Tomorrow night we hit the midway point of Boise State’s regular season as Homecoming hits against Colorado State. And it seems the need to groom a second wave of wide receivers is overrated. After all, the Broncos have managed a 5-0 start and a No. 15 ranking with their three starters combining for 69 catches, 1,217 yards and 10 touchdowns. The backups? How about three receptions for 48 yards? Yes, A.J. Richardson, Sean Modster and Akilian Butler have posted one grab apiece this season. Austin Cottrell and Bubba Ogbebor don’t have one yet. What’s more, virtually all the production among the starters has come from Thomas Sperbeck and Cedrick Wilson. Senior Chaz Anderson hasn’t caught fire, putting up 13 catches for for 156 yards and no touchdowns. No big deal. Not yet, at any rate.
If Sperbeck doesn’t break Titus Young’s Boise State career record for receiving yards (3,063) tomorrow night, there’s a good chance home fans will still get to see him do it live. Sperbeck needs 106 yards to become the all-time leader, and the Broncos will be back on the blue turf next Thursday against BYU if he falls short against CSU. Pretty good for a guy who signed with the Bronco program as an “athlete” in 2013. Coach Pete’s staff wasn’t sure what to do with Sperbeck, but they knew he was a fit. Aaron Juarez in BSU Media Relations reminds us of this: Sperbeck has one 200-yard receiving game in his career, but he’s just three yards short of two more. He had 198 last week at New Mexico and 199 in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl against Arizona when he was the Offensive MVP.
The theme tomorrow night is, of course, the 10-year anniversary of Boise State’s undefeated 2006 team and its Fiesta Bowl championship. Here are some forgotten facts about the season. The Broncos topped 50 points only once, in a 55-14 win over Louisiana Tech. And they exceeded 500 yards just one time, with 515 versus Hawaii. That tells you something about 2006: although the offense was really good, the defense rocked. The two regular-season highlights: holding Utah to 178 yards with the help of four interceptions, and limiting Nevada to 141 yards with the assistance of four fumble recoveries. Both of those games were on the road. Then came the Fiesta Bowl, when Boise State held Oklahoma great Adrian Peterson to 77 rushing yards—and just 52 before overtime.
Homecoming seems like an appropriate time for a local high school star to say he’s staying home, as Boise High offensive lineman John Ojukwu has committed to Boise State. The headline at BroncoCountry.com said, “Boise State lands large local lineman.” And certainly there’s more largeness to come. Ojukwu told KTVB’s Jay Tust he’s gained 100 pounds in the past year. Scout now lists him at 6-6, 280-pounds. Next stop: Bronco strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pitman.
There are four other Mountain West games on the docket tomorrow, and one of them is at a neutral site. It’s the Battle of the Option as Air Force and New Mexico meet in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl (the stadium). Both teams are 1-1 in the Mountain Division. The team to watch right now is Wyoming, but the Cowboys have a bye this week. So watch for Hawaii instead. The Warriors have suddenly come back from the dead, sporting solid back-to-back victories and preparing to host struggling UNLV tomorrow night. There may actually be some people in Aloha Stadium for this one.
Idaho and New Mexico State have had parallel universes. They were left hanging after Big West football folded following the 2000 season, joined the WAC in 2005, went independent for a year when WAC football dissolved after the 2012 season, and then joined the Sun Belt. UI and NMSU have two games left against each other—tomorrow and next year. The two schools have taken different paths following their forced exit from the Sun Belt. The Vandals, of course, go to the Big Sky in 2018, while the Aggies will try to remain an FBS team and try independence again. New Mexico State hopes upon hope that the Big 12 expands and it can land somewhere via the trickle-down effect. Idaho hopes to make a statement tomorrow by winning, upping its record to 4-3 and knocking on the door of bowl eligibility.
If College of Idaho can win the field position battle tomorrow at Montana Western, you have to like the Coyotes’ chances. That’s what sapped the Yotes in the first meeting between these two teams on Opening Day. C of I held the Bulldogs to just 234 yards of offense, but the visitors took advantage of five drives starting in Coyotes territory to earn a 26-13 victory at Simplot Stadium. How did it happen? Mistakes. Montana Western forced four Yotes turnovers and earned a safety off a bad punt snap.
The Idaho Steelheads open their 20th season of pro hockey tonight and tomorrow night against the Utah Grizzlies in West Valley City. The Steelheads have changed the winter sports landscape in the Treasure Valley since making their debut on October 17, 1997. Back then they played in the old West Coast Hockey League, and they opened against the defending champion San Diego Gulls. Alain Savage, who would be the Steelheads’ leading scorer and fan favorite during that first season, instantly endeared himself to the locals by registering a hat trick in the 7-3 Steelies win. The celebration of year No. 20 will get underway in earnest when the Steelheads play their home opener a week from tonight.
Troy Merritt came up sixes yesterday at the Safeway Open in Napa, CA, and it was a good thing. The former Boise State star carded a six-under 66 and is tied for sixth after the first round. Merritt birdied four of the last five holes going into the turn and produced a bogey-free round at Silverado. His former Bronco teammate, Graham DeLaet, is in the middle of the pack after a one-under 71.
Brenna Peloquin leads the 10th-ranked Boise State women’s cross country team into today’s Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational in Madison (the 18th-ranked Bronco men are competing, too). Peloquin, the standout sophomore, was also in this week’s “Faces In The Crowd” feature in Sports Illustrated. She was saluted for her victory in the presitigious Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis last month. Idaho ties are rare in Faces In The Crowd, but Peloquin is the third in the past year. Her equally-prominent Boise State teammate, Allie Ostrander, appeared in February, and Weiser High soccer star Lauren Bouvia, the goal-scoring machine, made it last November.
This Day In Sports…October 14, 1964:
Billy Mills, later to be enshrined in the old World Sports Humanitarian Hall Of Fame in Boise, pulls off one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history. Mills was a virtual unknown who had finished second at the U.S. Olympic trials, but he passed most of the field in the final lap to claim the 10,000-meter gold medal at the Summer Games in Tokyo. As a member of the Sioux tribe, Mills was—and still is—only the second Native American to win an Olympic gold medal, joining Jim Thorpe.
(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.)