It would be intense enough with the Broncos bringing in a No. 20 AP ranking, but then you add in the intangibles. College football expert Phil Steele said it this summer on Idaho SportsTalk: “BYU is a more dangerous game to me than Washington.” Not many disagreed then, and not many disagree now. Boise State goes down to Provo tomorrow night, as a “white-out” awaits. There will be some orange scattered about in the crowd of 60,000-plus (they had 62,954 for the Cougars’ 37-20 win in 2013). It would be intense enough with the Broncos bringing a No. 20 AP ranking to town, with dreams of a New Year’s Six Bowl effectively at stake for both teams. But then you add in the intangibles, starting with Eagle’s Tanner Mangum making his first college start versus Boise State—and the will to “win one for Taysom Hill.”
BYU is being welcomed home after one of the more dramatic victories in school history—the win at Nebraska capped by the “Mangum-to-Mathews Miracle.” Adrenalin will dominate the early part of the game. What form that will take remains to be seen. “It’s such a huge advantage, especially playing Boise State here,” offensive lineman Kyle Johnson said in the Deseret News. “We love to play in our stadium, we love our fans, we love how excited they get and how loud they get. It’s just a huge advantage for us and it always will be.” Sounds like a Bronco talking about the Blue.
It’s pretty easy to see how important stopping the run is tomorrow night, and what that could do for Boise State. First, look at what it meant last week. The Broncos had allowed 268 yards, five yards a carry, and three touchdowns on the ground at Washington two years ago. Last week, they stifled the Huskies—just 29 yards rushing and 1.3 yards per carry. The question at BYU—with Taysom Hill out, do the Cougars want Tanner Mangum to run? At Nebraska, Hill rushed for 72 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just nine carries before his season-ending injury, and Mangum added 26 yards on five attempts. But there’s a need to preserve the former Eagle High star now that he has the reins of the BYU offense for 11 or 12 more games this season.
You’d think BYU would want its rushing yards to come from its running backs tomorrow night. Hill and Mangum combined for 98 yards at Nebraska, while the running backs had just 27. The Cougars miss Jamaal Williams, who’s taking the year off. The past two seasons against Boise State, Williams ran 37 times for 177 yards and a touchdown. Williams’ three replacements all played at Nebraska last week—and they’ve all played against Boise State, but not very much. Algernon Brown, Adam Hine and Nate Carter have combined for 22 yards on six carries versus the Broncos the past two years.
While Boise State’s defense was outstanding against Washington last week, the offense was spotty. Can the Broncos do the things they like to do at BYU—and didn’t do versus UW? They like to go vertical in the passing game with Thomas Sperbeck and Chaz Anderson (Ryan Finley nearly connected with Anderson on a bomb against the Huskies). They like to get Shane Williams-Rhodes in space. And most importantly, they like to get first downs in the fourth quarter (there was one last week). The tight ends were okay, with Jake Roh and Holden Huff combining for five catches. But the longest two completions versus Washington went for 23 yards (one on Sperbeck’s double-pass to Huff, and the other to a running back, Kelsey Young). With one tough game—and one tough win—under his belt, I’d expect Finley to be able to open it up a bit.
The awards watch keeps growing. Williams-Rhodes has been named one of 30 candidates for the Senior CLASS Award, given annually to an FBS senior with notable achievements in the areas of community, classroom, character and competition. Also, former Boise State defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen was announced yesterday as a finalist for the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016. Von Oelhoffen compiled the longest NFL career of any Boise State product—14 seasons from 1994-2007. He won a Super Bowl ring with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005.
After a slathering of games against FCS schools last weekend, there’s a bunch of Mountain West matchups with Power 5 conference teams this week. Let’s check out the point spreads. Hawaii visits No. 1 Ohio State. Egads. The Warriors are 40½-point underdogs. Fresno State is trying to snap a 19-game losing streak versus ranked teams. The Bulldogs go to Ole Miss, which is the pick by 30 points. Utah State is a 12-point underdog at Utah (that game is tonight) and San Diego State is a 14-point ‘dog at Cal tomorrow. Three Mountain West teams have home games against Power 5 foes. Nevada faces an 11½-point spread in favor of Arizona, Colorado State is only a five-point underdog to Minnesota, and UNLV finds UCLA favored by 30 tomorrow night in Las Vegas.
Idaho will need production out of running back Elijhaa Penny tomorrow night at USC to help divert heat from quarterback Matt Linehan. Penny is coming off a career best 167 all-purpose yards in the Vandals’ 45-28 loss to Ohio last week. He accumulated 69 yards rushing, 32 receiving and 66 on kickoff returns. Safe to say Penny is one of the largest kickoff returners in the country at 6-2, 234 pounds. A side note: former Timberline High star Don Hill is a redshirt freshman on the Trojans’ roster. Hill, now an outside linebacker, did not play in USC’s 55-6 win over Arkansas State last week.
You win some, you lose some, and the College of Idaho is 1-1 on the young season going into tomorrow’s game at Montana Western. One new-found constant this season for the Coyotes has been their pass rush. In the win over Eastern Oregon in the opener, C of I defensive coordinator Chris Jewell brought the house, and his defense recorded five sacks on the afternoon. The Yotes logged four more sacks last Saturday in the loss to Pacific University. During the 2014 campaign, C of I recorded a total of just 17 sacks the entire season. The high-water mark was the three the Coyotes picked up against the same Montana Western team they face tomorrow in Dillon.
Shea McClellin probably doesn’t read the papers in Chicago, but he and his teammates would be inspired if they did. The headline in the Chicago Tribune: “Impossible to see Bears defense as anything other than depressing.” Writer David Haugh bemoans the fact “the Bears defense has run out of Pro Bowlers.” Now there’s a new defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, and “a schematic change requires specific techniques and reads players such as McClellin will be making for the first time, at game speed.” Here’s the thing about McClellin: Fangio and new coach John Fox have no stake in the first draft pick of the former Bears regime, nor his disappointing first three seasons. If they didn’t like McClellin, they would have moved on or he would be languishing somewhere down the depth chart. The Bears open at home Sunday against the Packers.
Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge has the comfort of knowing he’s already secured his PGA Tour card next season as the first leg of the Web.com Tour Finals get underway. Aldridge finished in the Top 25 on the Web.com money list during the regular season to earn it. He had a decent day nonetheless yesterday in the first round of the Hotel Fitness Championship in Fort Wayne, IN. Aldridge carded a two-under 70 and is tied for 34th. Performance still counts the next four weeks—“priority ranking” on next season’s PGA Tour is at stake.
This Day In Sports…September 11, 2001:
Nobody needs to tell you what happened this day. But it had an effect on sports for months to come. Immediately following the events of 9/11, every scheduled sporting event was either postponed or cancelled entirely. Boise State’s September 15 home football game against Central Michigan was moved to Thanksgiving weekend. The Ryder Cup was canceled altogether. The World Series was pushed into November for the first time, and the residual effects of NFL postponements resulted in the first February Super Bowl..
(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.)