Taking the temperature of Boise State-BYU

This has been debated in recent days. Is Boise State-BYU a rivalry? Is it just one-sided animosity? It certainly isn’t Broncos-Vandals from the old days or BYU-Utah from time eternal. The first thing that comes to mind is Boise State-Nevada, a close relative of a classic rivalry, but not family against family. Boise State and BYU are playing for the sixth consecutive year tomorrow night in Provo, with six years to go. From that standpoint, familiarity breeds contempt. But when you really think about it, it’s more like what the Cougars were to other schools in the Mountain West when BYU was in the conference. The Cougars were hated foes when they played in Laramie, and Fort Collins, and Albuquerque, and Colorado Springs. When Wyoming, Colorado State, New Mexico and Air Force went to Provo? It was more, “Meh.”

Turnover mojo paints an interesting picture in the Boise State-BYU matchup. Last October on the blue turf, the Broncos survived five turnovers, including pick-sixes by Fred Warner and Dayan Lake in the second quarter, to win 28-27. Last week the Cougars turned the ball over seven times and did not survive as they fell 40-24 at Utah State. There were three lost fumbles and four interceptions, two of them of the pick-six variety. BYU quarterbacks have thrown four touchdowns against 10 interceptions this season, with a combined pass efficiency rating of just 93. Who will take care of the ball the best tomorrow night? Warner, by the way, is back this year. The senior from San Marcos, CA, leads BYU with 41 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery.

The beleaguered Boise State offense does have its bright spots—two of them as we sit here a third of the way through the season. The obvious is wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, with 29 catches for 485 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson is averaging 121.3 yards per game, tops in the Mountain West and tied for sixth in the nation with Utah’s Darren Carrington. The not-so-obvious is tight end Jake Roh, who’s coming off a junior year that was suppressed by injury. Roh had 10 catches all of last season—he had 11 last month, three of them for touchdowns. Add in two more scores on the ground out of the wildcat, and Roh has five total TDs this season, second in the country among tight ends.

The atmosphere will be unlike anything the Mountain West has seen when UNLV takes the field against San Diego State Saturday, six days after the concert massacre on the Strip. “One of the biggest things we’ve learned as a nation is that when these things happen, we need to grieve and give it time, but we also need to keep living and keep loving and keep doing the things that make this country so great,” said Rebels coach Tony Sanchez. “We can never let that stop and that has to be our combined mission.” Both teams will wear red ribbon decals on their helmets with the lettering “Las Vegas” in recognition of the tragedy. In fact, UNLV’s bitter rival will do the same thing for its game against Hawaii—Nevada’s helmets will feature silver ribbons with the words “Las Vegas” on one side and the date “10-1-17” on the other.

This is the litmus test for Idaho State—can the Bengals really turn the corner? Three weeks ago they shocked Nevada, two weeks ago they lost on a last-second field goal at Northern Colorado, and last Saturday they rallied past Cal Poly. Now, at 3-2, ISU gets Montana at home in Holt Arena with a chance to change some perceptions about the long-suffering program. New coach Rob Phenicie appears to have transformed the Bengals’ mindset. The Idaho State offense has been fun, averaging 445 yards per game. But the defense is giving up 478.

What a way for Doug Martin to make his 2017 debut tonight. With his four-game NFL suspension complete, the Boise State product is active tonight for Tampa Bay’s clash with the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football. The Buccaneers have welcomed him back with open arms. “I’m happy to have Doug back,” said quarterback Jameis Winston. “I’ve been texting him after games just to tell him, ‘One more, one more. Hey Doug, you’re going to be back this week.’ We’re going to be happy to see No. 22 running around.” Added fellow running back Charles Sims, “His personality… he just brings life. Doug is silly, man. We’re all happy.” They’d be even happier with a 100-yard game from Martin against the Pats. He hasn’t had one since going off for 235 against Philadelphia in November, 2015.

Did you blink? The 2017-18 PGA Tour season tees off today in Napa. CA, with the Safeway Open (must be a cousin of the Albertsons Boise Open, since the Boise-based grocery chain now owns Safeway). Former Boise State stars Troy Merritt and Graham DeLaet are both in the field. Merritt, who just three days ago wrapped up his 2016-17 campaign at the Web.com Tour Championship, tied for 15th last year at Silverado. DeLaet hasn’t played since the Dell Technologies Championship in the FedExCup Playoffs on Labor Day weekend. He missed the cut last October in the Wine Country.

If the Boise State women’s volleyball match against No. 1 Minnesota last month was the most anticipated of the season in Bronco Gym, the one on tonight has to be a close second. The Broncos host perennial Mountain West power Colorado State, the team they upset last November to win their first MW championship (that was also their first-ever victory over CSU). Boise State now has an 18-match Mountain West winning streak dating back to last year, but the Rams were the pick to win the league this fall. They’re ranked 23rd nationally and come in at 14-2 overall and 4-0 in conference play.

Here’s another of those former Boise Hawks you don’t hear much about. Brandon Guyer was poised to be back in the postseason with Cleveland tonight against the Yankees in the American League Divisional Series, but now he’s going to miss the playoffs. Guyer missed most of May and June with a wrist injury. The 31-year-old outfielder returned this summer, but he aggravated the injury in August and has been out ever since. Guyer batted .333 with three runs batted in during the 2016 postseason and was 3-for-8 in the World Series against the Cubs. Guyer played for the Hawks 10 years ago, batting .268 with 14 RBIs.

This Day In Sports…October 5, 1991:

Fresno State pummels New Mexico, 94-17, falling just short of the Division I-A record of 100 points set by Houston against Tulsa in 1968. The Bulldogs and coach Jim Sweeney exacted revenge for a shocking loss to the Lobos two years earlier that ended a 17-game Fresno State winning streak and had New Mexico fans chanting, “Sweeney is a weenie.” The Bulldogs scored 49 points in the second quarter and led 66-7 at halftime. Ten Fresno State players scored, three of them twice.

(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.)