The Broncos’ bottom lines are good ones

There has come to be an expectation for the Boise State defense every time it takes the field. There has come to be an expectation for the Boise State defense that every time it takes the field, it’ll force a three-and-out, if it doesn’t snag a turnover first. That’s unrealistic. Take the Broncos’ dominating 41-10 win at Colorado State Saturday night, for example. There was that grinding 16-play, 75-yard touchdown drive by the Rams in the second quarter. CSU running back Jasen Oden seemed to be getting key first downs, and there were three 20-yard catches by Rams receivers in addition to the 35-yard double-pass to tight end Kivon Cartwright. But at the end of the day, Colorado State rushed for only 105 yards and 2.8 yards per carry, and CSU’s two quarterbacks completed fewer than 50 percent of their throws and tossed two interceptions. The Rams managed just 256 yards on their home field. Another solid night.

On offense, there was a similar effect. Brett Rypien threw his first career interception for cryin’ out loud, and his completion percentage was under 63 percent. But Rypien passed for 339 yards, a career-high to this point, and his 85-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Sperbeck, equaling the seventh-longest in school history (Rypien’s first entry into the Boise State record book), was downright demoralizing to Colorado State, coming as it did after the aforementioned long CSU touchdown drive. The Broncos weren’t entirely consistent Saturday night, but they still racked up 597 yards and scored 41 points. That’s a nice place to be when you’re still trying to improve.

Sperbeck amassed 178 receiving yards in the game, the top mark in the country this weekend. And he did it on just five catches for an average of 35.6 yards per reception, the second-best number in Boise State history. The only one better happened 43 years ago—Al Marshall made five grabs for 204 yards, a 40.8 average, at Portland State in 1972. Sperbeck scored three touchdowns all of last season. He now has five TDs in the last three games. To say Sperbeck has a connection with Rypien would be an understatement. Before Rypien made his debut, Sperbeck had 11 catches for 94 yards. Since, he has 16 grabs for a whopping 432 yards—and all five touchdowns.

Not to forget Shane Williams-Rhodes, whose 5-7 frame was draped in irony Saturday night. The senior wide receiver, with seven catches, went over the 200-reception plateau for his career. SWR ended up passing Titus Young for third all-time on the Bronco list with a current total of 205. But his most celebrated play of the game was his 56-yard touchdown pass to Sperbeck in the first quarter. Williams-Rhodes said it was the first pass he’d ever thrown in a game in all his years of football. Did he ever think it would happen? “Never. Never would have thought it,” said SWR. “It was a pretty bad ball, but it ended up in the right spot.” So Williams-Rhodes’ first touchdown of his senior year came via a pass he threw, not one he caught (or even carried).

The cloud hanging over Boise State going into this Friday’s pivotal game at Utah State is the status of Jeremy McNichols. The sophomore running back was having another big night in Fort Collins when he scored his second touchdown of the game and nation’s-best 14th of the season, but he absorbed a hellacious hit to the head on the play and had to leave the game. McNichols went to the locker room, was evaluated for a concussion, and returned to the sidelines in street clothes. Would the Broncos miss McNichols in Logan? Yes. Would they have confidence in Kelsey Young carrying the flag? Yes.

The bullseye will be bigger this week at Utah State, and one reason is the rankings. Boise State jumped to No. 21 in the AP Poll, leapfrogging Toledo in the process as the highest-ranked Group of Five team on that list. Houston made it in this week at No. 24. But that won’t matter to the College Football Playoff committee when it convenes—that’s an entirely independent body. And it really won’t matter if the Broncos don’t grab a win at USU this Friday night. Boise State is up to No. 20 in the Coaches Poll (Toledo debuted there at No. 25). And hey, Washington got a couple points from the coaches this week.

The other Mountain West game that mattered locally Saturday night was Utah State’s 56-14 walloping of Fresno State at Bulldog Stadium, and it wasn’t that close. Sure, the Bulldogs are a total mess, but it was an impressive outing by the Aggies, blowing up homecoming in the San Joaquin Valley. In the West Division, San Jose State has emerged as a contender after its 33-27 overtime victory at UNLV. If you were wondering why Hawaii was favored over San Diego State, well, the Aztecs were, too. SDSU topped the Rainbow Warriors 28-14 at Aloha Stadium as the UH offense continues to sputter. And New Mexico missed out on its first three-game winning streak since 2007 when the Lobos were worn down at Nevada Saturday night, 35-17.

The College of Idaho faced the right team at the right time and ended its four-game losing streak Saturday. The Coyotes rolled winless Montana State-Northern Saturday in Havre, 48-17, logging their highest point total since a 67-0 win over Whitman in 1961 (understanding that the program took 37 years off until last season). The Yotes rushed for 267 yards, with Kyle Merritt (97) and Zach Garzoli (93) just missing 100-yard days. All the while, A.J. Martin was rushing for four touchdowns. The passing game was working, too—quarterback Teejay Gordon was uber-efficient, going 18-of-20 for 193 yards. The C of I is now 2-4. And how about Idaho State? Just when things looked their darkest, the Bengals went to North Dakota and rallied to a 37-31 upset of a ranked FCS team, one that won at Wyoming in the season opener last month.

It’s great to see installation in progress for the new video board and other digital displays in Taco Bell Arena. The 2018 NCAA Tournament host spot wouldn’t have happened without it, but now fans will get three seasons of enjoyment out of it before the Big Dance returns. The video board measures 14.3 feet by 8.1 feet, more than double the size of the previous board, and is on track tp be up and running for the season opener next month. Presumably a new sound system goes with it. That would be huge.

A little bit of old and a little bit of new contributed to a sweep of two exhibition games for the Idaho Steelheads over the weekend. Returning Steelheads Ron Linsmayer and Taylor Peters combined with newcomer Emil Morin for four goals and four assists in a 7-4 win over Utah in Boise Friday night. Then newbie Andre Bouvet-Morrisette, who had a two-goal night in the Friday game, did it again Saturday night in a 4-3 victory over the Grizzlies at the Utah Olympic Oval. The Steelies now get things ship-shape for the 2015-16 season opener this Friday night in CenturyLink Arena against the Rapid City Rush.

Since former Boise Hawk Josh Donaldson had his bell rung on a slide during Game 1 of the American League Divisional Series, the Toronto star has more than hung in there. Donaldson homered in Game 2 against Texas and went 2-for-3 and scored a run in the Blue Jays’ 5-1 win in Game 3 last night. How important is he to the Blue Jays? Anthony Castrovince of calls Donaldson the player who epitomizes the Jays. “Before there was the David Price trade or the Troy Tulowitski trade, there was the Donaldson trade,” writes Castrovince. “It was the first of what would be many signs to come that the Jays were truly going for it in 2015, and to say it has paid off would be an understatement bigger even than one of Donaldson’s 41 homers, three of which were walk-off blasts. Donaldson could be Toronto’s first MVP since George Bell in 1987.”

This Day In Sports…October 12, 2013:

Sophomore wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes makes 13 catches, the most at Boise State in 10 years, as the Broncos beat Utah State 34-23 at sold-out Romney Stadium in Logan. Quarterback Joe Southwick threw for a career-high 335 yards while the Bronco defense was able to hold the Aggie offense, playing without injured star Chuckie Keeton, at bay in a key Mountain West victory. Williams-Rhodes, the smallest player on the field at 5-6, 157 pounds, would top that with 14 receptions the next season versus Ole Miss.

(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.)