The once-formidable Boise State defense against the run has met its match the past two weeks. The once-formidable Boise State defense against the run has met its match the past two weeks. We’ll find out today if that was a function of the triple-option offenses it faced in the losses to New Mexico and Air Force, or something more than that. In the first nine games of the season, the Broncos yielded just 83½ yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry on the ground. In the past two weeks, it’s been 262½ per game and 5.6 yards per attempt. Boise State didn’t allow a 100-yard rusher until being nicked by the Lobos’ Jhurrell Pressley and the Falcons’ Jacobi Owens. Today they get the nation’s eighth-leading rusher, Tyler Ervin, who has 1,417 yards and 13 touchdowns. Will the fact that Ervin plays in a more conventional offense make a difference?
It’ll be interesting to see what Boise State gets from quarterback Brett Rypien today. His averages over the past three games have been wacky. The true freshman has passed for 403 yards per game, with an average of a staggering 58 attempts. But Rypien’s netting less than seven yards per throw over that stretch, and his completion percentage is just 56 percent. His pass efficiency rating for the season is down to 136.7, an average number in the college football formula.
Rypien hasn’t gotten much help lately. He needs somebody not named Thomas Sperbeck at wide receiver to rise up and make plays today. Shane Williams-Rhodes might not be ready to play after his injury against New Mexico, and Chaz Anderson has had a case of the drops the past two weeks. Can A.J. Richardson help? Sean Modster? Austin Cottrell? The commitment of wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. out of Coffeyville Community College in Kansas is some consolation, but he can’t help until next year. At 6-3, 190 pounds, Wilson is the kind of tall, rangy, productive wideout the Broncos need. He has 66 catches for 1,045 yards and 17 touchdowns as a sophomore at Coffeyville.
Boise State-San Jose State notebook: Hopefully for the Broncos, their large crop of Californians will play up with family and friends in attendance, because Boise State does not have a game scheduled in California next year. There are three schools from the Golden State in the Mountain West, but the Broncos aren’t playing Fresno State and San Diego State for the second straight season in 2016, while the Spartans will be traveling to Boise. Also, the last time one-time Boise State offensive coordinator Al Borges faced the Broncos was in the 1999 season opener, when UCLA beat BSU 38-7 in the Rose Bowl. That was the first game of Bryan Harsin’s senior year, and he accounted for the Broncos’ one touchdown with the only TD pass of his career.
Idaho finishes its season tomorrow in the Kibbie Dome against Texas State. Among those walking out for Senior Day will be running back Elijhaa Penny, who ran four yards for a touchdown in the first quarter at Auburn last week before leaving the game with a strained knee. The week before, Penny had become the Vandals’ first 1,000-yard rusher in eight years—he now has 1,010 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He’s been really proficient at running downhill this year, having been dropped for a loss only seven times in 221 carries. Penny has played five games this season in which he hasn’t taken any negative yardage. Coach Paul Petrino is expecting him to play tomorrow.
The Apple Cup has some moxie today, especially—as ESPN.com writer Ted Miller points out—in the contrast between the two head coaches. “Hall of Fame coach Don James, known as the Dawgfather of Washington football, volunteered that he was a ‘2,000-word underdog’ to then-Washington State coach Jim Walden before the 1985 Apple Cup,” writes Miller. “Is second-year Huskies coach Chris Petersen, a coach who shies away from quotable quotes, the new ‘2,000-word underdog’ in the rivalry when compared to fourth-year Washington State coach Mike Leach, a man known to loquaciously spin a news conference into myriad quirky directions that seemingly have nothing to do with football? ‘Could be. I enjoy hearing Coach Leach talk, I really do,’ Petersen said. ‘It’s always entertaining.’” UW needs to beat Wazzu today to become bowl-eligible.
Mike Sanford Jr., who last year at this time was preparing Boise State for the game against Utah State that would decide the West Division title in the Mountain West, will try to keep Notre Dame in the hunt for a College Football Playoff berth tomorrow at Stanford. Sanford, a Bronco quarterback in the early 2000’s, returns to the place from which he was plucked by coach Bryan Harsin almost two years ago. Sanford knows the Cardinal’s defensive personnel and tendencies. But he knows his Irish offense is going to have to score lots of points to keep pace with Christian McCaffrey and the Stanford crew.
What has to be encouraging for Boise State hoops coach Leon Rice is the multitude of contributions he can get from his squad. On a comparatively quiet day (still a pretty good one) from James Webb III yesterday, his teammates filled in the blanks in a 71-64 win over UC Irvine to open the Wooden Legacy. Anthony Drmic scored a game-high 21 points, 11 of them down the stretch, Chandler Hutchison recorded another double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, seven of them on the offensive end, Nick Duncan dropped in four three-pointers, and Mikey Thompson countered some struggles from the field with a career-high eight assists.
The Broncos’ reward? A semifinal matchup this afternoon against No. 3 Michigan State, which drilled Boston College 99-68 yesterday to earn coach Tom Izzo his 500th victory. Boise State will have to contend with Spartans star Denzel Valentine, who posted a massive triple-double against BC with 29 points, 11 boards and 10 assists. The Broncos and MSU last met three years ago in East Lansing, where the Spartans held off the visitors for 74-70 win. Two current Boise State seniors played in that one—Drmic scored only six points in 39 minutes, but Thompson had one of the best games of his redshirt freshman season with 14 points and five rebounds. Valentine started that game for Michigan State, scoring 12 points with four boards.
Around the horn in pro sports: the Idaho Steelheads’ struggles continued Wednesday night in Rapid City—the Steelheads lost 4-1 despite out-shooting the Rush 46-17. The Steelies have lost nine of their last 10 outings as they end their nine-game road swing with two more against Rapid City tonight and tomorrow night. They’ll do it without leading scorer Colton Beck, who has been loaned to the AHL’s Iowa Wild. And the travel-weary Idaho Stampede return home to CenturyLink Arena tonight after winding their way through upstate New York and Canada this week. Following a 93-91 loss to Raptors 905 Wednesday night, the Stampede have their first meeting with the Reno Bighorns this season on the docket.
This Day In Sports…November 27, 1958:
Boise Junior College wins the national JC championship with a 22-0 win over Tyler, Texas, before 8,500 fans on Thanksgiving Day at old Bronco Stadium. The Broncos were coached by Lyle Smith, who recorded his fifth undefeated season with the win. Smith led BJC for 21 seasons, going 156-26-6. That included a 37-game winning streak from 1947-50. Smith retired from coaching after the 1967 season and became the first athletic director for Boise State College.
(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.)