We’re having to employ some new math when evaluating the Boise State running game this season. The Broncos are a serviceable sixth in rushing offense in the Mountain West, with 160.7 yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry. But to get a clear picture, you have to remove the 400-yard night against UConn, an aberration, and now the 88-yard touchdown run on a reverse at Nevada last Saturday night by John Hightower. Boise State is left with 476 yards and 2.6 yards per carry this season. That’s a stunning development for a team that has always used the run to fuel its potent passing game. There are still seven or eight games left. A lot can still happen. In fact, consider the game Alexander Mattison had against Colorado State last year when you think all on the ground is lost.
Mattison is averaging less than four yards per carry this year—and that includes the win over UConn, his only 100-yard game of the season. Without it, Mattison is sitting at just 60 yards per game and 3.1 yards per tote. So is the Broncos’ streak of nine straight seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher in jeopardy? From here on out, Mattison would have to average better than 73 yards per game including a Mountain West championship game, and 83 without one (we’re assuming a bowl game is in the cards). But one night like the one Mattison had in Fort Collins last November would tilt the scales. He rushed for 242 yards and three touchdowns as Boise State rallied from a 25-point hole to beat Colorado State in the 59-52 overtime donnybrook.
The running back committee reconvened at least a little bit in the win at Nevada. With Mattison taking an increasing number of shots as the season hits the halfway mark, spelling him some more against Colorado State Friday night would seem like a good idea, but who knows? Mattison logged 24 carries in Reno and Robert Mahone four. Mahone was fresh on that epic 17-play drive at the end of the game and had three of his carries then, covering 18 crucial yards. True freshman Andrew Van Buren had just one rushing attempt versus the Wolf Pack for three yards. We do know that Van Buren will not be redshirting—the Nevada game was his fifth of the season.
It behooves us to delve more into that classic at CSU last year. I don’t think these two teams will combine for 111 points this time. In a bit of an Atlanta-New England déjà vu nine months after the Super Bowl, Boise State trailed 28-3 early in the second quarter. The Broncos were down by 25 points again just before halftime when Mattison weaved 26 yards for a touchdown. (“So you’re sayin’ there’s a chance.”) Boise State was right back in it with Mattison’s 70-yard TD dash 42 seconds into the second half. But alas, the Rams went up by 14 points with three minutes left in the game. That’s when the incredible sequence unfolded: Bronco touchdown, an all-timer of an onside kick, and another Boise State TD. And Leighton Vander Esch forced the Colorado State fumble, recovered by Tyler Horton, that ended it in OT.
Idaho hosts Southern Utah Saturday in the Kibbie Dome for UI’s 110th annual homecoming celebration, and it should be a special weekend in Moscow. Vandal fans who haven’t had a chance to honor Jerry Kramer in person since his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction this summer will have their chance. Kramer will be grand marshal of the homecoming parade through town before heading to the field for the coin toss prior to kickoff. The Vandals hope the aura of Kramer, the 1958 UI graduate and legendary Green Bay Packer, will rub off on them in the wake of back-to-back Big Sky losses.
College of Idaho has been riding some big play guys other than quarterback Darius-James Peterson as it recovers from an 0-5 start. The Coyotes, after upending Montana Tech 23-20 in overtime last Saturday, now own a two-game winning streak. Sophomore running back Nick Calzaretta rushed for 108 yards on just 15 carries, including a 57-yard dash. Junior tight end Keegan Crafton hauled in a 70-yard touchdown catch from Peterson. And sophomore wide receiver Connor Richardson has TD receptionss in three straight games. Now the Yotes return home for a supreme challenge, as No. 14 Southern Oregon visits Simplot Stadium Saturday afternoon. C of I has played the Raiders tough once already this season, falling 35-28 in Ashland last month.
My KTVB colleague Jay Tust often snags Scott Slant-type material before I do. Tust tweeted this nugget yesterday: “The impressive consecutive snap streaks continued for two former Boise State standouts (last) weekend.” He’s talking about Denver Broncos center Matt Paradis, the pride of Council, who has been at the point of attack for 3,725 consecutive snaps—3,927 including the playoffs. Chicago left tackle Charles Leno Jr. has been on the field with the Bears offense for 3,248 straight snaps. Unfortunately, Donte Deayon has been released by the New York Giants. It was a minor miracle that the undrafted 5-9, 163-pounder fought his way onto the Giants roster in the first place. “I am who I am because of times like this; I thrive when adversity hits,” he tweeted yesterday.
A mild surprise yesterday, as the Boise State men’s basketball team was picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West by conference media. Maybe the rest of the league doesn’t think the sky is falling without Chandler Hutchison (and Chris Sengfelder and Lexus Williams) after all. The Broncos trail Nevada, San Diego State and New Mexico in the poll, but they were picked ahead of Fresno State and UNLV, two teams arguably on the rise. The Broncos did this without having any players mentioned for preseason All-Mountain West honors. It’s a testament to a Leon Rice program that’s on solid ground as the coach goes into his ninth season. One footnote—somebody did not choose the Wolf Pack, a sure top 10 team to start the season, to finish first. That vote went to San Diego State.
The Northwest Nazarene men’s and women’s basketball teams fire things up with their annual FanFest tonight at the Johnson Sports Center. The event includes a hoops carnival of sorts, followed by scrimmages and contests involving the Nighthawks. The NNU men open the season November 9 versus Northwest Christian in Nampa. College of Idaho’s season is already underway. The 2-0 Coyotes don’t play again, though, until an exhibition game at the University of Utah two weeks from tonight.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by BIZPRINT…your business printing partner!
October 17, 2010: The first BCS standings of the season are released, and Boise State earns the highest BCS ranking ever by the equivalent of a Group of 5 school. The Broncos were third on the BCS list behind Oklahoma and Oregon on the same day they were voted a record-high No. 2 in the AP, Harris and Coaches Polls. But Boise State’s combined computer ranking was No. 7. BSU was 6-0 at that point, having beaten its previous three opponents by a combined 164-14. The Broncos were first in the nation in total defense, rushing defense, and pass efficiency.
(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.)