Cedrick Wilson is back in practice this week, and that’s what Boise State fans have wanted to hear after wondering where he was in last Saturday’s win over Colorado State. Video of the open periods of practice indicate just the slightest hint of a limp due to what Bronco coach Bryan Harsin calls “a little bit of a high-ankle sprain.” Wilson has changed the dynamic of the Boise State passing game and has 23 catches for 432 yards and five touchdowns in his first season as a Bronco, and he is needed in tomorrow night’s clash with BYU. So will Wilson have his wheels back? He seemed poised to take over as Boise State’s primary punt returner after the New Mexico game, but if there’s any concern, it’s unlikely he’d be used in that capacity.
For awhile last week, Thomas Sperbeck seemed lost without Wilson. You had Sperbeck’s two inexplicable drops during the game, one on what would have been a touchdown catch in the end zone on Boise State’s first possession. But he ultimately got it together with a go-ahead TD reception at the end of the first half and a scoring pass out of the wildcat in the fourth. What the Broncos needed in Wilson’s absence was for senior Chaz Anderson to finally emerge, and they got that. Like Sperbeck, Anderson didn’t start well, losing 11 yards on a reverse. But he finished with five catches for 65 yards, including a nice 35-yard grab to set up Boise State’s second TD. Plus a beautiful seal block on the next play when Jeremy McNichols scored it.
Wilson is 6-3 and has shown he can go up and get it, but he’d be an ordinary guy in BYU’s wide receivers room. The Cougars are known for their tall wide-outs. Mitch Mathews and his 6-6 frame are gone this year, but BYU starters Nick Kurtz and Moroni Laulu-Pututau are 6-6 and 6-4, respectively. Interestingly enough, nobody on BYU’s roster has emerged as a deep threat this year, at least not yet. Among the Cougars’ top three receivers, Kurtz is averaging 10.5 yards on 28 catches, Colby Pearson is gaining 10 yards per grab on his 22 receptions, and Laulu-Pututau is averaging 10.9 yards on 17 catches.
There’s been a lot of talk this week about the Boise State-BYU series becoming a true rivalry. I think it is, though not in the old Bronco-Vandal sense (certainly not the Cougar-Ute sense). It’s more like Boise State-Fresno State—a little more respectful. There’s one Cougar who’s had this one circled on his calendar, though. It’s Pearson, the senior wide receiver from Blackfoot. When the Deseret News asked players this summer which game they were most looking forward to, Pearson said, “I think every player is a bit different. I mean, for me, I’m excited to go up and play in Boise. To me, that’s a big game.” Pearson scored his only touchdown of the season a week and a half ago in BYU’s win at Michigan State.
The showdown with BYU at Albertsons Stadium will be Boise State’s first Thursday home game since 2012—when the Broncos edged the Cougars 7-6 on a Mike Atkinson pick-six. ESPN celebrated it as a classic “fat guy touchdown.” It was the lowest-scoring game in the 30-year history of the blue turf. The two teams went from 13 points that year to 85 the next time they met in Boise, when the Broncos won 55-30 in 2014.
Idaho’s Matt Linehan has been named Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week after leading the Vandals to a 55-23 rout of New Mexico State last Saturday. Everything good he did is reflected in a changed pass efficiency rating. Going into the New Mexico State game, he was 108th in the nation with a 106.6 rating, plodding along with a 54 percent completion clip and four touchdowns against three interceptions. What a difference a breakout game makes, as Linehan is up to 76th in pass efficiency after throwing for 476 yards and four touchdowns against the Aggies. His season completion rate is up to 58 percent, he has eight touchdowns versus four picks, and he has now thrown for 1,589 yards. Idaho plays at Sun Belt power Appalachian State on Saturday.
It’s another rematch for College of Idaho this Saturday, as Southern Oregon comes to Simplot Stadium. The Coyotes came close to a statement upset against the Raiders three weeks ago in Ashland, falling 31-27. Southern Oregon was No. 9 in the NAIA at the time—it’s now No. 17 with a 4-3 record. It’s looking like a beautiful football Saturday, with temperatures in the mid-60’s. That should benefit the gate, where the Yotes have been among the NAIA national leaders again this season with an average of 4,680 fans per game.
Some Mountain West perspective on the Oakland Raiders’ possible move to Las Vegas to reside in a new 65,000-seat domed stadium that will cost $1.9 billion. First, Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal has been brutally outspoken on the move, critical of the “Nevada Legislature and its decision Friday to pass the largest public handout for a sports stadium in American history.” Murray adds: “Citizens of Nevada must have the worst representation of any state in the nation.” Here in Boise, we look at the effect it might have on UNLV, who would also play in the shiny new jewel. But what I see is a program that will be buried by the attention paid to the NFL. Name me a Group of 5 team that has drawn well in the shadow of an NFL franchise. What will this stadium look like with more than 45,000 empty seats?
In hockey, it starts with goaltending. And on opening weekend, it was advantage Utah. The Idaho Steelheads were turned away on 71 of their 72 shots-on-goal by Grizzlies netminders Kevin Boyle and Ryan Farragher as they fell to a quick 0-2. Steelies goalies Landon Bow and Branden Komm are pulling themselves up by the skate straps after allowing seven goals on 75 Utah shots. The two teams get together again Friday night as the Steelheads celebrate their 20th Opening Night in CenturyLink Arena.
This was supposed to be the year of destiny for the Chicago Cubs. It still can be, but former Boise Hawk Rich Hill threw a monkey wrench in the grand plan last night. Hill pitched six scoreless innings, allowing two two hits and walking two while striking out six in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, leading the L.A. Dodgers to a 6-0 victory and a two games-to-one lead. In the ALCS, Boise alum Josh Donaldson hit a solo home run and shined defensively to help Toronto stay alive. The Blue Jays beat Cleveland 5-1 and now trail three games-to-one.
This Day In Sports…October 19, 2001, 15 years ago today:
Boise State picks up its first-ever win over a Top 25 team—and one of the most important victories in school history—upsetting no. 8 Fresno State on the road, 35-30. A standing room only crowd of 42,881 and a national audience on ESPN watched the Broncos fall behind David Carr and the Bulldogs 28-14 early in the third quarter. But sophomore quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie brought BSU back, throwing for 297 yards and four touchdowns, the last one a 54-yarder to Jay Swillie with seven minutes left. Swillie bounced off two defenders when he made the catch and outraced them to the end zone.
(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.)