moore got a second week in uniform for the Dallas Cowboys. Coach Jason Garrett elected to activate the former Boise State great instead of newcomer Matt Cassel to back up Brandon Weeden on Sunday Night Football. Once again, Moore watched the whole thing from the sidelines last night as Dallas absorbed a maddening 26-20 loss to the Saints in overtime. The feature former Bronco yesterday was Doug Martin, who rushed for 100 yards for the first time this season for Tampa Bay. Martin had 106 yards and a touchdown and added five catches for 37 yards against Carolina. Unfortunately, Jameis Winston threw four interceptions, and the Buccaneers lost to the Pamthers, 37-23.

People tend to think of assistant coaches on college basketball staffs as interchangeable parts, but they are very important guys. Jeff Linder has been central to the surge of Boise State men’s basketball under Leon Rice, so he’ll be missed while he’s away on a medical leave of absence. But Rice has always surrounded himself with good people. Linder will be temporarily replaced by Isaac Williams, who had a good run as head coach at Eastern Oregon in LaGrande. Rice had a shot at adding one-time Gonzaga colleague and former San Diego coach Bill Grier as a volunteer assistant before Grier landed a full-time staff position at Oklahoma State. Rice has been able to bring aboard Mike Terpstra, though. Terpstra comes from the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder—he was head coach at his alma mater, NNU, in 2004-05 and led the Crusaders to a 17-10 record.

Idaho Steelheads training camp begins today at CenturyLink Arena (they’ll be chased to Idaho IceWorld tomorrow by the Ringo Starr concert). Whatever the venue, Steelheads players will be getting a crash course on new coach Neil Graham’s preferred system as the regular season is just 11 days away. “We have four practices and then an exhibition, then four more practices and the season starts,” said Graham, who took over the Steelies this summer after serving as Brad Ralph’s assistant. “That’s not a lot of time to bag-skate guys or go through a week-long fitness testing.”

Josh Osich’s first big league season is in the books. The Bishop Kelly grad finished up yesterday with San Francisco, facing one Colorado batter and retiring him while helping preserve a 3-0 Giants lead in the eighth inning. He was gone when the SF bullpen collapsed in the ninth, allowing seven runs and providing a sour end to the 2015 campaign in a 7-3 loss. Osich was called up in early July—and then again for good in early August and finished with a 2-0 record and a 2.20 ERA, setting him up well for 2016. His second win came last weekend in the Giants’ wild 14-10 win in Oakland, the one that featured the sentimental starts by aging former A’s teammates Barry Zito (pitching for Oakland) and Tim Hudson (throwing for San Francisco).

This Day In Sports…October 5, 1991:

Fresno State pummels New Mexico, 94-17, falling just short of the Division I-A record of 100 points set by Houston against Tulsa in 1968. The Bulldogs and coach Jim Sweeney exacted revenge for a shocking loss to the Lobos two years earlier that ended a 17-game Fresno State winning streak and had New Mexico fans chanting, “Sweeney is a weenie.” The Bulldogs scored 49 points in the second quarter and led 66-7 at halftime. Ten Fresno State players scored, three of them twice.

(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.)